Jon Gordon writes
Unlike practically every other German electronic musician you ever heard of, Andreas Dorau has had a certain ambition throughout his now approaching four decade career. Releasing experimental music of a kind that requires an element of commitment on the part of the listener just hasn’t ever really been for him. While his contemporaries went for hard edged techno and lengthy improvisations, Dorau remained true to his own single minded indie visions, and has never hidden his desire for mainstream success, albeit on his own artistic terms. Beginning with 1982’s ‘Fred Vom Jupiter (released in the UK on Mute records), Dorau has consistently presented himself as an entertainer rather than a creature of the indie electronic underworld, with a persona that’s nearer to that of Sasha Distel than of Blixa Bargeld.
Formerly signed to the hugely influential Bureau B label, Dorau’s newest album is released on the slightly more indie friendly Tapete records, where you can also find releases by the Monochrome Set, Lloyd Cole and Comet Gain, amongst others, artiste whose musical preferences have perhaps also led to their pursuing artistic satisfaction regardless of consequence. ‘Das Wesentliche’ translates as ‘The Essentials’, and isn’t as the title might suggest a compilation of some of Dorau’s career highlights. There does seem to be a concept of some kind at work here though.
‘Dinge Konnen Sich Andern’ opens the album and lasts all of one minute and fifteen seconds, and like just about every other song on the album it sounds like a demo track for a future Eurovision entry, whether sung by Dorau or not. Unashamed pop melodies are the order of the day round at chez Dorau, taking in doo-wop, surf pop, schlager and actual disco. Now, my spoken German isn’t fantastic, to the point where, while visiting Dusseldorf in 2007 I went into a chemists to buy some shaving equipment and had to be told by the shopkeeper that I was, in fact, asking for a pencil – so I won’t attempt to translate any of Dorau’s lyrics, although fortunately for your reviewer at least two of the songs are sung in English. Firstly, ‘Hey Tonight’ and its ‘tonight ain’t the night’ refrain and then the similarly repetitive ‘Instant Magic’ whose lyric consists of the phrase ‘you think you’re instant magic’ provide some insight regarding the German lyrics, songs whose words subtly undermine the summery pop vibes of the music.
It seems as if the idea behind ‘Das Wesentliche’ is Dorau’s own reimagining of some decades old ‘greatest hits’ compilation album, and his way with a pop tune is a skilfully adept one, whatever it is he’s actually singing about. Krautrock enthusiasts may choose to demur when presented with his reconstructions of 60s,70s and 80s chart hits but it’s difficult to deny his songwriting abilities and intrinsic feel for what makes a great pop song. And what I know about ‘Das Wesentliche’ is only half of the story as it is available as a double vinyl release with twice as many tracks as my review copy. The hits just won’t stop coming for Andreas Dorau.
Jon Gordon 2019