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From a musical perspective, Vienna, Austria, remains best known as the birthplace of the waltz, a dance that is as beloved today as it was during the nineteenth century, when Viennese composer Johann Strauss Jr. was first recognized as "the waltz king." But for aficionados of the international club scene, the city's proudest contributions come by way of more contemporary royalty: Peter Kruder and Richard Dorfmeister, a pair of down-tempo mixologists whose potent amalgamation of dub, bossa nova, ambient and old-school rock is among the most intriguing aspects of Nineties electronica.
Like Air, a Seventies-influenced Parisian duo, Kruder & Dorfmeister seamlessly mingle retro vibes with the latest sounds emanating from the electronic nether regions. According to Dorfmeister, speaking from his Vienna base of operations, this collision of genres is a key element in The K&D Sessions, the cohorts' excellent new disc, and the remix work they do for popular acts such as Depeche Mode and Madonna. "We listen to quite a lot of different music," he says in a suave, lightly accented voice. "Of course, we have old funk and soul records; those are styles of music we really like, because it's such brilliant stuff. And we also love hip-hop." He adds, "I don't think you can put it down to one specific style, because we like it all. We take the best out of everything and give it our own signature."
Pigeonholing their approach isn't easy, Dorfmeister notes. "When we think about our tracks sometimes, it's hard for us to find the right words to describe our sound to a record company, for example," he admits. "All of our music has a very dubby feel, but it's not really dub. So what do you call it? Is it Latin?"
Hardly--but neither is it particularly Austrian: There's precious little correlation between the mannered classicism associated with Strauss and his successors and the wild experimentation that makes Sessions so thrilling. "There has always been an interesting cultural scene in every century of Vienna's history, but it hasn't really been an influence on our work," Dorfmeister says. "It's nice to live in Vienna and have that atmosphere around you, to be inspired by the city--but it is not reflected in our work."
Indeed, Kruder & Dorfmeister seemingly have had a greater impact on Vienna than their hometown has had on them. Their renown has helped incite others to follow in their footsteps, and Dorfmeister talks fondly about the music that has resulted: "Vienna has a very interesting and healthy scene, with a lot of different artists, and we have a lot of colleagues we greatly respect, like Rainer Truby and the boys behind the Mego label and the Uptight label." This admiration is returned in spades, even by representatives of the Austrian government. Last October, when world delegates gathered to celebrate the establishment of Vienna as the seat of the European Union for 1999, Kruder & Dorfmeister were near the top of the bill during the attendant festivities.
Obviously, the two have come a long way since 1993, when their partnership was established. Back then, Kruder was involved in a project called Moreaus, while Dorfmeister was part of Sin, an act that still holds a warm place in his heart; a Sin track, "Where Shall I Turn," appears on The K&D Sessions. But these allegiances changed after a chance meeting at a Vienna record store. Following a conversation about Antonio Carlos Jobim, Dorfmeister says, "we went to a club and soon realized we really liked the same music. So we hooked up and started doing music together in the studio."
Shortly thereafter, the new pals completed G-Stoned, a sensational EP on Quango, a subsidiary of Island, that remains their only studio recording to date. The four songs on the disc sport fleshy bass lines, jazzy smarts and flute-tastic grooves that nod to the Sixties, a decade that's also recalled by the CD's wonderful black-and-white cover art, which parodies a shot on an early Simon and Garfunkel long-player. The image isn't meant as a tribute to Paul and Art, Dorfmeister says. "We like a few of their tracks, but I wouldn't say we were fans. But we really liked the idea. It came from the photograph that we worked with. It just seemed to look like their cover."
G-Stoned was instantly embraced by clubbers, paving the way for a 1996 entry in the long-running DJ Kicks series issued by the Studio K7 imprint. This remix compilation--a precursor to The K&D Sessions --was a bona fide smash, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide at a time when few acts that existed outside the dance mainstream were moving anything close to that number of units. So why did it do so well? Part of the answer lies in Kruder & Dorfmeister's burgeoning reputation for transforming the songs of other performers into unique and passionate opuses. A case in point is "Bug Powder Dust," a nod to William Burroughs that first appeared on the 1994 Bomb the Bass EP Sandcastles. The cut, which layers vocalist Justin Warfield's flawless rapping over a warm, soupy bed of vibes, so impressed Bomb the Bass founder Tim Simenon that he immediately signed the two to remix "Useless," Depeche Mode's then-current salvo. His instincts proved to be excellent: Their work effortlessly surpassed the flawed electro-pop of the Depeche Mode blueprint.