Alumni solo recordings can steer one-hundred-and-eighty degrees in the opposite direction of what their respective bands do, or just play it safe. Either way, it's a crapshoot. Record music that adheres closely to the familiar, and be criticized for it; record music that is drastically different, and suffer likewise. Here, Kraan's bassist extraordinaire, Hellmut Hattler, has done the latter—and he's liable to receive heaping mounds of criticism for it.
Mallberry Moon is a shamelessly commercial venture, packaged in the shape of twelve VH1-friendly numbers led by the sensuous vox of three different leading ladies: Sandie Wollasch, Maya Singh, and Nkechi Mbakwe. Silken grooves, monophonic synthbass, subdued basslines, and vocal melodies that Pink and Britney Spears might be interested in leasing…all present and accounted for. Oh, and don't expect an ounce of Hattler's typically hot bass prowess to surface: aside from his name—and writing & production credits—his presence is indiscernable.
The opener, "Miss America," should be a false alarm, but instead turns out to be a portent: "To Bed" (as in Why don't you go to…/Why don't you stay there forever) follows suit with an equally trip-hoppy, lounge-jazzy vibe. The token silky trumpet—credited simply to "Stud"—marks the title track, an even softer number that might qualify as a Sade knockoff if not for the fact that Sade's voice possesses a certain uniqueness that draws her listeners in. Mbakwe's vocal on "Goddess Of Love" moves the album from VH1 into BET~On Jazz territory, but this is just a detour that takes the long road back to the main highway. "Serious" has semi-interesting trip-hop verses with deep bass and a processed vocal, but those forty-five seconds aren't going to help things much.
Lo, and behold! There is an instrumental onboard. The electronic backdrop of "Delhi Blues" isn't exactly Kraftwerk, but it's yards ahead of the by-the-numbers foundations that populate the lion's share of this collection. The contribution on electric sitar by Torsten de Winkel is nicely subtle. This lone wolf isn't enough to save a sinking ship, however. Hellmut, stick to what you do best.