Artist: Dapayk & Padberg
Album: Sweet Nothings
Label: Stil Vor Talent
Format: Physical and download LP
In 2004, Eva Padberg was photographed for Playboy by Ellen Von Unwerth and subsequently voted FHM’s ‘Sexiest Woman In The World.’ The next year, she released an album full of minimal, thoughtful electronica with her now-husband Niklas Worgt under the name Dapayk & Padberg, on his achingingly cool, tripartide label Mo’s Ferry Productions. Spanning three different micro-genres under sub labels Mo’s Ferry Prod. (‘rocking frickel house,’) Fenou (‘cute minimal electronica’) and Rrygular (minimal techno) it caters to the minutiae of the particularly compact, obsessive music made for feeling slightly melancholy whilst driving down an autobahn late at night. Uberkoolisch.
According to popular mythology, it seemed likely that might be the last seen of Eva The Model, becoming instead Eva The Extremely Hip Electronic Musician Who Is Sometimes Photographed Looking Unbearably Cool. After all, you are not meant to make deep and thoughtful electronica and be a vacuous model; as Kraftwerk themselves once posited, the model is an empty vessel of beauty. An attitude “delightfully” summarised by a Youtube commenter’s stunning deconstructive critique; “this song tells the honest truth about many women today.”
Before the viva convenes to award them a PhD in social sciences though; Eva Padberg did go back to modelling, fronting campaigns for Mercedes-Benz and even appearing as a judge on the German version of Star Search, completing her reign of crimes against the apparently credible by encouraging reality TV. She has also released, alongside her husband, two more Dapayk and Padberg albums, each more agonisingly cool than the preceding one.
Close Up, their first album, is very much the sound you would expect from minimal German club music; clicks and beats, a little static and some of those muffled beats that acts like Polmo Polpo have brought across to the North American scene.
The eponymous track deals with aesthetic and social disappointment, the capacity for intimacy; it’s tempting to read it as Das Model by the Model but it’s more an outsider’s song, loneliness in the city being a recurring theme in dance music of any kind but particularly German minimal.
Second album Black Beauty was clubbier, more minimalist and darker; occasional riffs from the first album disappeared into almost atonal acoustic plucking and complicated syncopation. The clattering, vibrating springs of songs like “Khes” demonstrated an interest in almost ugly, industrial noises as well as the more subtle minimal techno standards. The entire album is dark, confusing and labyrinthine, interspersed with muttering, soundscape “skits,” something you’d normally only expect on a rap album.
If you’re likely to have heard a song by them, then there’s a good chance it was the Noze remix of “Island” from Black Beauty, which takes a song that starts out as a meandering centrepiece to the album and inserts the French duo’s sense of playfulness to alleviate some of the darkness.
Five years after Black Beauty‘s release, Dapayk and Padberg have released Sweet Nothings, this time on boutique label Stil Vor Talent, started by scene-fellow Oliver Koletzki in 2005. As ludicrously cool as always, this isn’t the sort of label you would expect to be finding a talent-show judge and former Playboy model on if you went with the usual popular assumptions.
Dapayk and Padberg aren’t quite the odd couple you might imagine; together for ten years before they married in 2007, it’s easy to guess that the intimacy of knowing someone closely for so long helps when creating complex, layered music. The teaser EP, Fluffy Cloud gave a hint that this was possibly a more confident album, using space and sound as accurately as always, exacting and deliberate but with sudden new, broad strokes.
Alex Forge’s beautiful, synaesthetic video for the eponymous track from the EP gives a sense of both this sudden injection of colour, synths and static wash combining with the uglier, metallic distortion from Black Beauty to create something both threatening and smoothly rave-friendly…
The album takes the duality of what they’ve done before (prettiness and ‘cute’ minimalism and the more sinister or aggressive darkness) and offsets both sides against dance. It would be wrong to say that Sweet Nothings is a particularly cheerful, let alone euphoric album but it is definitely less ponderous than their previous work.
Whether encouraged by label-mates or simply a result of the half-decade gap between albums, songs like “Continental Drift” demonstrate a willingness to use a pop aesthetic that wasn’t present on previous LPs, with an initial bassline reminiscent of “Where Love Lives” by Alison Limerick. Songs about meeting together, unification of two- in this case, of islands edging closer together by unstoppable force, replace the lonely melancholism of the earlier albums.
Where on Close Up the songs were about distance and aesthetic, regarding from afar and on Black Beauty the death panic and detached sexual unions dominated the lyrics, Sweet Nothings is where bodies truly collide. The LP cover, of the two musicians lying together but polarised sets up the tangled premise of the entire album; there is no detachment here, unlike previous work where the musicians were either depersonalised commentators on society or speaking from an apparently isolated perspective, acting only as an ‘I,’ Sweet Nothings is full of ‘you’s.
The entanglement within the songs creates a much warmer, closer experience with the listener than previous iciness. Perhaps it’s the movement away from total minimalism to a deeper electro-house. The difference is comparable to the change between The Knife’s aggressive, scary coldness on Deep Cuts, as Karin Dreijer threatened to burn cities to the ground for a girls’ night out to the intense, almost uncomfortable intimacy of Silent Shout -the latter album was technically more distant and self-involved than their (relatively) relatable sophomore effort but the overall sound was far more immersive.
Dapayk and Padberg haven’t abandoned darkness on Sweet Nothings -some slightly melancholy pop can’t hide the creepiness of “Take These Scissors” (where the only lyric, repeated again and again, is “take these scissors and run”) but there’s been a refocussing away from some of the total introspection of their earlier work. The duality at the heart of their music seems to have been knitted a little closer, creating work equally intense and varied as before but with a sense of joint purpose.
Bold, elegant and tender, with enough will towards experimentation to reward repeat listenings enormously this is a tremendous album and an early contender for best of 2012.
Listen to the album in full (although for some reason, in reverse order on Soundcloud below or (in the right order) on Spotify