The self-titled debut release from Vermont—a collaboration between Danilo Plessow (a.k.a. Motor City Drum Ensemble) and Innervisions affiliate Marcus Worgull—is one of 2014's most pleasant electronic offerings so far; it's also something of a surprise. Shedding almost every recognizable bit of its creators' usual dancefloor inclinations, Vermont finds Plessow and Worgull crafting an album full of exploratory electronics and Kraut-indebted synth adventures that proves both producers' talents reach well beyond the club.
In its accompanying literature, Vermont is said to have "emerged from a series of loose jam sessions" that took place in Plessow's former Cologne studio. This approach quickly reveals itself with bubbly opener "Droixhe," which feels like being dropped off in the middle of one such jam. That said, Vermont never seems rough where it shouldn't be or sloppy simply for the sake of it. This is likely because some after-the-fact editing and overdubbing has been used to enhance these "loose jams," most notably on songs like the floating "Sharav" and album closer "Montag," which incorporates tasteful bursts from Cologne guitarist Dominik Von Seger into the mix.
A number of other guest musicians make appearances on Vermont, helping to add sonic variety to what is otherwise a solely electronic palette. The most notable artist to lend a hand is Jaki Liebezeit, former drummer for Krautrock luminaries CAN, who adds layers of live percussion to the aforementioned "Conos" and the slow-bobbing "Macchina." It's a testament to Vermont's abilities that these contributors can blend in to the proceedings so effortlessly; one might expect the presence of a violin or e-bowed guitar to stick out against the hardware electronics which define the album, but the loose structure of its jams seems to invite tasteful experimentation from outsiders.
One of the most surprising aspects of this LP is just how at home the members of Vermont sound when operating in this corner of the electronic music spectrum. Tracks like album standout "Übersprung" and—to a lesser degree—spacey but cooly soulful excursions such as "Rückzug" and "Sharav," are the only cuts that could somewhat be traced back to Plessow's and Worgull's more established bodies of work, and even these selections are still largely beatless and feature arrangements full of inventive twists and turns. The two producers may be stepping outside of their comfort zone with Vermont, but they certainly haven't stepped outside of their depth.
As hard as it was to anticipate the sound of Vermont, considering the producers behind the project, its success is far less of a surprise. Together, Plessow and Worgull have crafted an LP that honors the decades-old tradition of Krautrock and freeform synth compositions without co-opting those genres' calling cards. Vermont is a record that simply sounds like its producers doing exactly what they wanted to do without worry of outside opinion. (The meow-featuring "Katzenjammer" might be the best example of this.) Fortunately, the results are both easily enjoyable and unexpectedly refreshing.
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