What is it with the standard bearers of minimal techno these days? If it's not Isolee noodling around on his bass, or Wighnomy Brother Robag Wruhme going ambient, it's Ada (a.k.a. Cologne-based producer Michaela Dippel) testing out jazzier waters with finger-picked Spanish guitar. Whatever the case, it's clear that nearly a decade after the great minimal hype, the style required a bit of a makeover... and we're probably just in its foundation stage right now. That said, while it's not an impeccable album, Ada's Meine Zarten Pfoten (German for "my tender paws") does offer some pretty exciting experimentation and a few really great pop songs.
"Faith," the album's opener (which also happens to be a Luscious Jackson cover), arrives on a bed of static before Dippel's treated coos morph into a guitar-plucked minor-key melody, all of these elements laying the groundwork for a real, full-on, verse-chorus-verse vocal song. DJ tracks these are not. In fact, it's hard to say if any of them would be suited to a dancefloor at all—a complete departure from Dippel's dreamy, but entirely floor-ready, 2004 debut, Blondie. Instead, she riffs on Louis Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream on" on the track "Likely," with soft Spanish guitar, shakers, summery vocals, and nary a drum sound, and then goes in a peculiar but awesome new direction with "The Jazz Singer (Re-Imagined by Ada)"—the disc's standout track—a quick-moving electronic pop song driven by Ada's tiny, polyrhythmic vocal acrobatics, and some twinkling organ and piano chords.
The record's title more than hints at the fact that each of its songs is imbued with a Saint Etienne-like lightheartedness, even when they do approach the dancefloor nearer to the album's end. Case in point: "Happy Birthday," a slower-tempo 4/4 tune, remains 100% joyful and peaceful, but reminds us that Dippel is never going to fully abandon the dancefloor that birthed her.