Ruede Hagelstein's Soft Pack is not what you expect from a release on Tiefschwartz's Souvenir Music label by a DJ that has dabbled with electro-clash and been featured on Kitsuné Maison and Mathew Dear's Fabric album.
And that is because this is a laid back, experimental album and, together with his band The Noblettes, Hagelstein has made a set of contemplative jazz-influenced folk songs. The benefit of Ruede's producer-background are clear though, as this album is spoilt by a myriad of tiny flourishes and little moments that elevate these songs to greatness. Listen to 'Berlin', a tribute to the band's home, and it is full of detail - the clicks and shuffles of the percussion in the opening half, the disconcertingly slowed down break half-way through and then the shimmering jazz chorus that seemingly breaks out into flight for the song's second half. The layers of keys, the guitars, the traffic sounds that close it out.
There are more overtly electronic moments - the static and distortion of 'Blue Straight' or (an admittedly more laid back take on) previous single 'Emergency' - but even these moments are not going to bother any dance floors. This is an album of atmospheric pop, as close to Sufjan Stevens and Animal Collective as anything else.
And it is best when it is at its most free. The looping bass and rhythm of 'Leaving the Centre' feels improvised, the lyrics an unbound stream of consciousness. Despite the weighty bass it skitters around your head in floods of reverb. You can't help but worry the whole thing might fall apart if you were to concentrate too hard. 'Romance' is similarly unconstrained, a five-minute instrumental that feels like an extended snapshot of a single moment in time, the melodies unpacking and re-packing themselves over and over.
Ruede Hgelstein and The Noblettes have made an album of joyful ambient pop. It features the kind of music that can only come from the mind of an extremely talented producer. At its best, it is no less than beautiful.