Steffi Power of Anonymity
Where Steffi‘s debut album, Yours & Mine, was a misty, nostalgic, and Chicago house-referencing affair, […]
Where Steffi‘s debut album, Yours & Mine, was a misty, nostalgic, and Chicago house-referencing affair, her sophomore LP, Power of Anonymity, seems much more indebted to the sci-fi techno of Detroit’s Underground Resistance. Along with IDM and electro, it’s the self-confessed music of the Dolly boss’ roots, and it makes for an album unapologetically full of floor-facing tracks. Much like one of her famed DJ sets, though, it is also dynamic enough to keep listeners on their toes.
In truth, the album builds just like one of those sets. As Power of Anonymity unfolds, Steffi slowly nudges up the pitch shift, increasing tempos and intensity with each new track. Amongst her peers, many of who seem preoccupied with increasingly fucked-up textures and so-called “graffiti techno” rather than actually making people dance, Steffi stands out; her palette here is clean, metallic, reflective, and futuristic. She never loses sight of an inviting groove, whether she’s feeding us manic acid, bumping out serene techno, or laying down urgent, turbulent, and tripped-out electro.
Each track has plenty going beneath the surface, but despite being succulently layered with crisp hits, tumbling melodies, and synthesizer squelches, the songs never feel fussy or fuzzy. Cuts like “Selfhood” are awash with chords that recall Carl Craig in his prime. “Distant Everyday Objects” is bleary eyed and far gazing, but still direct. “Hard Hitting Horizon,” like most things here, brings to mind speeding down the sort of late-night motorway that’s depicted on the album’s cover. It may be bordering on cliché, but Steffi’s execution is such that listeners will find it hard not to be moved by her slick repetitions.
When “Treasure Seeking”—track nine of 10 and one featuring Dexter and frequent Steffi collaborator Virginia—arrives, it becomes clear that the whole album has been building to this point. Featuring the first appearance of any vocals (and brilliantly fiery ones at that), they act as a release for the previously pent-up techno pressure, and do so in lithe, dynamic house fashion. What’s more, it might just be Steffi’s most accomplished bit of drum programming amongst an album that’s full of them. “Fine Friend,” a suitably doleful closer, wraps up the LP while bringing us back down to earth, and once it’s over, the listener is left with a sense that they’ve really been somewhere. This brand of techno may be high browed, but in this case, it certainly isn’t pretentious. Power of Anonymity is one for the dancers.