Isolée Well Spent Youth
Nearly six years after the unlikely crossover success of his last for the Playhouse label, We Are Monster, Rajko Müller's third album as Isolée is coming out on DJ Koze's Pampa Records. "Paloma Triste" opens the album with layers of synths that would sound wistful if they weren't mixed to sound almost unrelated. So far, so good, but it takes an intrusive, out-of-tune bassline—so fumbly it might have been recorded directly from a teenager's practice amp—for the listener to be sure they're in the right place. Rug-pulling moments like this remain a big part of Isolée's sound on Well Spent Youth, but they also underscore a serious lack of memorable tunes.
It's not that the new record pales in comparison to We Are Monster. Technically, Well Spent Youth is the equal of almost anything Isolée has done in the past, with the exception of standout Monster cut "Schrapnell." That album struck a nerve because it made a point of sounding different and drew attention to Müller's efforts to play with the conventions of house music. For rock listeners with internet connections, this idiosyncrasy offered a nice introduction to a music culture where albums weren't the benchmark. In retrospect, Monster's reputation seems inflated.
Six years is a long time in the world of 12"s and even longer in web time, but the reasons that Well Spent Youth fails to make a lasting impression have nothing to do with sounding dated. As associated as he is with the genre blip of microhouse, Isolée still sounds fresh, with the exception of the obligatory bad vocal track "Transmission." While it's playing, it's easy to hear Youth's appeal, but there isn't much to take away once it's over.
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