German electronic house DJ and producer Robin Schulz now gets a whole album to himself, after a few years of bootleg mixes and even the occasional hit single. His debut album Prayer comes right off the heels of his re-imaginings of Prayer In C and Waves, which both hit number one in the UK.
As expected, Prayer opens with the title track (or at least close to it) by the French-Israeli folk-pop duo Lilly Wood and the Prick. Despite provoking the displeasure of the original’s copyright owners, Schulz’s remix is a delicate, classy affair. Instead of swamping the original with overbearing but lifeless beats, the percussion adds a relaxed, island-esque vibe ideal for cocktails by the beach. The second breakthrough single, a mix of Mr Probz’s Waves, may come halfway through the album but its summery guitar riff and popping percussion also conjure a sunny paradise that initially grabbed listeners on the radio.
Schulz’s treatment of other artists’ material is only partially successful on Prayer. Willst Du (the original by German act Alligatoah) has a repetitive, gliding riff that eventually gets old, but it also has an irresistible bounce that carries a sense of tenderness and melancholy. However, on No Rest For The Wicked by ethereal Swedish singer-songwriter Lykke Li, the slight speed-up in tempo strips away the slow-burning feel of the original.
On much of Schulz’s remix of the already-successful Rather Be by Clean Bandit, the jubilant, majestic violin riff is buried beneath a cheap piano and Jess Glynne’s featured vocals are almost nowhere to be heard. Therefore, Schulz’s rendition may be harmless and good for the clubs but is rather redundant. New versions of Ella Eyre’s We Don’t Have To Take Our Clothes Oﬀ and Coldplay’s A Sky Full of Stars simply quicken the originals and tack on a drum beat and cymbal shuffle. Ironically, White Apple Tree’s Snowﬂakes sounds more ominous and better when slowed down a tad, as Schulz adds a trip-hop bob to the track.
Schulz’s own compositions are also hit-and-miss. His mellow Sun Goes Down with Jasmine Thompson shuffles effortlessly with heavenly harmonies, subdued saxophone and subtle house piano. Warm Minds and Wrong in the middle of the album are, for lack of a better word, middling.
Summer Nights (featuring David Lageder) and Spree Ahoi (featuring Steven Coulter) slowly simmer the album out of its slumber but end up half-cooked, as the instrumentals do not enliven the originals much. The oscillating piano riff on Stil & Bense’s Whatever is reminiscent of Bruce Hornsby’s Changes, but Schulz never allows the hook ‘whatever it may be’ to really make an impact upon the listener. The only highlights towards the end are Hier Mit Dir (originally by Tom Thaler & Basil, which sounds like an industrial aural factory), a jaunty version of Pnau’s Changes with ticklish piano and the optimistic, soulful closer In The Morning Light (which is perfect for the sunrise after a night out).
The fact that most of the songs are around the 3 or 4-minute mark suggests that Schulz tries hard to cut filler on this important debut studio effort. Even then, the album still runs a bit too long and could lose a few tracks. Nevertheless, Prayer at least does not sound like a bunch of ‘Say My Name‘s (Calvin Harris’ exuberant yet generic remix of Florence and the Machine’s Spectrum) stacked together.