10 tracks that inspired the warped soul of Max Graef & Glenn Astro’s debut album

The German associates have created one of the year’s most infectious full-lengths.

The work of longtime friends Max Graef and Glenn Astro often finds the blurred sweet spot between hip-hop, jazz, funk, disco and soul. Having already built distinguished solo careers, and their own label along with OYE Records’ Delfonic – Money $ex Records – they’ve also made some brilliant records together, including last year’s Magic Johnson for Ninja Tune. This month will mark a return to the label with their debut album as a duo, The Yard Work Simulator

The LP is an assured continuation of the off-kilter forms they’ve been honing the past few years – this is profoundly soulful music, informed by the sonic obscurities and forgotten treasures found in their vinyl-centric DJ sets. Across its 10 tracks, the album meanders through disjointed 4/4 anthems, woozy breakbeat epics and rugged digi-funk. And although Max and Glenn’s old school attitude is often tied in with digging and sampling, their new album couldn’t stray further from the well worn notion that it’s the only way to go. In fact, speaking on the album, Max says:  “We wanted to make a dance record without the obvious components,” adding that “Most of the sounds and instruments are recorded and not sampled. We worked out the harmonies, themes and chord progressions very carefully.”

Nevertheless, their knowledge of uncharted music is second to none, which is why we called upon them to delve into their crates and share ten of the records that influenced The Yard Work Simulator. It’s a list as eclectic and rewarding as you’d expect. Through the soul-tinged club jams of Kyle Hall, Polish and Soviet jazz wonders, and even Apron Records head Funkineven, dive head first into the extensive musical world of Max Graef and Glenn Astro.

The Yard Work Simulator is out May 27 on Ninja Tune, pre-order it here. Max Graef & Glenn Astro play London’s Dance Tunnel tonight and Patterns, Brighton on May 20.

Max Graef:

1. Kyle Hall – Spoof

Kyle Hall has been a major influence on me for years. He’s produced some of the most forward thinking electronic music I know!

2. Katamaran – Chromadur

I found this record at a flea market in Berlin. Really sick experimental fusion stuff from Germany. We sampled some bits of it and listened to it a lot while working on The Yard Work Simulator.

3. J-Dilla “Dillatronic”

Kind of an obvious one but there are some skits and bits in it that just blew me away, and inspired some ideas, for sure.

4. Extra Ball – Go Ahead

This is one of the first Polish jazz records I bought, the musicians are just insanely good. We took a lot of inspiration from those fast tunes.

5. Embryo – Bamboo Railways, Road Song & After The Rain

Embryo might be my favourite German band. I’ve been collecting all their records because they are just beautiful. ‘Road Song’ might be one of my favourite jams. All these three from the live album are great though.

Glenn Astro:

6. Greg Beato – Worship These Balls

We were both really into techno at that point for some reason, and this one was always in the bag I guess! It kinda stuck to me.

7. Oleg Kutsenko Jazz Ensemble – Contrasts

One of those Soviet crates we sampled and were heavily inspired by sound-wise while producing the album. Some really underrated and also weird stuff to find on those Soviet jazz and funk records.

8. Boomerang: Ornament (Kazakhstan/USSR, 1985)

Another Soviet jazz record I was heavily into at that time. All of their albums are cool actually!

9. Adam Makowicz – Unit

This record just sounds like it was made for sampling, haha. We actually didn’t sample too much here, except for some drum bits here and there. It’s just a beautiful record to listen to and the sound of the instruments is so warm and rich in a very lo-fi way – can’t really describe it! You can get the record pretty cheap as well.

10. Funkineven Feat Jay Daniel – Discipline

Massive Funkineven and Apron fan, also the Wild Oats crew is sick! So this is the perfect combination!

Featured image: Maximilian Virgili