Urban Homes. Photo by Heide Prange

Urban Homes. Photo by Heide Prange

URBAN HOMES, one of Cologne’s finest indie bands around, return November 18 this year in order to release their new, rather exceptional, and highly ambitious record simply entitled Jams. The strong collection of tracks, written and produced in the course of the past two years, turns out to be a significant achievement by the band in different ways. After having put out two recordings restricted to either four or five songs, Jams now collects 13 tracks that are structurally reminiscent of a glory species almost died out, namely the beloved 80s 12″ extended mix. With all jams lasting between five to nine minutes, URBAN HOMES‘ new piece of art shows a band that gladly lives up to their post rock roots while at the same time they manage to evolve, taking their sound a step forward, ultimately leading it to a more electronic and rhythm-led base. The band states:

Recording the album was quite different from previous experiences in the sense that we did not actually ‘write’ songs but rather ‘produced’ an electronic music album

Listening to the new record, it appears rather surprising how effortless URBAN HOMES‘ development sounds although it must have been hard work to create an album that both elegantly flows as much as it demands the attention, concentration, and patience of its listeners. In spite of its coherent strcuture, the songs slowly flourish, adding tiny elements to its basic rhythm pattern as they continuously proceed. As High Acid Can Get (Acid Jam) perfectly demonstrates this procedure and therefore is a suitable teaser to foreshadow the extraordinary listening experience that Jams manages to evoke. As part of exclusively premiering Acid Jam, NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION editor Chris talked to the band about poducing the new record and what influenced them.

You spent a long time writing and recording Jams. What was the writing and recording process like? Did it differ from previous experiences? 

Yes indeed, making the record took us about two years. But then again, we suppose any album production involves a huge amount of time and work, doesn’t it? Recording the album was quite different from previous experiences, in the sense that we did not actually ‘write’ songs but rather ‘produced’ an electronic music album. Like the title of the record suggests, the basis of all tracks were really long and open all night jam sessions in our little studio in our now shutdown homebase Klubgenau in Cologne. We would connect all our instruments and equipment, cook great dinner including hot chilis and fantastic herbs to create magic moments and from there on just let things flow. With the time the tracks kept changing and evolving and got denser and denser until we settled on the versions that you now find on the record. The album ended up being quite long, so there was a lot of material that we had to work on. It would have been enough material for the length of two entire albums, but we felt that somehow all those tracks belong together. Unlike in a classic rock band set up, where each member of the band would play a specific instrument (drums, bass, lead melodies, vocals) everyone participated and had a say in pretty much everything. But not everyone was able to invest the same amount of time in the process of recording the album. Oliver produced the whole record, so he often sat down alone by himself and held the strings together and did most of the structuring. Still, Jams is a communal effort, the real magic always happened when our ideas and impulses came together.

An homage to the drug-infused, hippy and Balearic side of early House and Techno

In your own words, what is Acid Jam about and what were you trying to achieve with this particular tune? 

Our track Acid Jam has had many incarnations. When it first emerged while jamming in our practice space, Benjamin came up with this squeaky 303-ish Acid House sequence which lend the track its name. The title was merely meant as a joke, total tongue-in-cheek working title, but in the end we dared to stick with it, like we did with pretty much all of our song titles. 

We’re not really aiming for anything with our music and we hope that it evokes different kinds of emotions and is open to all kinds of interpretations but, like most of the tracks on the album, Acid Jam possibly references a certain era of the history of dance music.

One could say that it is our own little homage to the drug-infused, hippy and Balearic side of early House and Techno, to the euphoria and utopian ideas of the UK’s Second Summer of Love, to mythical and heavily romanticized places such as Ibiza and Goa. We wanted to play with the cheesiness and clichés surrounding that subculture without assuming a completely ironic and mocking position. Musically, we liked the contrast between a rather cheesy and pop oriented tune and the structure of a functional acid rave track. Acid is bitter and sweet, the vantage point of the song’s lyric is also a rather retrospective one, so there’s the melancholy aspect of that. The song’s theme carries a classic pop song ambivalence and can be interpreted as that of an old lover (or raver) reminiscing about a liaison to a special person (or dance floor) – long gone, but not forgotten.

All jams on the new record are in length and structure reminiscent of 12″ extended mixes or records like Introspective by PET SHOP BOYS. Did you have particular role models in mind when you came up with the idea to record such an album or did it just evolve ‘naturally’?

Well, thank you! We take that assessment as a compliment, since we’re big fans of the PET SHOP BOYS and totally dig the extended mixes or 12″ dub versions of a lot of tracks, quite often preferring them over the shorter radio edits. Of course there’s a lot of carelessly produced garbage out there, but sometimes you find real gems where producers would let their creative juices flow without having to adhere to constraints of time and mass-compatible structure. While we clearly integrated a lot of pop music elements into our music, we never wanted to adapt to a certain rigid form and tried to keep everything as free as possible. All of this evolved quite ‘naturally’ indeed. At no point was there a master plan of how our music was supposed to sound or be structured. We never consciously decided on a specific form or chose a role model whose music we were to imitate before we began working on a new track. Subconsciously though, the structure of our tracks is most likely informed by our record collections and listening habits as music lovers and shows that we probably have a thing or two for repetition, layering and generally longer tracks.


Jams. Artwork by Sonja Deffner. Album out on November 18