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Monolink: Under Darkening Skies – Album – Embassy One – 2021
Genre: Electronica, Deep House, Progressive House
Finally, we can only say, the new Monolink album “Under Darkening Skies” has been released and this album fits exactly into this time, not only because of the meaningful title, but also because of problems that are coming up or we are all stuck in right now. But more on that later.
The beginning: The EP “The End”
Monolink. Kind of a phenomenon. It all started six years ago with the 5-track EP “The End” which Monolink released together with electronic specialist Acid Pauli, who was formerly a member of “The Notwist”. It turned out to be a firecracker and attracted first international attention, so that Monolink was ennobled with an invitation to Burning Man 2016 and was able to get the annual Nonkonformist festival-goers grooving for the first time.
A truly impressive achievement for a musician who has only released a few singles and the aforementioned EP. So what was and still is the musical secret of this exceptional artist, who was able to gather several generations of fans behind him? The answer will follow later…
The album Amniotic
On April 20, 2018, Monolink’s first album entitled “Amniotic” was released. With this disc in his luggage, Monolink, who comes from Hamburg and lives in Berlin, toured renowned festivals and clubs up and down, such as Couchella, The Lab in LA, the Fusion Festival and many more. And the audience was blown away and loved him deeply.
Finally, Monolink was invited again to Burning Man 2018 and played on the Mayan Warrior stage. It’s almost unbelievable to witness how effectively Monolink captivates the audience with his unique style with an electronic mini equipment, with the electric guitar strapped around and with his unmistakable Monolink riffs. I already reported about this gig, you can read about it here.
The video was first broadcasted by YouTube on November 22, 2018, and then just before Christmas of the same year, the omniscient YouTube algorithm emphatically brought this video to my attention. From that moment on, I was hooked on Monolink and have watched the Burning Man video countless times to this day. And finally, for me, nothing led around the purchase of the album Amniotic.
And Amniotic is a great album where Monolink found his style after the first attempts with the EP “The End” that made audiences around the world go wild. Coming from the folk/singer/songwriter segment, Monolink has conjured up its own distinctive style with wafting synth landscapes, lots of samples and smooth drum grooves layered with folky acoustic guitars and grippy electric guitar riffs.
Remixes and the road to well deserved fame
In the following time tracks from the album like “Frozen”, “Rearrange my Mind”, “Return to Oz”, “Sirens”, “Black Day” or also “Father Ocean” were remixed and refined by numerous internationally renowned acts like Rodriguez Jr., Nicole Moudaber, Artbat, Adam Beyer and last but not least by Ben Böhmer.
Also Oliver Koletzki, who pulls the strings behind the Berlin scene, has ennobled Monolink with the inclusion of the remix of “Swallow” in his various sampler projects, furthermore Monolink also had the privilege to contribute the track “We Are All Lost” to Oliver Koletzki’s album “Fire in the Jungle”. Monolink has thus gradually become an established player in Germany with an international reputation.
On December 13, 2019, the Amniotic album was released in the deluxe version with additional acoustic versions and two remixes.
You can listen to the album “Amniotic” in the deluxe version below on Spotify.
The album “Under Darkening Skies”
But let us now come to Monolink’s album “Under Darkening Skies”. With this album, Steffen Linck, as his real name is, has hit the big time. His songs are somewhere in the area of tension between restrained folk influences, singer/songwriter attitude, which is very popular at the moment, and danceable electronic pop structures. All tracks are kept in the midtempo / downtempo range, with ambient intros, multi-layered, overlapping synth soundscapes as well as catchy guitar riffs, which have meanwhile matured into Monolink’s trademark.
Often the many partly alienated samples are creating a spacey ambient basic appearance in intros as for example in ” Laura ” and ” The Prey “, but the soft drum grooves in connection with the guitar riffs are providing down-to-Earth groundedness all the time.
Monolink’s songwriting can only be described as outstanding, with many intriguing toplines that invite you to hum and sing along, plus beautiful melody-leading hooks that float above the pulsating electronic rhythm soundscapes.
Monolink’s arrangements basically consist of two poles, on one side we have the organic, on the other side the electronic hook. He shapes his organic songwriting very personally himself, while the electronic structures make the sound more lively, danceable and provide grip. The most fascinating thing about his work is undoubtedly his songwriting, the artful arrangement of lyrics, which have roots in his folk past by Monolink.
But listening to music in the classical song structures is one thing, but feeling music through danceable electronic beats is another. Monolink can and will never disconnect both from each other, which ultimately explains the magic of his music. Many have tried to reconcile electronic music and indie sounds, but there are not too many who have done it better than Steffen Linck aka Monolink.
The album title “Under Darkening Skies” was chosen by Monolink for a good reason. Without any question, he has used the time of the recurring lockdowns wisely, worked on the album with great effort and has let us participate in the creation of the songs for the new album with many videos in lockdown-induced empty Berlin clubs.
When choosing the title, Monolink had in mind the image of an approaching thunderstorm by the sea that could hold disaster in store for us. Which brings us back to the current threatening situation on this planet and the problems to be solved, such as climate change or the development of capitalism. Monolink characterizes these problems as the tipping points where it is no longer possible to turn back the situation, the point-of-no-return would be reached, as Monolink says.
The Bottom Line:
“Under Darkening Skies” is a fantastic album and among the best to be heard from Germany in a very long time. Comparisons to Ben Böhmer and Jan Blomqvist are certainly not wrong, but both of the aforementioned are more in the field of deep house and melodic house, respectively. Monolink, on the other hand, has managed to win a wide range of fans for his music with his mixture of light ambient touches, singer/songwriter folk and very danceable electronic pop far away from the shoals of shallow chart electronics.
“Under Darkening Skies” should appeal to the dancing club scene as well as to the headphone fan with a penchant for sophisticated sounds. With songs like “Laura”, “Harlem River”, “Otherside” or also “Don’t Hold Back” with great toplines and catchy hooks Monolink should bring various festival communities into a frenzy as soon as that is possible in this country again.
The sound quality is fantastic in every way and without any flaws, even if the album is only available in 16 bit / 44.1 kHz. However, the reason why the PR agency only fobbed off the reviewers with low-quality MP3s to listen to, this will remain an eternal mystery to me.
|Format: 16 Bit / 44.1 kHz||9/10|
Facts about Monolink: Under Darkening Skies
Title: Under Darkening Skies
Label: Embassy One
Release Date: June 11, 2021
Genre: Electronica, Deep House, Progressive House
12 Tracks • 01h 02m 06s
Available on Qobuz in CD Quality
16-bit / 44.1 kHz – stereo
Studio 1 (High End):
- 2 x System Audio SA Mantra 50 (front)
- 1x System Audio SA Mantra 10 AV (center)
- 2x System Audio SA Legend 5 (rear)
- 1 x System Audio Saxo 10 (subwoofer)
- 4 x Onkyo SKH-410 (B) (Dolby Atmos)
- Auralic Altair (audio streaming client with max. 32 bit / 384 kHz)
- NVIDIA Shield Pro with Plex, Kodi (max 192 kHz for Audio, Tidal (MQA Streaming Client)
- AppleTV 4K (Streaming Client) Dolby Atmos, HDR, Dolby Vision
- Amazon Cube 4K (Streaming Client) Dolby Atmos (restricted), HDR, Dolby Vision
- Panasonic DP-UB9004 (4K UHD Player) Dolby Atmos, HDR, Dolby Vision
- Oppo UDP-203 (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Player) Dolby Atmos, HDR, Dolby Vision
- Yamaha CX-A5100 (Preamp) 4K, Dolby Atmos, Hi-res
- Yamaha MX-A5000 (Power Amp)
- Sony KD-55A1 (TV) 4K OLED, HDR, Dolby Vision
Studio 2 (Near Field): Studio 3 (Consumer):
Studio 2 (Near Field):
Studio 3 (Consumer):