Sorry to go full Hipster on you, but today I wanna talk about one of the best dance albums of the 90s, that you have probably never heard of. Unless you happened to grow up in Germany during that time and was interested in that kind of music. (Which, IF you grew up in Germany during the 90s, you most likely were.)
RMB is short for producer’s Rolf Maier Bode’s name, but in fact, RMB were two guys. Maier Bode and Farid Gharadjedaghi. Together they had their first big hit in 1995 with “Redemption”. With their unique sound, they became quick one of the big names of the German rave scene from that era* and their first album “This World Is Yours” works as a time capsule of every sound that was popular 20 years ago (Hardcore Techno bassdrums with at least 150 BPM, squeaky synths, etc), but at the same time still sounds fresh. It was kinda raw and unpolished, but every track was better constructed and had more layers than anything else that was released on the legendary Low Spirit label at that time.
*And it should also be noted, even landed several top 20 hits in the German sales charts, because that’s how we rolled back then.
Yet their real masterpiece was the follow up album “Widescreen”, which was released in 1998. By that time, not just RMB’s sound, but the whole dance music genre sounded more polished and sophisticated than in the first half of the 90s. While it still had its fair amount of Happy Hardcore inspired cheese, The Chemical Brothers, The Prodigy, Underworld, Aphex Twin, Leftfield, Fatboy Slim and co showed us, what electronic music can be truly capable of. (Personally I believe that electronic music reached perfection in the 2nd half of the 90s.) “Widescreen” still featured several over 150 bpm club bangers, but it was more experimental, well rounded and felt at times like a concept album. It offered soundscapes made of breakbeats, Trance synths, clever melodies, sound effects and movie dialogue samples. Some tracks put you in the mood to meditate on the beach during sunset, others just made you want to jump up and down like crazy at your big room rave of choice.
The opener “Madman’s Legend” is a good teaser of the things that you will encounter within the following 76 minutes. Peppered with dialogue snippets from “12 Monkeys”, it’s a wild collage of sounds that seem to come from all directions and take you away to a different place in your head. What follows are tracks like “Spring”, “Reality”, “Baraka” or “Fighting For A Fine Place”, with fat bassdrums and drops (if you wanna call them that) that have the power of 1000 Skrillexes, but unlike modern EDM anthems, focus more on melodies and dozens of sound layers. “Everything (Can’t Hide Version)” and “No Women No Kids” are obviously Big Beat inspired. “Shadows” feat. Sharam (Jey) could be described as “Trance House” while “Everything (Groove Version)” and “Unreality” wouldn’t feel too out of place on a chill out compilation. And “Rhythm Desease” defies every proper description.
While there are several standout tracks on “Widescreen” (most of them were released as single, see the embedded videos below), it’s one of the rare dance albums, that you have to listen to from the beginning to the end. Saying that something takes you on a journey is especially in dance music a bit of a cliche, but in this case it’s true. All tracks perfectly match each other. They all sound different, but still like they are made from one piece. In a perfect world, RMB’s “Widescreen” would be named in the same sentences as “Homework”, “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby”, “Dig Your Own Hole”, “Leftism”, “Moon Safari”, “Play”, “Dubnobasswithmyheadman”, “Endtroducing”, etc. Unfortunately both “Widescreen” and RMB seem kinda forgotten these days.
They produced two more albums. “Mission Horizon” in 2001, which felt, after the mindblowing experience that was “Widescreen”, surprisingly pedestrian. It’s still an album that I listen to once in a while and if you would ask me for the best Trance album of that decade, this would be my #1, but the spark of innovation, that could even be found in “This World Is Yours” was completely absent. 2006 Maier Bode and Gharadjedaghi split up (from what I’ve heard on their official fan message board, not on friendly terms). Their final album “Evolution”, which Maier Bode described as “uninspired and only made because of pressure from the record label”, was released as digital download in 2009. And let’s just say that “uninspired” RMB is still better than what most other dance producers release, but you really don’t miss much. (“Symphonic Rhythm” is one of my favourite RMB tracks, though.) Rolf Maier Bode is still releasing stuff under his real name. I haven’t listened to all of it, but am very fond of his first solo album “Thirteen Stories”, which can be best described as “RMB minus the rave angle” and is highly recommended to everybody, who likes “Widescreen”.
If you have a Spotify account, the whole album is embedded below. If not, at least you can listen to the official singles via the YouTube vids underneath. (Ramdom trivia: They were directed by Martin Weisz, who later directed the unfortunately seriously shitty THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2.)