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Booka_Shade_EVE_Packshot.jpgLabel: Blaufield MusicScore: 8/10

Eve is the name of a vintage residential recording studio nestled in the bucolic countryside of Manchester where Booka Shade’s Walter Merziger and Arno Kammermeier rediscovered themselves after nearly splitting up as they began working on their fifth studio album.  “We recorded an electronic album in a traditional way, and it made us feel like a band again.  It was like going back to the beginning.”  As a tribute to the fertile creative space that allowed the duo to recapture their essence, Booka Shade’s compelling and resonant new album bears its name.

Eve’s first single, the Lil Louis-sampling “Love Inc” serves as a reminder of the band’s tech house icon status while the track’s brassy texture is representative of a newfound melodic depth that the duo explores throughout the album.  This musicality bleeds into the beautifully restrained “Kalimera” with its smoldering piano intro which gently builds toward a 4/4 rhythm and a shimmering guitar riff. 

Blasts of roaring distortion signal the arrival of the eerie “Leema” before it snakes through some dusky Martin Gore-inspired synth terrain.  The brooding “Maifeld” opens with a droning electric groove soon overtaken by heavy strings reminiscent of Booka Shade’s mournful “Outskirts.”  Again, the Depeche Mode influence is unmistakable as the thick melodic layering and complexity makes early Booka Shade hits “Body Language” and “Mandarine Girl” feel almost two dimensional by comparison. 

“Perfect Time,” with its sparkling melodies, booming bass and buzzy vocals is this album’s “Charlotte” while “Time’s on My Side” serves as an acoustic interlude before the album’s thumping, euphoric centerpiece, “Crossing Borders” is unveiled.  Groove Armada’s Andy Cato makes a surprise appearance on trombone as he sublimely sets the mood for the ever-soulful, captivating timbre of Fritz Kalkbrenner to steal the show as he sings of persistence and perseverance.                   

Azari & III’s Fritz Helder delivers a sexy, slinky performance on the steely, dancefloor-aimed “Love Drug” while “Only When You Wake Up” is fiery, cathartic and Burial-esque.  This explosive piece would’ve brought Eve to a natural close as the subsequent combination of “Ballad of the East” and “Jesolo” feel like an unnecessary denouement. 

While the duo may consider the time spent creating Eve as a new beginning, the album feels like a more refined, mature extension of the spirit behind 2008’s playful, kaleidoscopic The Sun and the Neon Light.  Eve is evidence that Booka Shade’s near implosion may have actually been a necessary catalyst for positive change as the band is exploring a wider musical range with some potent results.

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