Max Graef and Glenn Astro seem like a natural fit. On their few productions together, as well as their label Money $ex Records, their individual styles have instinctively mirrored and complemented each other. This is at least partially due to a shared digger's mentality: Graef and Astro's solo tracks pull sounds from jazz, hip-hop, funk, disco and soul. Their work swings loose and fast between those vintage influences, often covered in the warm crackle you'd expect from artists who have spent countless hours with their heads down in record bins.
Glenn Astro: Currently residing in Essen, Glenn Astro has spent a bit more than half his life DJing and producing, first in the realm of hip-hop and more recently with an ear toward dance music. After his first releases in this style in 2011 and 2012, Glenn really went for it in 2013 with a trio of EPs that showed hip-hop's soul and house music's drive are in no way mutually exclusive.
His first EP of 2014 is a case in point: Tartelet hits catalog number 27 with gritty soul music for 120-BPM dance floors. "Love Jones" starts things off by taking its time, letting the beat ease in at the halfway mark while Glenn's sumptuous chords simmer in stereo. CTEPEO '57, whose The Missouri Breaks EP closed out Tartelet's 2013, doesn't so much remix "Love Jones" as pick up where the original left off, its banged-out piano chords and tropical shuffle coming out of nowhere in the best possible way. On the flip, "Acid Tears" throws a bit of Chicago into rattling drums, cosmic saxophones and some wonderfully warped spoken word. On its counterpart "Dub Tears," plaintive strings and searing cymbals fly high over wide, low, rumbling terrain.
Max Graef: It's easy to hear Max Graef's music as a collection of influences. There's Berlin, his hometown, where playing records feels as natural as riding a bike. There's his love of live instruments, built through the years he's spent playing them. And then there's house music and the funk, soul, disco, jazz and hip-hop that feed into it—all of which bleed together at Oye Records, the record shop in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg that may as well be Max's living room. As a producer, DJ and now bandleader, he embodies all of the above. Yet no matter how many facts you know about Max, his music still catches you off-guard—what he's grabbed out of the ether is freely available, but the maturity and inventiveness he strings it together with couldn't have come from anyone else.
His sound first came together, oddly enough, during the one part of his life he didn't live in Berlin—he spent two years at school in London, where he didn't quite connect with his younger peers and found ample time to learn his way around production. Back home, his MPC-led tunes found a home on the shelves at Oye, often appearing on collaborative EPs on Box Aus Holz, his label. His first album, Rivers of the Red Planet, found release through Tartelet in 2014 and met with immediate acclaim. Fully formed and worn-in yet bursting with spontaneity, the record made good on the infectious, eclectic and out-of-time feel of his first singles, and it brought Max and his wildly eclectic record bag to clubs and festivals around the world. He's not merely settling in, though. Max's latest project finds him not behind turntables but on stage playing bass with his eponymous five-piece live band, which brings his music even closer to the loose, organic feel of the records he cherishes.
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