REVIEW: Various Artists - "Dr. Walker - Escape From Cologne"

By Marcus Pan

Chain Border

Dr. Walker - Escape From CologneForever riding the razor's edge of new sounds and music, Tone Casualties are a label becoming very well known for their capability of pushing the envelope to the very limit of commercialism. Always raw, different and cerebral, the TC catalog has gathered such notable greats of experimental fame like Kismet, Holger Czukay, Anima Sound System and Schwarzwald - and these are only of recent note. This time TC puts out a compilation - drum 'n bass, cerebral soundscapes and trancey grooves that will satisfy the eclectic tastes of any trance tripper.

A two-CD coagulation of grooves, Escape From Cologne, put together by Germany's master of the cerebral underground, Dr. Walker. You'll find such notables here as Peta, L.U.K.L., Cozmopolis and of course the Dr. himself, all spinning moods that will take you from lost oblivion to nightmarish episodes to splendid trips. Any fan of the NYC rave scene should enjoy at least a good portion of the tracks here, but you'll notice much of it remains much subtler than the goa/progressive trance of the states scenes. But for the hardcore X quaffer, it is even more effective in the music-as-means mission to far-off worlds.

As a compilation, you know that I'm not going to fall into an elusive, simplistic and short-lived paragraph about some highlight tracks. Nay, and for as much reason as the sheer fact that I enjoy these discs and therefore would like one last beginning-to-end spin before I must move on to other reviewable material on my schedule, I will now go into my compilation-style, each and every track review. Hopefully I won't get lost halfway through, close my eyes and float away somewhere as I forget about writing this - but it's worth a shot. So here we go.

Disc 1 Track 1 - Cozmopolis with Morning High
No bones about it, fellas, there is much to be said about the experience of all-encompassing and surrounding mellow grooves while on your favorite illicit substance. I've done it, and a lot of you have too, and if you haven't well you just don't know what you're missing out on. Morning High is a smooth and mellow track, highlighted by chorale style keyboard floats and an anchoring drum 'n bass underside. Floating into bubbly synthetic arrangements and lovely whistles (anyone remember the Whistle Song that hit the club scene in the 80s?), Morning High is, indeed, just that - an opening mood setter for the beginning of your trip through Cologne.

Disc 1 Track 2 - Dr. Walker, Wulfmanson, C. Anderton & 11 Nino with Timestretch Paradise Part I
TP is the work of some highly talented individuals, and as such is difficult to place genrewise. The pattering beats and underlying metal-on-stone synth scrapes combined with a deep, subdued bass harkens in a mood that can be somewhat devilish. Breakdowns where you are left with nothing but the elusive bass without rhythm, and the oncoming floating synths leave you left stranded in a strange world and unknown time.

Disc 1 Track 3 - L.U.K.L. with PV2
Another ominous mood-setter, PV2 is a drum 'n bass collection of scratchiness permeated with windy keyboard synthetics. The bass is harder and more pronounced than our previous excursion, and provide us with a place to stand as the rest of the dubs float about your head.

Disc 1 Track 4 - R.Dos with Time Is Running Out
We enter into R.Dos' world with mechanized utterings through a very unanchored soundscape. Rhythms build upon each other as they come into play, bubbling us to a sudden danceable beat track permeated by subtle synth slides. One of the more danceable tracks on the disc, R.Dos' use of bubbling sounds coming together is very subtle and requires multiple listens to enjoy the full effect. My advice is to set this one to repeat, and then make sure you have enough orange juice for the substance enjoyment.

Disc 1 Track 5 - Dr. Walker & M. Flux with Samstag Morgen Hangover
A highlight of the compilation, Dr. Walker is no slouch to his namesake compilation. A truly eye-closing, dance-floating track, Samstag Morgen Hangover is a bubbling temporal massage.

Disc 1 Track 6 - Air Liquide with Robotwars 1999
Berlin's Air Liquide step up this time with an ominous, computeresque-laden symphonic barrage. Robotwars 1999 is a cerebral mixture of sound and delight, from the opening metal-scratching bass loops to the Lawnmower Man reminiscent bubbling synthetics that abound as the track moves on. Fortunately the rhythm is a constant here, a good thing as I wouldn't want to get lost in Air Liquide's world - the track breeds an overall feel of foreboding.

Disc 1 Track 7 - Peta with Phunkverkehr
Peta opens up this track with a standard-fare drum style, but moves into a more d'n'b score further on. It's not as far-reaching as the other tracks, a bit droll, but I do like the rhythm mixups that Peta applies throughout the track.

Disc 1 Track 8 - L.U.K.L. with The Pleasure Principle
Subtle birdsongs and subdued bells open The Pleasure Principle; L.U.K.L. are excellent at creating moods. This time around, the atmosphere isn't as ominous as PV2 was, lent an air of comfortability with the distanced avian tweaks, though the bass is still L.U.K.L.'s heaviest element. Vocal samples float about and the rhythm becomes quite interesting as we move along.

Disc 1 Track 9 - Dr. Walker, Wulfmanson, C. Anderton & 11 Nino with Timestretch Paradise Part II
We step back into Timestretch Paradise now, still a bit stranded are you but it lends to the listener an "almost out of the forest" kind of feel with the rising near-whistle keyboards and windy background, like you are stepping out of a storm and back onto firm ground.

Disc 1 Track 10 - Cozmopolis with Some People Luv Ferraris
Probably one of my favorites of the whole collection, Cozmopolis is quickly becoming a trance favorite to yours truly. I love this track, with its funky bass line and sampled subject matter. This is definitely another track to put on repeat and break out the OJ. Smooth with excitement, spooky horn instruments sounds trickling up through the underlying rhythms.

Disc 1 Track 11 - Wulfmanson with Girl_Talk
Wulfmanson are masters at subtlety with ingenious keyboard arrangements and anchored drum tracks. Sexy female hums coalesce throughout Girl_Talk. It's a mellow flow with a strong enough beat to keep you in touch yet simplistic keys so you don't get lost in the feeling. A background track - and terribly too short I think.

Disc 1 Track 12 - Dr. Walker & M. Flux with Back2SpaceRock! (Digital Phunk Mix)
Riveting complicated rhythms abound this time with the good Dr. and M. Flux spinning a moving and near-EBM style in Back2SpaceRock!. The whole song is about beats and rhythm, very little in the way of synths or keys, and because of this the song as a whole comes out sounding rather simplistic. But I dare anyone to strap the headphones on and not feel the groove.

Disc 1 Track 13 - R$$F with Abdulah Smokez Rock Again
The closing track to the first disc of this collection is pure genius. It's unfortunate that the work of R$$F is portrayed only once here on Escape From Cologne. The complication behind Abdulah Smokez Rock Again is very high resulting in a truly cerebral, strange, eclectic, amusing and overall truly pleasurable track. The sped-up vocals, Arabian style whistles and string synthetics and amazingly creative breakdowns add to an overall effect that is so ingeniously clever.

Disc 2 - Track 1 - Air Liquide with Eat U Like Candy
Opening right into a groovy funk-laden barrage, the second disc of this compilation kicks off with a highlight track - a lovely start. The bass line here is simple yet clear, and strangely enough this track has excellent vocals to it as well. Additionally it is as good a trance song as any, regardless of the vocals, so the purists can sod off and mope in the corner while I take over the floor myself.

Disc 2 Track 2 - Cozmopolis with For the MC I Never Had
Another highly cerebral and eclectic track, For the MC I never Had is an attempt at rhythmic indifference. Opening with a strange, fast-paced string pluck, added to by a horn and high-hat and bass rhythm, none of the pieces quite fit together. Unnerving, you might think at first, but the next addition - a secure and clear cut drum score is the missing piece that pulls it all together. An experiment in rhythm paradoxes, For the MC I Never Had is cerebral and quite a refreshing work.

Disc 2 Track 3 - Dr. Walker, Wulfmanson, C. Anderton & 11 Nino with Timestretch Paradise Part IV
What happened to Timestretch Paradise Part III I don't know, but there is a huge change between Part II and here on disc 2 with the fourth part of this journey. Going from the "we're almost there" sound of the third into a sudden rhythm with guitar-esque, almost ska-like breakdowns is, well, unnerving and I would like to see how we got here by finding part III. On its own Timestretch Paradise Part IV is a fine track with a groovy beat and toe-tapping rhythms, but how'd we come to be here is what I'd like to know.

Disc 2 Track 4 - Peta with Trip Me Harder
Peta's use this time of scratching sounds and heavy bass create an unnerving track with a horrific mood and spooky rhythms. The scraping bass line here is apparently meant to create a mood that is less in the way of pleasure and more in the way of fear. They succeeded in this if this is indeed their goal, and Trip Me Harder not only does just that but also does so scarier.

Disc 2 Track 5 - Wulfmanson with Despina
Wulfmanson takes on a similar tack as R$$F this time around with Arabic influences and a sitar-style melody. The flute-like and melody lines you'll find deeper within the song are subtle enough to enchant you but clear enough to be unmissable within the song.

Disc 2 Track 6 - Thee Joker with Bush…Karim
Keeping the heavy Arabic style going yet slowing it down a bit to a more moody sound, Thee Joker create a mellow flowing track that I find to be a highlight to the compilation. The sitar melody is simple yet beautifully played and the following flute melodies are a wonderful accomplishment. It's not very fast playing and is instead a flowing, mellow arrangement.

Disc 2 Track 7 - L.U.K.L. with Something Reminds Me of You
Wearing an experimental flag on their heads this time around, L.U.K.L.'s Something Reminds Me of You is quite a strange, eccentric piece of music. Highlighted by vocal samples that are edited, reconstructed and mixed together to form nearly non-sensible syllables, it is held together by a strong beat track. I'm not quite sure if I like it, but it is something I've never heard before.

At this point in the disc we seem to have a problem with the CD jacket - it seems to be missing a track that says should be on here. That track, I believe judging by the time listings, is Dr. Walker's Eigelstein which according to the jacket is on location 8. Instead, it seems we are treated with R.Dos at this point and there is no sign of this Dr. track anywhere - it just, well, disappeared. Now that's some SERIOUS fucking trance for 'ya there, folks…it floated away!

Disc 2 Track 8 - R.Dos with Men Think…
A highlight to this compilation, R.Dos' Men Think… is highly danceable and very moving. Progressive trance at its best, growing rhythms and sudden symphonic additions create an all-encompassing sound that remains perfectly subtle and highly distinct, with layers that can be peeled back to the core starting drum 'n bass licks.

Disc 2 Track 9 - Wulfmanson with Mellow (Tsipouro - Version)
A simpler beast than the previous track, with loops of rhythm and heavy bass combined with a well-played synth melody. While fun to dance to, the downfall of this piece by R.Dos is that it loses its appeal quickly. Like a peanut butter sandwich without the jelly - something's missing. Only you can't really tell what, but I'm guessing it's the loops of same-same sounds throughout the song.

Disc 2 Track 10 - XXC3Crew with Gamegirl
Mechanized effects and swirly bass combine in this short track from XXC3Crew. Not too memorable and fortunately over pretty quick, it does have a rather ingenious use of mechanical synthetics. That is, however, about it.

Disc 2 Track 11 - B.W.A. with Tarpit Tango
Closing on another high note, B.W.A.'s Tarpit Tango opens on a silly bounce and rolls into a just as strange trip-hop collaboration. With interesting rhythms and a swirly melody, my only grudge here is it didn't need to break across seven minutes in time. It does, however, close Escape From Cologne well with heavy mechanized slams that kind of knock you back to your senses.

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