And One

[Tanzomat sleeve]

"Tanzomat" (Album, 2011)  !DSO Recommended!

"Zerstörer" (EP, 2011)

I've always had a genetic weakness for And One. Like so many other memorable acts from the formative years of the Berlin industrial music club scene, I first heard And One during the heyday of the Machinery label. This was back in the early 90s. A time when I systematically picked up virtually every early Machinery release. It was one of those rare times (for me only ever matched by the early Mute and 4AD periods) when you could go out and buy the next catalogue number, irrespective of the artist and not having heard it before. I got as far as their landmark I.S.T. album after which the label sadly shut up shop. That severing of continuity created a gap that I never bridged since - despite a steady stream of And One releases across the intervening years. During that time I've always sought them out live and have never experienced a dud evening but their albums never quite matched those thrilling early years.

They've always suffered something of an identity crisis in so far as for the critics they never managed to shake off their major influence - Depeche Mode. For many on the scene And One have never stood on their own merits - always coming across as a paler imitation of the Mode. You either agree with this or you don't - there's little point in trying to argue across the divide. However, none of their albums since they departed company with Machinery in the late 90s have convinced me to update my record collection. Since the early 1990s I've never stopped listening to those great early And One singles and albums.  

Having followed Depeche Mode during their entire career, with the release of Zerstörer I now realise that, whatever And One's critics say, I'm way more likely to listen to their new material than that of their English influencers. I also know that I'm more likely to enjoy some good, old-fashioned fun at an And One gig these days than a Depeche Mode one. For me then, Zerstörer is something of a landmark And One release - it is the first new material in years to cause me to turn my attention once again to what Chris Ruiz, Gio van Oli and Steve Naghavi are doing now

There is a defnite return to the past, and past glories, which explains the immediacy of my fondness for the eight-track single. It previews two album tracks - Sex Drive and No Song For You and opens with the DAF-like title number. Sex Drive introduces a decidedly Depeche Mode (surprise!!) styling circa Construction Time Again (1983) and Some Great Reward (1984). No Song For You continues the referential theme initially sounding like it could almost be a cover version of Mode's Things You Said (from Music For The Masses). These are followed by a cluster of live renditions (Mirror In Your Heart, The Secret, Military Fashion Show) the brilliant original Rocakbilly version of Military Fashion Show - yep I did say Rockabilly! and a toned-down, homemade remix of Zerstörer. All in all, a very encouraging tease for the longer player...

[Zerstörer sleeve]...Tanzomat. This album is a total return to top form for Naghavi and his associates. There are the familiar influences of course, which often border on straight plagiarism (Dancing In The Factory reorders most of the notes of the chorus from Mode's Just Can't Get Enough and sticks them in the verses instead!), but Naghavi's irrepressible and disarming charm wins you over each time. The conclusion one draws is that if, for example, Depeche Mode sounded superb in the mid to late 1980s then why not mine that sound for all its worth? Particularly since the Basildon-born boys themselves have no desire either to revisit or even celebrate that golden era. Then there's the old school EBM-meets-pop numbers that And One pull off so well sitting alongside that other staple of theirs - melancholic ballads.

Shining Star revisits the very best aspects of And One's early days but does so with many years of experience and reflection in Naghavi's voice - at his finest. Electrocution is And One doing Official Version era Front 242 (and Naghavi a decent Jean-Luc De Meyer vocal impersonation) and just to be sure you can make the connection it does its own take on the orchestral stabs from that album's single Master Hit. The magpie approach to compositon reaches its pinnacle on Angel Eyes which starts as Kraftwerk's Uranium, then morphs into an audacious but sublime melange by (among others) lifting the undulating bassline from Dark Side of Berlin's Theme From The Black Lung (that appeared alongside a couple of And One songs on the 1993 Machinery compilation How To Use Machinery II), adding shades of Depeche Mode's Monument and The Things You Said, plus the vocal melody line of Kraftwerk's Neon Lights, with the finished results faintly recalling David Thrussel's Snog at its most poignant. 

Yet, again, remarkably, we somehow forgive Naghavi's extensive reliance upon others' ideas as the rest of the musical wrapper is entirely deserving of its own extensive praise. Neither should it work, nor deserve to work but, extraordinarily, it does. Tanzomat contains emotion-laden melodies, thumping beats and truly sumptuous music that many others would still die for a piece of. Park any hang ups you might have about 'originality' having just read the review above - and buy it anyway.

Tanzomat - 8/10 

Rob Dyer (March 2011)