And One "NORDHAUSEN" (Virgin Records, 1997)

And One is a German synth pop/ EBM project shepherded by Steve Naghavi. Their first hit "Techno Man" from 1992 was described as a mix of Depeche Mode's harmonies, Front 242's power and Nitzer Ebb's danceability. A fan base grew very quickly and with the albums "Spot" and "I.S.T." And One added more pop and interesting song structures to their music. In the late 90s they lost their major label virginity and showed the widest musical spectrum so far. The later albums "Virgin Superstar" and "Agressor" split the catchy and the agressive sides of And One, which had coexisted peacefully on the previous albums. Unfortunatelly, their latest album "Bodypop" had 'I don't have any new ideas anymore" written all over it.

UND DAFÜR And One like to put material on their albums, that other bands normally consider byproducts. These are either fun tracks or instrumental leftovers like this track that is sold to us as an intro. It is not bad actually, unspectacular but moody. Introduces the typical And One hard beat and synthesizer stacked sound right away. 6.5

SOMETIMES This one builds itself very carefully, with two deep sung verses where a fat but warm bass gives the only rhythm. The beats and off-beat bass strike not before the wonderful chorus, which leads you into 80s synthie pop heaven. Of course, this one sounds better than most of the 80s productions. It's slow and pretty melancholic, but still danceable. 9.0

MOVIE STAR While "Sometimes" was a great pop song, this is a mediocre one (at best). It's a cover of the Harpo song and it has a terribly cheap dance beat. I always liked when And One lightened up the mood on their albums with a little bit of fun, but this is not funny at all (at least I don't see the joke). I don't know what And One were thinking here. It just doesn't seem right. Maybe Virgin thought they could attract a new fan base with this, but was And One really in need of Palma de Mallorca tourists? Hardly passes. 5.0

UNS GEHT'S GUT Much better. Starts with an odd beats and effects part. Again, clever arrangement that brings the strings not until the chorus starts, and therefore lifting it up. A louder snare brings more life to the mix afterwards, but the song remains spacy and mysterious. 7.5

MY WARRIOR Typical And One sound: impelling beats with a hard stoic snare drum, fluid EBM bass, rhythmical cold synths fluttering around, multy-layered strings. And Mr. Naghavi always trying some different approaches to his singing. This time he gets support by some female vocals. 7.0

CREATURES Nice dragging rhythm construct with some funny frog-like samples left and right. This is a very percussive track that never gets boring, because there is always something new happening. I like the organs in the chorus and the fresh change of vocals. It's far-away yet able to kick the crowd in the clubs. 8.0

SWEETY SWEETY Another pure dance track that you were just not used to as an And One friend. Again with female background vocals and this time they just enjoy themselves switching right in the middle of sentences between German and English language. Yeah, it's kind of funny, but with a "Deutschmaschine" beat this one could could have been as funny and a so much better And One track. 6.0

SCHLUSS MIT LUSTIG Sounds like one of those industrial instrumental pieces that Depeche Mode used to put on their albums back in the 80s. With 70 Seconds and mostly just noise this one is hard to rate, so I just leave it Unrated.

SITATA TIRULALA Now it's getting dark. Hard, aggressive EBM beats and Rammstein-like singing that matches the provoking sexual lyrics. Since the band constantly switches between serious and funny topics, this one could be easily misinterpreted by And One outsiders. But I guess that's the way they like it. Anyway, the song is well done and if you are not that easy to offend or don't speak German anyway, that is the important thing. 8.0

FRIENDS IN HEAVEN Slow piece that sounds like a song from the preceding album "I.S.T.". And 'sound' was this album's main problem: too many raw synths and percussion elements that sometimes interfered with each other. Mainly the strings should have been reduced a little bit, so that the actual beautiful melody would have a chance to unfold. But at least some percussive breaks bring a little change and air to breathe. 6.5

MIRROR IN YOUR HEART Melancholic strings to get attuned, then the verse begins pretty cautious. Steve nearly whispers and even the bass seems to be restrained. Why? So that the brutal beat can intrude the soft and quiet world all the more effective like a beast hammering its way into the fairy tale castle. This one turnes out to be an emotional, leaden ballad, a great composition especially in the later instrumental part. A thought-out piece of pop art. 9.5

NORDHAUSEN The title track about the the dreariness of a Middle German town and the dangers, but also the courage coming out of it. Vocals accompanied just by a piano and some record needle crackling and a nice sad ending with strings. Sufficient finale. 7.0

[Artwork] Since 1993's neon-yellow "Spot", And One always put quite some emphasis on their album artwork. The preeminent colors on "Nordhausen" are white with some bright pink and orange in it. The booklet features a lot of information like lyrics and some running gags that appear on every album. Some pages seem a bit overstuffed, though. And: I never want to read "Foto`s" again! 8.0

Conclusion I really thought long about which And One album I would review. I can recommend the former two records "Spot" and "I.S.T." as well as the following album "9.9.99 9 Uhr". Neither of these are perfect but every one is special in their own way. I have chosen "Nordhausen" because some of And One's best songs are on it and it is mostly successful in avoiding the production/ mixing mistakes on "I.S.T.". The big cons on "Nordhausen" are obviously the two dance tracks. They destroy much of the mood the rest of the album builds up. However, if you skip them you will have a merely 35 minute album. Which takes us to the other problem: most songs are faded out too quickly. This is usually done with radio songs, but many of the "Nordhausen" pieces are strong enough that they could have been developed a little further. Overall Rating: 7.33

June 2007