Wolfgang Gartner’s ’10 Ways to Steal Home Plate’ is an exciting double take (Review)
Stealing home plate is widely known to be a dead art in the long, storied legacy of baseball. Only a few base runners in the hundred year history of the sport have leveraged the right mix of tact and wit to pull off the maneuver. Safe, out, it doesn’t matter. The split second it happens, the heart-dropping double take is what stealing home plate is all about.
Now we find Wolfgang Gartner taking his extra-long lead off of the third base bag, eyes fixed on the stretch before him, ready to bring in the run with his long-awaited sophomore album: 10 Ways to Steal Home Plate. The symbolism is as obvious as the title of the record: expect the unexpected as Wolfgang unloads a 10-track arsenal of the tricks he’s had up his sleeve since before the global EDM boom. Safe? Out? The idea behind the record clings more to the concept of the double-move, with ten new selections kicking up a cloud of dust in the current dance space right beneath the swipe of the catcher’s mitt.
In the almost 5 years since I released my last LP, a lot has changed in dance music, and my creative process has changed and evolved through it all as well. This album represents a 3-year span of various vibes and creative urges that I had, inspired by listening to other great music and the interaction from audiences at my DJ gigs. – Wolfgang Gartner
The record’s lead off track straddles the divide between 10 Ways to Steal Home Plate’s strengths and weaknesses. “Turn Up” employs the heart-stopping sirens and over-filtered electro synth progressions that Wolfgang has built a career on, but Wiley and Trina’s lyrical contributions over the Wolf’s four-on-the-floor thump come off as slightly tongue-in-cheek.
The record’s first real double-take comes via “Hurricane Slurricane.” The tune is a funk-inspired collaboration alongside Stones Throw legend Dam Funk and Bay Area rap figurehead E-40. Plucky disco grooves break up the track’s underlying G-whine for a West Coast-primed dance piece far different than the features with Will.I.Am and Jim Jones from 2011’s Coming To America.
“Faded” gives the record a loud, boisterous pop piece, complete with Marc Griffin’s inescapable sing-along hook, while “Saved” is a brief return to one of dance music’s golden moments before the landscape shifted so dramatically. The track is main stage ready progressive house, brought together by booming chords and an anthemic top-line. Wolfgang is all over the place, and while you’re trying to makes heads and tails of the last track, he’s already onto the next one. Just like a pitcher in the middle of their wind-up and the overzealous runner on third base watching him, one blink and he’s gone; Wolfgang is stealing home before your eyes.
Although it is nice to finally see last year’s “Unholy” now comfortably tucked into an album’s worth of material, the tune has already had over a year to resonate with fans. That said, the record’s most important moment comes by way of the A-Trak and Sirah’s-assisted “Up In Smoke.” The track is undiluted Wolfgang goodness — a sharp flashback to the house tunes you couldn’t get out of your headphones in 2009. “Up In Smoke” makes it obvious that you’re glad to have Wolfgang Gartner back, and just like that, the plume of dust begins to settle around home plate.
The Bottom Line:
Underneath it all, 10 Ways to Steal Home Plate isn’t about some storied comeback or restoring some older remnant of electro house. It’s about shaking up all the expectations and at just the right moment, letting everyone see just what trick’s you’ve had stashed up your sleeve.
Stream the entire album on Spotify.