Album number two from the Cologne duo is a startlingly well-crafted pop-house hybrid
Dovetailing neatly with Kompakt’s styled-up and laidback ethos, Coma’s duo of Georg Conrad and Marius Bubat specialise in the kind of meticulously crafted tech-house that’s equally at home in a club, commute or even your local floatation tank. Their 2013 debut, ‘In Technicolour’, didn’t always hang together – an issue they overcome with almost insouciant ease here – but it demonstrated an understanding for the lush and narcotic possibilities of their chosen furrow. DJs the calibre of John Digweed and Sasha duly stocked their CD wallets, hard drives etc.
It’s tempting to say that on this second outing Coma perfect the formula. In fact, they don’t quite perfect it, but they come very close. Here is a record that during its admirably concise 46-minutes flirts outrageously with perfection. Rare is it for a set to slip down so easily, or be so moreish.
Things begin in tremendous style with ‘Borderline’. Like the rest of ‘This Side Of Paradise’, ‘Borderline’ doesn’t so much pulse with the beat of the dancefloor as shimmer with its possibilities. Drums don’t figure large; instead the album’s heartbeat is a bass synth that bears the listener away on any number on little fluffy clouds. Think the shoegazey stylings of ‘On My Own’ by Ulrich Schnauss for comparison.
Oh, but what’s this? The second track, ‘Lora’, couldn’t be more of a mood killer if it was wearing a onesie and wanted to talk about kitchen appliances. It is, as they say, “nice enough”, but its chief problem is that by employing Hot Chip-style vocals and a Hot Chip-trademarked “annoying squeaky bit” it sounds way too much like… Hot Chip. Which is never a good thing.
Even so, Coma are forgiven that minor infraction – and neither will we linger long on the decision to release it as the lead single – because the rest of their work here is just so damn beautiful. Besides, ‘Lora’ is swiftly followed by one of the set’s strongest moments, ‘The Wind’, with frequent collaborator Dillon lending gorgeous vocals to a luxuriant pop triumph guaranteed to soothe any hangover or attack of the blue meanies.
From here things only get better, each track a mini-masterpiece, each a progression from the last. And if the first half of ‘This Side Of Paradise’ concentrates largely on finely honed club ballads, then the next section leads us away from all that hushed ennui to the dancefloor. The bpms rise on ‘Pinguin Power’ and we feel the first stirrings of euphoria. Again on ‘Poor Knight’, when perhaps if we weren’t so blissfully opiated our hands might even reach for the lasers. If you’re of the belief that an album’s close should be its most masterful moment, a rousing distillation of all that has gone before, then you won’t be disappointed by ‘Happiness’.
A triumph then. If you’re pining for the sorely missed Telefon Tel Aviv, if you’re wondering about the next Ulrich Schnauss or Gui Boratto, then here it is. ‘This Side Of Paradise’ isn’t quite perfection, no. But it’s as near as makes no difference.