Those cvazy Germans
I'm glad to see DJ Koze getting some love in Jody Rosen's Slate column on the overlooked albums of 2005, but I have to take issue with the generalization, "the [German] sound has often been a parody of Teutonic rigidity and reserve: all glitches and stiff beats, dance music for post-structural theorists, not dancers." I realize Rosen is only working with about 200 words here, so there's not much room to back up the statement, but really? Where's the evidence of this? (Ok, aside from most of the Mille Plateaux catalogue.) Anyone who has been immersed in German electronica of the past 10 or 15 years, I think, would argue exactly the opposite: German dance music is often some of the most hedonistic, ecstatic, pleasure-centric stuff in all of contemporary house and techno. (Yes, Vahid, I know, I know: have at me.)
Obviously we could argue back and forth all night about specific examples, but the real point is: why the strawman? It seems like it's impossible to read about electronic music in the mainstream media without submitting it to the strawman critique: "Most electronic music is [cold/unfunky/unhuman, etc.] but this album is [warm/funky/human, etc.]." It's not just that the strategy is lazy and makes for predictable reading — it makes the critic's judgments seem suspect, since it values generalization over any deeper, more nuanced engagement with the form. (I'm not saying Rosen hasn't made the engagement, just that the rhetorical strategy undermines it.)
Koze's album is indeed brilliant, and stands head and shoulders above many electronic albums this year, German or otherwise. But the reason why is a complex question of songwriting, sound design, and that nameless, elusive funk. To say as much doesn't require reducing the rest of the German house and techno canon to a Sprockets sketch.