The highly anticipated first album-length LP from Kassem Mosse, titled Workshop 19, was quietly released over a weekend back in February. Mosse, real name Gunnar Wendel, has had a steady trickle of releases on a sprawl of different labels, from NonPlus to FXHE Records, but it’s on Berlin-based label Workshop that Wendel has chosen to launch his first 9-track release under the Mosse pseudonym.
The album bears the same element of facelessness as other Workshop releases, following the rubric of generic cataloging for the release title and track names. Aside from the signature Workshop touch, you are never sure of exactly what to expect from the enigmatic and minimalistic house and techno label. Workshop 19 is no exception to this. It’s a record firmly rooted in the pulsing heart of the Berlin techno and house scene, yet there is something undeniably more flexible and far-reaching in its scope which distances it from Wendel’s past solo 12″ on this imprint.
For the album, like past releases, still resonates at the same eerie frequencies, as if the city’s smog is somehow infused in the hard wax, but there is also something playful going on here, with a shadowy groove that sets it apart from its predecessors.
The first six cuts stand out as arguably some of Mosse‘s finest work. On A1, rimshots, high key notes and hazy vocals launch the album in a direction that’s far easier on the palate than past releases. You get the sense that A2 belongs somewhere between an abandoned church and an industrial district, as heavy dub chords and a hard hitting kick drum set the pace before being pierced by sweeping synth’s and organ chimes.
Everyone will have their favourite from Workshop 19 but for me the stand-out track is A3. Wheezing synths and a delicate house melody breathe through a tribal arrangement of drum patterns that never seem to hit the same bar more than once. If the whirring tubes of the Berlin underground had a soundtrack, A3 would probably be it.
B1 and B2 keep true to the tone of the first side, whilst B3 and C1 re-draw the parameters of Workshop 19, moving away from music engineered solely for the dance floor and more towards the after-party. Beats are replaced with stand-alone melodies that skirt the lines of haunting and alluring, either way it’s hard to tear your ears away.
The only negatives to draw from Workshop 19 would be the final two tracks. As the length of C2 and D1 increases so does the sense of exploration, but somewhere along the line the direction seems lost in the smog and as a whole, the album feels a little unbalanced.
Despite a rocky finish, Workshop 19 ranks as one of the top house and techno releases of the year so far, Wendel reaffirming his reputation as a skilled, responsive producer – we can only hope that isn’t the last album to be released under the Mosse name.