Review for Hidden Empire – Momentum – Brilliant Album – 2023
Artist: Hidden Empire
Country of Origin: Germany, Berlin
Format: Album (Stream, Download)
Genre: Progressive House, Minimal TechHouse
Label: Stil vor Talent (Berlin)
Release Date: April 07 | 2023
13 Tracks • 01:26:21 h
At qobuz available in Lossless
16 Bits / 44.1 kHz | CD-Quality
For the German translation
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Following in the footsteps of „Mind Palace“ and „Lost Spirits“, respectively issued in 2018 and 2021, Hidden Empire return to Stil vor Talent with their eagerly anticipated third studio full-length, „Momentum“. Going the same route that came to define their sound throughout the years, Branko Novakovic and Niklas Schäfers cook a savvy mix of deep electroid flavours and prog techno magnitude which flourishes in the long-playing format.
Orbiting the frontier between proper no-nonsense, floor-focussed effectiveness and a trademark exploratory take on electronics, Hidden Empire here delivers one of their most accomplished slices to date, which not only spans the largest span of their many-faceted influences, from tribal anchorage to hypermodern escapology, but breathes a truly epic wind into it.
Draped in luscious, silken envelopes and easternmost ambiences, „Dawn“ gets the ball rolling on a mystique-imbued note, halfway meditation-friendly material and square-shouldered club busting wares. Moving into Afro-infused house grounds, „Modesty“ finds Branko and Niklas heading for the deeper end of the spectrum, as they pull out a clinically precise blender of rattling percussions, opaque incantations, lush synth swashes and verbed-out machine talk, tailored for nightly boogie rituals in the forest.
„Avalanche“ opts for a more brooding, deadlier approach. Cutting its path away from prying eyes, this one finds Hidden Empire pulling the stealth weaponry to absolute hypnotic effect – perfect for serious in-between peak time business with its thick, thriller-like tension, mist-shrouded atmosphere and surgical focus. Featuring Felix Raphael on vocals,
„Who We Are“, is a pop-influenced chugger that perhaps best defines Hidden Empire’s ambivalent style, both hi-NRG and innervated with a melancholy that infuses down to the bass and most functional elements. Geared up for big-room traction with its seesawing synths and clinical drumwork, Raphael’s moving timbre does more than offer a sensible counterpoint to the track’s overall sturdy backbone, it takes it to a whole other dimension completely.
„Repeat The Good“ ft. Wolfson balances out a fast-ticking groove with those subtle melodic lines Hidden Empire champion to astounding vibrancy, offering a particularly satisfying glimpse into their vortical imaginarium, whereas „Last Call“ has us journeying to straight out Moroder-esque territories, flush with the aptly configured palette of fuzzy space disco bass, fast-paced Italo churn and vocodized talk for good measure.
All in breaks and chopped-up euphoria, „Vivid“ runs the hoodoo down in muscular fashion and with impressive levels of energy throughout, all set at cranking up the heat one notch further, while „Rebel“ provides us with the kind of rough-around-the-edges EBM horsepower and neon-clad synth engineering that’ll get the basement in a state of alert. Encompassing all of the pair’s idiosyncratic merger of styles – from pop-laced Italo to spaced-out techno wares, through jagged motorik and heavily mecched-out jacking house, „Alright“ shows off Hidden Empire’s wide arsenal of pyrotechnics under the most compelling of lights.
A more openly jagged and quirky weapon that hatches into a full-fledged solar number around the half, „Momentum“ roars up the club’s highway at full throttle, proving a formidable asset when it comes to plunging dancers into a state of weird, left-of-centre euphoria.
A stroboscopic eclipse is predicted as „Dark Sun“ enters the room, deploying its obscure wingspan over the ravers, not quite a bad omen as it lets more light in with every bar, its brittle piano lines and heart-wrenching vocals cutting a path into the crowd’s pulsating hearts. Graceful as Hidden Empire’s music can be, a moment of utter exhilarating beauty.
„Savasana“ wraps up the voyage with a pure slab of cyphered 4×4 seduction, as an ASMR-like voice guides us across the soul-questioning haze that blankets our pathway onto a luminous finale. A piece of elusive nature, clearly designed for the club and yet telling a tale of off-piste initiation through twelve fascinating movements, „Momentum“ will undoubtedly etch on the listeners‘ mind as one of the German pair’s most strikingly powerful emanations.
About Hidden Empire
By sharing a musical vision of creating an impulsive, deeply moving soundscape, using the very essential and deepest elements of House and Techno, Branko and Niklas decided to start their live project ‚Hidden Empire‘.The corresponding result is a floating, emotional journey through a distinctive mixture of genres.
The euphoric and uplifting combination of straight drums and hypnotic melodies is made for enormous sound systems and long club nights. In 2015, Oliver Koletzki discovered their potential and gave them the chance to release their first tracks on his label ‚Stil vor Talent‘, including a remix for the label boss himself (Iyéwaye Remix EP).
To build on this successful start, there have been more releases in 2016 on Stil vor Talent, Traum Schallplatten and Trapez. One of the highlights in 2016 was the great success of their Stil vor Talent Live Session. 2017 started with massive EP’s on Stil vor Talent, Suara, Traum Schallplatten and Filth on Acid which engendered high chart placements on Beatport and great support by some techno heavy weights.
The Bottom Line
Hidden Empire’s third album is absolutely excellent and comes along in the very best „Stil vor Talent“ tradition. Driving progressive beats alternate with spacey space adventures and wordbeat vocals give the right spice to the opulent menu of 13 tracks.
You might have already noticed that Hidden Empire’s new album is a blast, because for weeks I’ve been watering your mouths with the catchy pre-release singles in our New Release Playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. The album was reviewed by me in the 24 bit / 44.1 kHz Hi-Res version, and it sounds damn good. However, the album was released in 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, but that doesn’t detract from the exquisite sound.
The Bottom Line (Max. 5 out of 5 Stars)
Listen & Buy the Album
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 mit max. 32 Bit / 384 kHz)
- NVIDIA Shield Pro mit Plex, Kodi (max 192 kHz für 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):