Timo Maas

If you're skeptical that a superstar DJ such as Hanover, Germany's Timo Maas can't produce solid dance music on his own, you may well be right -- but at least Maas (unlike some of his peers) has the good sense to freely admit that he doesn't work alone. While he handles solo his regularly packed schedule of international DJ gigs, "Timo Maas" is actually more of a brand name than the true work of an individual. His main studio partner, Martin Buttrich, brings essential technical life to Maas's various remix and production ideas.

After a handful of mix CDs, the duo released an album of original material last year, Loud, to surprisingly good reviews. Now, they return with a followup to 2000's Music for the Maases with another collection of factory-stamped remixes. Like its predecessor, the album title parodies synth-pop quartet Depeche Mode's mid-Eighties chestnut Music for the Masses. If that doesn't clue you to the fact that Maas doesn't take himself too seriously, the cover art might: It sports a rabid music fan, surrounded by Timo Maas posters and memorabilia and playing Atari video games, a symbol of the earthy fan base that supports one of the world's most in-demand DJs.

In general Maas tends to favor preserving the song's original structure rather than remixing it beyond recognition, finding a middle ground that preserves the track's foundation while injecting good dance floor elements like heavy beats, bass, and snarling guitars. For example, he doesn't completely rearrange Shirley Manson's vocals on Garbage's "Breaking Up the Girl" or Moby's "We Are All Made of Stars," yet the remixed versions still possess a momentum that those records once lacked. But Maas wouldn't be able to execute these ideas without partner Buttrich, since the latter's technical abilities as the engineer controlling the sound board enable him to help Maas make the right arrangements. This does not render Maas's creative contributions unworthy, just perhaps a little harder to pinpoint.

Watching Maas spin records at a club gives you the impression that his strength is in knowing how to properly mix and arrange a record's sounds and frequencies for maximum punch. It's all about sharp timing, something Maas displays in spades during his DJ sets and on Music for the Maases 2 with or without Buttrich's help. As energetic as this album is, though, it's not a totally fulfilling substitute for catching Maas at his singular, spontaneous best behind the decks.