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LABEL: Urban RELEASE DATE: January 1, 2003 GENRE: House, Techno
// review by Jeff

Quit MUC'in around.

Tomcraft celebrated over 20 years in the music business last year, and rightly so: he's put out quite a solid amount of good, usually funky tunes. Why not celebrate by looking at his second album, "MUC". ...What? Isn't that how we usually commemorate one's history: by overlooking their first achievement and moving on to the next one instead?

The album starts off with For A While, which opens with an introduction to a flight to Munich (hence the title of the album, "MUC", which is the code for the airport in Munich). So for the hourlong flight, we get to dance to the music of Tomcraft, apparently. Thumping beats and a bubbly bassline lead us straight into the heart of the slightly hellish dancefloor filler; some off-key synth jabs keep us afloat. In the middle is an island of angelic pads and some strange lyrics. I don't quite understand them all, but we basically are told to come out for a little while. Come where exactly, I do not know. We get very little respite before the powerful beats and sharp bass make their expected return. It's a very odd choice to start out the album, but Tomcraft really likes making unusual entrances, I guess.

But the main draw for this album is likely Loneliness, Tomcraft's biggest dance hit to date. When that very first heavily flanged twang enters, you know that something big is about to go down! Soon, Tomcraft combines desperate female vocals talking about both happiness and loneliness and a gruff bass synth to create a powerful dancefloor-infecting overload. Later bringing in a haunting piano melody, this is the complete smash. It's a formerly signature sound that Tomcraft later abandoned in favour of a more underground feel.

Tomcraft's not done playing around with styles, though. In Under The Blue, his focus on dark banjo plucks and folksy vocals really makes for an unusual electronic tune. It's a great example of Tomcraft's musical flexibility, as the vast majority of past tunes were much darker than this lighthearted affair. Following up is another of the singles from this album, Into The Light, whose video version was much harder overall with added electric guitar effects. But here, the focus is on another devilish piano melody and eerie male vocals (which I wish were clearer — less slurring is a blessing, not a curse). "You like what you love / Into the light you fall / Little boy and girl." Yep, not frightening at all. Buzzy synths soon take over for a grittier take on the track. Not bad overall.

Like The Sun is a departure from the other songs, as it's a chillout track with the crashing of waves overlooking the harmonic pads. He tries to switch things up with electro sounds and random bubbly noises, but it's probably still going to be the track most overlooked on this album. It's nice to see Tomcraft experimenting, though! After this is Overdose, another gritty banger whose vocal focus is on a girl who doesn't get enough drugs and intercourse. She needs a Wii. The entire song surrounds this one bass melody that is repeated throughout the track, though later accompanied by a heavily reverbed and phased ghostly synth. Though rather basic, it's another of the highlights of this album. Fun fact time: the music video for this is actually mostly clips from a movie called "Rave Macbeth" with bits of Tomcraft DJing spliced in. And yes, the movie is a take on Shakespeare's classic "MacBeth", just set within rave culture. Huh.

Next is Schwabing 7. Phase, which transitions from the previous song with some electric guitars, sci-fi alarms, and... marimba? If you're looking for an interesting auditory sensation, this song is definitely it. Your ears can't get tired listening to the wild cacophony of sounds here. I'm still trying to decipher the title... "Schwabing" is a borough in Munich (related to where Tomcraft is apparently flying), "7" is the track number, and "Phase" is a phase. So there you have it: I. Don't. Know. Equally odd is Bang Bang, filled with a thumping beat and a grunty bassline, this one doesn't get exciting very quickly. Even when the track has built up significantly further, there isn't much to be excited about. Aside from a couple of creepy harmonies, this one's the least interesting track on the album. Move on!

La Chatte - La Salope is another tune with Tomcraft's classic sound from his earlier days. The title is interesting enough: "la chatte" is "the female cat", but "la salope" can either refer to a female dog OR, more pejoratively, a person who engages in sexual activity frequently with numerous partners. (I'm sure you can come up with an English equivalent term without much effort.) The track has a bit of an industrial vibe, coated with disjointed French vocals. It's definitely not dancefloor friendly, though, as it seems to be designed more for intense listening to closely pick up on all the finer details. Sadly, this one's not particularly notable.

As we near the end of the album, Tomcraft tries to bring a few wandering ears back with the last two songs. Forever Raver, which starts out in psychedelic disarray, eventually leads to a more symphonic break with male vocals wanting to be forever free and yearning for human unity, rather than drugs. It's REALLY strange. Just before we land, we get one last Fuck You: a dark trancer that slowly builds into a monster of a tune, adding new instruments at every fold. Of course, we're also subjected to someone says, "There's a question..." and then proceeding to berate us everything that's wrong with modern DJs, pop stars, music executives, and female models who use sexuality in music videos before dropping the F-bomb on all of us. Thanks. I'm glad the latter half of the song more than makes up for the verbal brutality I just had to endure.

Though unbalanced at times, Tomcraft's "MUC" is definitely an amusing electronic album to listen to, and it definitely offers much in terms of variety. Unfortunately, though much of Tomcraft's library is available on North American iTunes, this album is not. (Other territories — European ones in particular — are more fortunate.) Still, if you can hunt this one down, give it a go. I actually think this is among Tomcraft's best and more relatable work, so if you like electronic music with a slightly villainous twist, MUC is for you. To Munich!


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