ALBUM REVIEW: Kruder & Dorfmeister ‘1995’

1995 (G-Stone Recordings)

It’s time to lie down and party like it’s 1995

Austrian duo Kruder and Dorfmeister haven’t released any fresh original material together in over two decades, their focus since the 90’s being very much on DJ performances, remixes and various solo projects. How fantastically unexpected, then, that these pioneers of trip hop and stoner beats would release their first full-length album of original compositions in the year 2020.

Except it’s not 2020, it’s 1995. Confused? Let’s take a little trip.

1995 is the Kruder and Dorfmeister debut album that never was. Recently rescued from a box of old DAT tapes, it captures them on the brink of stardom, after their debut EP G-Stoned (1993) but before the much-lauded mix album DJ Kicks (1996) and their astonishing downtempo reinventions for other artists on The K&D Sessions (1998). Recorded at a relaxed pace in a front room in Vienna using a few samplers, keyboards and effects units, the tapes eventually coalesced into a 15-track album. Just 10 test copies were pressed to vinyl, 4 of them given away to friends. And then…nothing. The project was shelved as production and performing commitments took over, and soon it seemed everyone wanted a piece of K&D – including just about every goddamn cafe on the planet Earth.

But now, at last, we get to hear a whole album on which the duo showcase their chops not only as producers but as composers, previously heard only on two EP’s and a few individual tracks scattered across the above releases and a few compilations. I’m happy to report that it sounds, well, exactly like a very good Kruder and Dorfmeister album made in 1995. It’s of its time, to be sure, but it’s aged well. Like all the best ambient dance music of that heady era, technology has not wearied it. After living with these tracks for a week or so, I started dropping them into a new mix series called Blunted and was soon grinning excessively and making lots of approving “ahhhhh” noises. Heard alongside the likes of Shadow, Krush, DJ Food and other genre royalty, this unearthed K&D joint was smoking awfully good.

In many ways, 1995 expands naturally on G-Stoned from two years previous: lots of funk and jazz-laden flavours built on a foundation of hip hop breaks and trippy dub production techniques, spiced with echoes of spacerock, 60’s lounge records and retro soundtrack music ala Lalo Schifrin and Ennio Morricone. “Morning” and “Swallowed The Moon” are both utterly gorgeous with their lush strings and wandering electric piano. Emotionally the music leans towards the light, but not always. “Johnson” might be the most haunting piece in their entire oeuvre, sampling Delta bluesman Robert Johnson against a dark, seductive break and a fantastic Theremin line that whistles like a ghost towards the end. The most unusual thing here is the 13-minute epic “One Break”. Brooding, sparse and patient, the long opening section builds with pan pipes, bird sounds and African drums, eventually settling into a jazzy midtempo break before a final segue into (hello mid 90’s!) ambient drum ‘n’ bass.

1995 is a gift, really, and like all the best gifts it’s a surprise, a substantial piece of 90’s chillout I thought I’d never get to hear. I rather think of it as the trip hop equivalent of ambient techno’s most intriguing unreleased artifact from the same period, Luke Slater’s final 7th Plain release Playing With Fools (1996) which received only a few test pressings before the label crashed and burned. But while Slater remains adamant he’ll never release his lost album, Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister are clearly happy for theirs to be found. How you react to it might depend on whether or not you lived these kinds of sounds back in the day and fell deeply for records like The K&D Sessions. But I’d like to think a 20-something with fresh ears will get it, too, and start digging deeper. Come on in, put up your feet and toke on this.

Listen to the Blunted mixes on Soundcloud – featuring newly-released Kruder & Dorfmeister tracks alongside classic trip hop and dubby breaks from labels like Ninja Tune, Mo Wax, Tru Thoughts and Crammed Discs.

Pre-orders open soon for 1995 – out 13 November on digital and vinyl.