Douglas Greed – Driven
Label: Bpitch ControlScore: 7/10
In the decade or so that Douglas Greed – aka Mario Willms – has been active, he has established a reputation for being a producer whose records tend to stand out from the crowd. Perhaps it’s his ability to infuse beautifully dark melodies into minimal workouts, or perhaps it’s his disposition for startlingly original rhythmic hooks, or perhaps it’s his use of vocalists that you wouldn’t usually find on a dance record, such as the indie inflection of long-term collaborator Mooryc, but his best tracks always have a certain unorthodoxy that marks them out as different and refreshing. It’s also the reason why, more so than many other house and techno producers, Greed’s sound is well suited to the long-player format. Indeed, at its best moments, his second album Driven exemplifies how to succeed in that tricky prospect of producing a dance-music album that people are actually going to want to listen at home.
Those familiar with Willms’ shimmering and idiosyncratic approach to composing beats will know what to expect from Driven. Album opener ‘Further’ establishes the record’s signature sound; rolling pads and a whirring, mesmerising bassline underpin synths that gradually reach giddy, almost euphoric heights. It’s cinematic tech-house without the usual sickly saccharine elements, and followed by title-track ‘Driven’, an outing in slow-mo electronic pop that makes good use of Mooryc’s vocal range, it establishes the album on solid footing.
Whilst this might be an album that takes a slightly different approach to house and techno palettes, it is still very much a dance-music record. The phenomenal ‘This Time’, originally released last October, makes a welcome reappearance, its chugging bassline and vocal hook providing a lesson in how to craft exciting tech-house. Elsewhere, the infectious ‘My Mind Is A Monkey’ with its nonsensical vocal ear-worm and the expansive tech-house warmth of ‘Salat & Beer’, both provide standout moments that are as likely to work in the festival tents as they are through headphones. That’s not to say the album is consistently excellent. ‘B12’ sounds like Willms on autopilot and lacks the vigour of others tracks, whilst ‘Hurricane’ sounds like a second-rate Moderat track. ‘Fire’, a collaboration with Daniel Brandt of Brandt Brauer Frick, is also surprisingly underwhelming considering the talent involved. Whilst, the less said about the toe-curling retro-electro ‘Summerless’, with its nudges and winks to Kraftwerk, the better.
Yet, on the whole Driven is an album that is as charming as it is impressive. Final track ‘Long Distance Swimmer’ with HVOB singer Anna Müller, a weave of steel-edged beats and dreamy vocals, exemplifies just what makes Willms such an exciting producer and one whose tracks are just as well suited to home-listening as they DJ weapons. Like KRL, his 2011 debut album, Driven is an dance-music album that has an emotional depth that most house and techno is supremely lacking in. It is perhaps this quality that gives the album its edge and makes it a record that you’ll want to return to again and again. Whilst far from flawless and sadly not the masterpiece that Willms has the potential to produce, the creative innovation, emotionally investment and off-kilter swing to Driven make it another solid entry in Willms’ already impressive body of work.