Excellent featured artists overshadow the main event
The production trio of Kraak and Smaak made up of Oscar de Jong, Mark Kneppers and Wim Plug, have been working in the same vein of funky electronic music since their humble beginnings at UK label Jalapeno Records. On their sixth studio album, Pleasure Centre, the group appears to have settled a bit too comfortably into their usual production habits. The lack of variation in their stylistic and instrumental choices, and their tendency to let songs (and the album itself) run on much too long are the primary issues plaguing this project. Had the group shown a bit more adventurousness in terms of style and discretion in terms of form, Pleasure Centre could’ve been groovy from front to back.
While the album isn’t great, this is not to say that there are no highlights. In fact, almost every track on the project has a great idea somewhere. The problem is that on the poorer tracks, these great ideas tend to be trapped in between a lot of less successful ideas and filler. Songs like “Twilight” and “Naked” (two of the weakest on the lengthy album) are severely held back by very weak production and a stunning lack of variation and energy. At their worst, Kraak and Smaak back some solid features with unmotivated and tedious production.
Another one of the more frustrating aspects of this album is that the vast majority of these features are extremely good, the production just doesn’t match that success. Imugi’s feature on “Sommeron,” Gavin Turek’s work on “Out in the Daylight,” and especially Nic Hanson’s fantastic work on “Say the Word” all lack quality accompaniment. As good as these features are, they simply cannot carry a song alone. The few, truly great tracks are “Soul Liberator”, “24HR Fling,” and “Guilty Discomforts.” On all three of these tracks, the great features are met with funky production that matches their energy and creativity. With the wide array of collaborators, it feels like the group could’ve captured the frenetic energy and collaborative variation of a great, hip-hop mixtape. Instead, they find themselves plagued with the familiar aspects of a disappointing mixtape; the collaborators deliver, but the main event fails to entertain. The lack of discernment creates quite a few unnecessarily long tracks, and a monotonous whole.
Pleasure Centre feels more like a compilation of one-off collaborations, held together by a homogenous sound, and not an album with a loose storyline that develops from track to track. The worst tracks on the project simply didn’t need to be included, since their removal would have no impact on any overarching story. A little editorial spirit and a few more productive brainstorming sessions in the studio could’ve had a significant impact on the often repetitive and dull, end result.