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Album Review: Ruede Hagelstein & The Noblettes – ‘Soft Pack’

It is not entirely impossible for a DJ to successfully make the jump from playing other people’s music to writing their own. Matthew Dear, for example, has managed to go keep his fingers in many pies, being both a well respected DJ and an avant-garde pop musician. So the move can be made from the one medium to the other. It is, however, a very tricky move. Just because you can do one does not mean you can do the other. Neither is more legitimate a form of expression than the other, it’s just that if you’re good at one it does not follow that you’ll be able to do the other. This is the case for Ruede Hagelstein. Despite being a successful DJ, he’s decided to cross the threshold and try his hand at being a musician. Soft Pack sees him recruit a full live band and flex his song writing muscles, with very limited success.

Nice is not something most musicians would aim for. A warm bath is nice; music should be more than that. Nice is a polite way of saying somewhere between boring and inoffensive. Soft Pack, the debut album from Ruede Hagelstein & The Noblettes, is nice – it’s not offensive or horrible, nor is it exciting or uplifting. In fact it’s not even really that bad, aside from ‘Private’, which features an obnoxious Valley girl voice so objectionable it will make your skin crawl. It doesn’t really do anything apart from be nice. The vocals sound very friendly and agreeable, the tempos are not too fast and are easy to keep up with, the keyboards are gentle and sound completely nonthreatening. That’s about it. ‘No Reality’ raises the tempo slightly, mixing things up with an added country vibe and a nice bit of flute. The exciting moments on Soft Pack, all of which are sax solos, come courtesy of band member Mieke Wenzl. Whilst everyone loves a good sax solo, when it’s the only interesting moment on your album, something must be wrong.

Ruede Hagelstein & The Noblettes are the kind of band you would expect to see at 3pm on the Jazz World stage at Glastonbury on a Sunday afternoon. They take elements from folk, acid jazz, maybe even a little psychedelia and sprinkle some vocal harmonies on top. If you’ve ever been listening to Kings Of Convenience and found yourself wishing that they had more bleeps and electronic elements to their songs, Ruede Hagelstein & The Noblettes are the band for you. Not particularly bad, not particularly good, just too damn nice.

- David Pott-Negrine

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