Damiano Von Erckert has built his ava. imprint into a goldmine for soulful grooves, concentrating on the funkiest breeds of house and hip hop. Much of this success is down to Damiano’s own excellent productions, where he shows an excellent retro sensibility – sunny melodies and catchy vocal turns – without ever resorting to pastiche or recycling.
His first album, Love Based Music, was a tour de force of colourful house and winning sketches, and while there are many great moments to be found on this follow-up, it lacks the consistency and energy of Damiano’s debut.
Part of this seems down to some odd mixing choices. Love Love Love is an unsatisfying opener, Miles Bonny’s voice strangely treated and distant, while the promise of a funky organ line is never really developed. Hustle With The Big Boys’ riff sounds crushed and flat, while the relatively experimental Infinity’s shuffling drum patterns sound disconnected from May’s vocal line, the track fading out abruptly, its mournful melody not even allowed to complete the bar.
That said, one can’t expect an album to be perfect from top to bottom (though Damiano’s last LP came close), and when he gets into a groove midway through the LP, he’s on as fine a form as ever. We Flow lays clean jazzy keys under a gorgeous vocal turn from Amalia, a simple construction which gives off a perfect dancefloor glow. The run of great tunes continues with Jai Alai’s airy disco collage and the propulsive BUBBLES, which builds operatically to a great funky twist. These cuts show off not only Von Erckert’s melodic chops but also his skill at structure, crafting a great deal more drama than your average disco-editor.
A run of shorter tracks lead the album to a satisfying conclusion, with highlights in the woozy lust of hip hop sketch New Ehrenfeld Swing and the funky bass licks of There’s No Wrong. Yet it’s only when you get to closer Work For Love, which reunites Von Erckert with long-time collaborator Tito Wun, where you realise what’s missing from much of Also Known As Good – the feels. Sure, there’s club joy and sultry funk aplenty, but few tracks emote as effortlessly as this closer, with its bittersweet keys and rumbling live-style drums.
Aside from a slightly uneven opening salvo, there’s little that’s actively wrong with AKA Good. But that last track reminds how powerful Von Erckert’s music can be, for your mind as well as your body, and it might just send you scurrying back to some of his wonderful back catalogue.