5ON5 – Single Review: “Runaway”

5ON5 is a collaborative music project based in Berlin, Germany, and consisting of four distinctly unique artists who’ve come together to make music that, in their own words, is “a little new, a little naughty, and a bit different.” The quartet itself is a bit different, its members spanning two generations and coming from very different music backgrounds. The brainchild of Max Koffler, a singer-songwriter, musician and producer with over 20 years of experience in the music industry, and who’s previously released two albums Taboo and GAMES as a solo artist, the project also includes singer-songwriter and producer $INAN (aka Sinan Pakar), rapper and visual artist Maxx B, and singer Yumin. Their unusual name 5ON5 was born out of Max’s music label sonsounds, and reflects their eclectic mix of music genres and styles, including EDM, synthpop, hip hop and alternative rock.

Over the past year so so, Max and $INAN have been writing songs for their upcoming EP, which the group then came together to record. The first single is “Runaway”, actually a ‘maxi-single’, featuring an original version of the song, along with a special party remix. Drum production was performed by Steve van Velvet, and piano by Hansol Cho. Both tracks were mixed and mastered by Jeson Huang.

The song is infectious as hell, with a wonderful uptempo groove that finds its sweet spot between dubstep and EDM, though the beat most definitely compels our hips to move. Things start off with a simple keyboard riff, then a dominant pulsating bass line enters, putting the track on a solid footing. As the song unfolds, 5ON5 gradually layers a rich palette of swirling synths, lovely piano keys, crisp percussion and edgy surf guitars to create an enchanting soundscape awash in colorful textures and sounds.

But as good as the instruments are, the contrasting vocals and pleasing harmonies of the four members are the real highlight for me. Max’s echoed vocals are sung mostly in a higher register just below a falsetto, giving his verses a mysterious, almost otherworldly vibe. $INAN mumble raps his verses, then with near-perfect harmony, he, Max, Yumin and Maxx B sing the chorus “Would you run away from me, away with me, away with me, would you run away now?

The cool animated video shows the band members walking through a landscape by both day and night, fleeing from troubles and ultimately emerging free and into the light.

The party remix was created by Max, and to my ears sounds pretty similar to the original, other than having a somewhat sharper and cleaner sound with sparser synths. The accompanying video is similar to the main version, except that it’s produced in dark blue hues.

Stream “Runaway” on SpotifyApple Music

MAX KOFFLER – Single Review: “May I Ask”

Max Koffler is a talented indie singer/songwriter from Berlin, Germany who’s been making music since his teens. A year ago, he released his ambitious second album GAMES, which I reviewed in January. The album features 14 wonderful tracks drawing from an eclectic mix of music genres and styles, including alternative rock, pop, EDM, and jazz. One of those tracks is the deeply contemplative “May I Ask,” which Max will be releasing as a single on April 4th.

The song is short, lasting only one minute and 42 seconds, but powerfully moving. Feeling conflicted about love, at once afraid it will elude him, yet unsure as to whether he’s deserving of it, Max plaintively implores a loved one to let him know if she still has feelings for him. The music is spare, with only a simple piano riff backed by delicate synths, backing choir vocals and drumbeat. It’s beautiful.

I’m so young again who I’m still that little boy
who doesn’t want what he could get and distrusts his heavenly joy
And I am so afraid, wounded and disarmed
You decide if I shall live or starve from lovelessness
And so I say may I ask if you still want me the way you once promised
Well there’s something that I learned
Could you please help me to escape the cave that I’m in and that I am
Please don’t leave me unreturned
My fear has gone

Connect with Max:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes 

MAX KOFFLER – Album Review: “GAMES”

games album cover

Max Koffler is an indie musician from Berlin, Germany who’s been actively making music since his teens, when he formed a band called Kerosin. In 2004 he decided to go solo, and after touring in Korea for a while, he released a respectable debut album Taboo in 2008. He subsequently spent a long while writing and recording songs for what would become his second album GAMES, which he released in March of 2017.

Incorporating an eclectic mix of music genres and styles, including alternative rock, pop, EDM, and jazz, GAMES really showcases Max’s journey and growth as a musician. The maturity of his songwriting is exemplified by more complex melodies, song structures, lyrics and instrumentation, as well as stronger vocals. With 14 tracks, the album’s a real tour de force, with contributions by Seoulmates (a German group that was formed to support Max on his Korean tour), Max’s brother Hanno (who’s an accomplished actor), and a group of musicians who, along with Max, were involved in the workshop Mix With The Masters, conducted by the famed music producer Jimmy Douglass (Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, Foreigner, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Jay-Z).

The opening track “Choose Your Fate” was just released as a single on New Years Day. It’s an upbeat synth-pop song that celebrates Max’s love for Berlin, and the inspiration it gives him to be the best person he can be. Swirling synths and a mellow bass line are set to a slow, catchy dance beat, making for a pleasing listen. The video, which was posted on YouTube in March 2017, shows Max walking around various sites in Berlin (a magnificent city rich in history and culture that I visited many years ago, and can attest to it’s beauty and charm).

One of my favorite tracks is “Europaroma,” a charming ode to the multi-culturalism of Europe. Shimmery synths set to a languid dubstep beat, and lyrics sung in Italian, French and English by Max’s smooth and sometimes auto-tuned vocals, make for a delightful feel-good song. “Limits” has a mesmerizing synth-driven dance beat with Max’s echoed vocals that are occasionally electronically altered, and the mysterious “The Fire is Yours” features a captivating guitar riff and fuzzy synths set to a hypnotic EDM beat that intensifies as the song progresses. Max repeats the lyric “Harmful you are to me.”

Max turns up the energy on the frenetic “Love Songs,” an infectiously catchy rock song that aims straight for the hips. I love the lyric “I don’t like love songs, but I love you.” “Shake Hands” is another fast-paced rock song loaded with synths, and featuring a great guitar riff and Max’s sung and whispered vocals. The anthemic “The Boldest Cats” has a joyous folk-rock vibe, with lovely acoustic guitar, organ and just the right amount of drums. Max’s earnest vocals are backed by an incredibly pleasing chorus sung by a group of musicians from Mix With The Masters. “Big Chart” and “Purple” are excellent pop-rock tracks with jangly guitars and deep bass lines, and featuring sublime backing vocals by Seoulmates.

Max sings a love song to the Korean capital he fondly remembers on the uplifting rock ballad “Saranghae Seoul.” The last line of the song is poignant and hopeful: “I know there’s a second half you miss, but one day you will kiss what’s lying north of you.” On the brief but moving track “May I Ask,” Max implores a loved one to let him know if she still has feelings for him: “You decide if I shall live or starve from lovelessness. And so I say, may I ask if you still want me the way you once promised?

Max incorporates jazz influences on the last three tracks, starting with the captivating “Watergum.” The delicate guitars and keyboards on this track are really nice. “Long Lost Land” has a mellow, early 60’s jazzy feel with a bluesy bass riff, subtle piano and gently crashing cymbals. Max’s vocals are particularly good, as he scats in a falsetto later in the song. And the backing vocals by Seoulmates are lovely, as always. The arresting album closer “Wenn” features beautiful piano keys and synths, and an enthralling guitar riff  floating above a skittering bass line. Max’s brother Hanno vocals are captivating as he sings the German lyrics.

GAMES is a wonderful album, filled with songs that require a deeper listen to fully appreciate all the subtle elements Max incorporates into his music. I find that the songs get better with each listen, and am totally smitten by the whole affair!

Connect with Max:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes