There’s a propensity for musicians to become ever more fiddly and experimental as their careers progress. It’s often irritating, but Jacob Korn’s recent experimentation with dance-floor motion sensors in the “search for an ideal format of a virtual environment” doesn’t reflect negatively on his ability to produce deep, powerful house music. His first album is a welcome thing, not least due to its simultaneously representing a milestone in the progression of Uncanny Valley, a fine label from Korn’s home city, which connects Dresden’s deep-house fraternity. Connecting is exactly what You & Me does, too, having a formal concept of sorts; each track sees him working in collaboration with another producer or vocalist. Bringing together creative input from so many different people is quite a feat, but the end result here is undiluted– and quite intoxicating, with an extraordinary feeling of flow throughout.
Opener, “The Place,” beautifully, cinematically, simultaneously evokes a sense of arrival and the end of a journey, as the beat slowly stamps out the home stretch towards “the place you’re looking for,” as Sea of Love’s meltingly sweet voice affirms. Drenched in granulated chords of tender, wistful finality, it’s all grainy film strip hues and the dust in your eyes. On “Broken” the combination of vocalist Kid A’s candlelit crooning, those hi-tech soul pads, writhing computer-boogie bass, and the loose, shuffling lurch of a beat, takes it into post-Dilla territory occupied by the likes of Flying Lotus — it’s actually very reminiscent of the latter’s “Tea Leaf Dancers.”
The course of the album finally takes a more upbeat turn afterwards, in the springy rhythm and rising bass hum of “Friction,” but it’s only a gentle easing up: just briefly a handful of well-aimed chords ebulliently splash color and purpose into the sizzle of percussion. The pace is increased critically on “I Need You,” co-produced by Christopher Rau, providing the first possibility of a big dance-floor track. Here, an undulating, slowly-filtered bass line is wound around a stripped, jacking drum pulse, while dangerously lustful, Moodymann-like vocals from The Drifter lean in close. Peak time arrives with the sweaty grooves of “Heteronomous,” featuring fellow Uncanny Valley man Sneaker, in the form of an out-and-out drum machine battering, and a rising acid bass line; at times it almost rivals FunkinEven’s “Roland’s Jam” in its aggressiveness. The intensity is imbued with narcotic energy, as laser chords cut through the smoke, and a guttural Teutonic voice blurts strange utterances out of the club darkness.
Restraint is often what sets good producers apart from brilliant ones, and the instantly mesmerizing synth and string hooks, the fleeting moments of white-hot feeling, are never worn out here. In an album often dominated by these subtle, tantalizing moments, “Punta Del Este” is the most prolonged, punchy, and satisfying one. Produced alongside San Soda, vivid sky-travel harmonies and alien bird calls reminiscent of Legowelt gravitate higher and higher into the ether, its keys and shining synths coming together to form a glorious sun-drenched plateau. Bringing the album to a head before the floating ambience of the finale, the title track is almost a proper Panorama Bar stomper, if it weren’t for the tender diversions as it builds. The power of the release lies in this ability to master the sleek machinery of house and techno and combine it with intricacy and dynamics that are rare in such club-oriented music.
Jacob Korn often chooses to display his skill at stirring up heartstring-twanging emotion just enough for a track to captivate you before leaving the grooves to propel you the rest of the way. The mixture of bare samples with beautifully low-key but effective sound engineering allows his obvious love of ideas to achieve its fullest potential, and the one-collaborator-per-track technique of songwriting here fills each segment of You & Me with a distinct and self-absorbed focus. With friends like these, Jacob Korn has produced one of the richest and most absorbing albums of the year.