It’s impressive when a band is able to significantly evolve within its genre over an extended period of time and keep an audience interested, but when the band traverses genres and still preserves its reputation, there’s real promise in the band’s musical potential.
There are very few post-punk remnants left in Cologne’s Urban Homes‘ new release, Centres (Altin Village & Mine Records) yet the band began as a true post-punk formation in 2009, blending sounds from the band members’ former groups, Yage, PTTRNS, and Airpeople. Urban Homes’ 2011 release stemmed from these previous projects’ punk and hardcore roots.
Urban Homes’ change in sound and direction occurred when drummer and singer Benjamin Riedl took a professional hiatus in 2011 and the band replaced his old drum set with a Roland TR-707 drum machine. The rudimentary change in percussion launched the band into an experimental soundscape that allowed a wider range of genres from which to pull, like house music, dub, kraut rock, balearic, and disco music. Centres is a refined culmination of this experimentation.
The five-song release clocks in at around a total of 35 minutes, combining guitar, synthesizer, electronic percussion, bass, and vocals. The record sounds like something one might hear in a U.K. club, with mellow dance grooves and light, energetic vocals. There’s a bit of Hot Chip, MGMT, and Of Montreal infused in the tracks, but ultimately the band takes the release in a new direction, adding layers upon layers to each song, creating “growers” that develop with each listen.
All of the tracks build up and ease out of dance beats during their five-plus minutes of running time. The first track, “Ivory Tower Guard,” is heavy with electro hand claps and reverbed vocals before more synths are added at the one-minute mark and a guitar eventually licks a couple catchy riffs.
“Aurora” is a mouthful of drum machine mixed with long, cascading synths, instrumentally sounding like early Genesis, catching the vibes of 2011’s “Drive” in the middle, and bringing everything together with full vocals at the end.
Dancier and more upbeat, “Ayran Gifbek Mersi” is Centre‘s center song that’s split into so many phases and parts that one can’t really keep track, but everything flows together so well that it doesn’t matter. When vocals come into play, the lyrics aren’t completely discernible, but they accompany the song well.
“Full Trance Effect” is the poppiest song on the release, also with the strongest individual structures. By the time this track is over, one is fully aware of the intricacies in Urban Homes’ production, as the band often chooses to morph and redefine instead of just ending a song early on.
“Untitled Luv” is the fifth and final track of Centres. It represents the peak of what the band can master, after they’ve already shown snippets of what’s possible. The 11-minute song bends and breathes through electronic waves of synths versus drums. The synths grow heavier and ease lighter while the percussion stays constant in its role. The song could cut out around 4:42, but that’s not Urban Homes’ style, no, so instead it continues on in new forms until the 11-minute mark.
Stream the full release from Germany’s Urban Homes below: