Where many of his peers make languid, self-consciously laid-back tunes, Max Graef makes brilliantly restless ones. Dropping the needle on one of his records, you nearly expect it to pop right off again. 2014's Rivers of the Red Planet, Graef's first full-length, takes all that wildness and refines, expands, updates and scrambles it. It's as ambitious and deviously entertaining a record as they come, the fulfillment of Graef's desire to make anything but another contemporary house music album.
At any given moment, Rivers of the Red Planet feels like it could have been recorded through the smoke at a jazz club in the booth at a techno club 30 years from now or inside an MPC stocked with crusty dollar-bin samples. If it sounds sampled, it's a testament to Graef's natural musicianship and production prowess – the record is heavy on sounds he played himself, from drums and Rhodes to fat synth melodies wrung out of an old Crumar Performer water-damaged to perfection.
For vocals, Graef enlisted Nigerian singer Wayne Snow, whose rugged soulfulness makes him a natural pairing. On cuts like "Drums Of Death" and "Speed Metal Jesus," the club-readiness of his EPs lives on. But Rivers of the Red Planet may be most at home in your living room, with a good bottle of red and a roaring fire's crackles mixing with the pops and hiss of the vinyl – a playful listen that sinks in, burrowing deep and getting you all warm and gooey on the inside.