Somewhere between dancefloor utility, lazy-time pop music, and an audiophile’s workout lies the perfect techno album. Sascha Funke’s Mango, the Berliner’s first long-player in four years, is almost that album. Indeed, Mango reaffirms Funke as a current master of the minimal techno form but, more than that, it affirms that the genre still has much more going for it than just its benchmark thup. Granted, Mango’s a bit more slippery–and moody and sexy and Euro–about the style’s tropes than Supermayer’s super-minimal-cum-electro-pop/rock effort Save the World, but the grooves here are at once ad-friendly and wonderfully deft diagrams of dance-music osmosis; elaborate sketches that showcase Funke’s talent for bleeding pop into even the most by-the-books minimalism.
At times, Mango just feels like an incredibly somnolent rock record, something Morr Music might deliver in a particularly ballsy release cycle; in other spots, it’s full of blinds-shut, bell-toned–oh, how he loves that sound–brooding ambience. Of course, there are plenty of Funke micro beats, perfectly placed, always developing in some way, like compass points leading from a wet winter street into the club that never sleeps yet never really pulls out of its dream state.
The sly and alluring “Feather” drapes itself on you in 40 seconds of warm, clean synth tone, approaching and receding in a sort of aural ellipse. A couple of gentle electric guitar notes introduce what sounds like a iron-cast, reverbed hand drum, itself receding and approaching, receding and approaching. Bits of metallic musique concrète and other warmer sounds offer themselves with similar push-pull tension and, about three minutes in, you’re at the center of a solar system that Funke has set in motion around you, its gravity the tiniest bed of dwarfish kick drums.
Some tracks on Mango are less crafty about setting that disorienting mood, instead diverging into straight ambient. “Summer Rain,” as the title implies, is a tad hokey and sentimental; all sampled rain falling on sampled piano and sampled harp, it barely saves itself in deep-space mega-delayed synths, so over-the-top and cheesed-out it feels like Funke is probably laughing to himself. The similarly beat-stripped closer is all descending, funereal tones with erstwhile Funke vocalist Fritz Kalkbrenner reciting, “The revolution won’t be televised/Won’t be live/Won’t happen at all” over the top in a voice so drawn and monotone, you can hear him winking.
You also know he’s winking because you’ve just been listening to what, in the end, is a monumental dance record, insofar as it’s one that could lure you to sleep. It never bangs, but it never needs to. “Chemin des Figons,” the album’s “rock” song, moves itself along on a sampled snare and cymbal which drop out just barely long enough to catch you dancing to the umpteenth repetition of the same hypnotic guitar line (courtesy of M.I.A. guitarist Tim Tim).
Other songs here are far more straightforward. The title track–though it introduces a beat pattern bordering on tribal–stays strictly minimal, while “Lotre (Mehr Fleisch)” is propelled by the sharpest kick drum on the album. Never mind its signature ethereal bell tones, Mango’s most obvious 12”, “Double-Checked,” captures almost everything about what makes this record stellar: It’s a dense, just-fast-enough-to-be-house package of nearly colliding kicks, handclaps, and hi-hats crafted for listening, dancing, and sleepwalking.