Berlin wonderkid Max Graef has been imposing his infectious, groovy, musical personality upon the deep house scene of late, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
Graef represents everything I love in breakthrough house artists. He is a musical purist who spends his spare time flicking through records at Oye in Berlin, searching for a chord or a bass line that he can sample and remould. Vinyl is his love, so much so that his own label Box Aus Holz – which was founded in 2011 by Graef and his three friends as a way of getting their music heard independently and cheaply – is an exclusively limited press, vinyl-only label. Although this may be frustrating for those of us who miss the chance to get our hands on a record, it comes as a breath of fresh air in a genre that is in my opinion being tainted by digital reproduction and a commercial mindset.
The 19 year old’s magnificently diverse love for music makes him the artist he is, and his sample-heavy productions serve as a homage towards the music that moves him. Jazz, Hip-Hop and Funk feature heavily in all his tracks; be it in the form of a beat, a vocal sample or simply as inspiration to the mood of the track as a whole.
The end result that this produces has grabbed the attention of many top DJ’s across Europe, none more so than Detroit Swindle. The opening track of their Boiler Room set back in July was my first introduction to Max Graef. At the time, the track was agonisingly listed as ‘ID/ID’ on the setlist. This caused uproar on the Youtube videos comment section, with people – me included – demanding to know who had produced such a mesmerising opener.
That track turned out to be Jungle, the first track on Graefs latest EP Broken Keyboard which was released on Detroit Swindle’s own label Heist Recordings earlier this month. The song – which features Andy Hart (good friend of Graef and head of Australian based label Melbourne Deep) – creeps up on you with a choppy blend of kicks and cowbells before rolling into a bouncy and addictive track filled with interesting vocal samples and some uncharacteristic melodic bass lines which take you by surprise mid way through. I haven’t stopped playing it since its release.
Next up on the EP comes Ignorance Is Bliss. With a much harder hitting kick drum and a pure warehouse vibe running throughout it’s much more of a nod towards modern day deep house than we are used to from Graef. His personality still shines through however with some characteristic progressive synths and a beautiful chimey sample that resonates across the top end.
Last but never least comes Zitze, which couldn’t be more ‘Max Graef’ if it tried. A groovy, funky beat peppered with Rhodes keys and vocal samples that make you wonder where the hell he’s pulled them from. Of course they work, and of course they fit perfectly into the feel of the track; Zitze finishes the EP in style, leaving you craving his next genius release.
Judging by Broken Keyboard and a number of his earlier releases (okay, all of them), it seems that Heist Recordings have found an absolute gem in the form of Graef, and I will be keeping a close eye on upcoming releases from the new label – as should you.