A visionary blend of Berlin techno, UK Bass and mutant soul, Deepchild's first full-length since 2008's Departure on Future Classic is equal parts revelation and manifesto. Abandoning the oppressive heat of his native Australia for the punishing winters of Berlin's Neukölln district in 2009, Rick Bull's dub-inflected sound evolved with the iconic club culture of his newly adopted hometown. Acclaimed live sets at Berghain and a series of intervening 12-inches for Trapez, Resopal and Oppossum set the tone for an album that picks up where his previous Thoughtless single, The Suffering Ones, left off: interlacing defaced R'n'B vocals within a framework of frayed, eroded, yet tough-minded house and techno.
Neukölln Burning was written during the depths of the 2011/12 Berlin winter, plagued by extreme insomnia brought on by Rick's first attempt in almost 10 years to wean himself from anti-depressive medication. As a result, the album displays a deep internal coherence, described by the artist as an exercise in catharsis; an experiment in transforming a sense of claustrophobia and uncertainty into something ultimately hopeful, visceral, perhaps even seductive.
The atmospheric opener, mid-way interlude and closing track weave a cinematic thread yet waste little time before the low-slung title track kicks into gear with sultry polyrhythms, setting the pace for submerged vocal fragments and erratic scintillations. Quickly ramping up to the fearlessly peak-time warehouse energy of 'Dirty Cutlery' and the acidic stomp of lead single 'Riyadh', 'Bleeding Down the Night' erects a post-apocalyptic sanctum, radioactive shards and liquid vocals seeping through the edges of a seemingly airtight structure. Juxtaposing throwback detuned strings with upfront vocals on 'I Woke and You Were Smiling', dissonance releases into dizzy, bass-fueled euphoria.
"This album is the most singularly unified piece of recording I've done to date. I've included a lot of found-sound elements from touring the US, as well as subtle references to Arabic and Sufi music very much reflective of the heavily immigrant culture of Neukölln. It's an album where I've intentionally worn off many of the edges from vocal elements: murmurs and half-remembered moments, underwritten by an insistent sense of urgency."
The brief respite of 'Chicago Train' gives way to the forward percussion and dense synth programming that pushes 'Want' through newly forged post-Detroit terrain before arriving at dub-wise way-station, 'The One I Used to Call Home'. Stripping down his rough techno ethic, 'Rage' is a cathartic exertion that presages the expansive melancholy of 'Then We Dissolved'. Finally, 'That I Adore You' illuminates that magnetic brightness at the end of a long journey, evoking a welcome positivity through the unique aesthetic that defines the album. Cushioning the come-down with 'Reuterkiez Winter Lights', 'Perimeter of Release' closes Neukölln Burning with a glimpse of the vastness underscoring the entire effort. Merging otherworldly sound design, sample-heavy arrangements and a subtle yet tangible undercurrent of sexual tension, the compelling result is both deeply urban and enticingly futuristic.
"Neukölln has come to represent to me a place of rebirth, of starting again... the sense of a culture supplanted into an unfamiliar environment and allowed to grow new roots, to reframe what 'home' means in a way which asks fundamental questions, and relies deeply on the kindness of strangers... Neukölln is a sort of alchemy I bear witness to burning away the old and giving rise to fallow ground, where new things might grow..."