Only in the insular, abstruse world of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music--cough, cough) would an album like Disconnected be considered a "pop" deviation. On Disconnected, Funkstörung's long-awaited follow-up to their phenomenal 2000 debut, Appetite for Disctruction, German producers Michael Fakesch and Chris De Luca use actual human singers and musicians along with their laptops. While their first full-length featured some rapping, Disconnected abounds with both emceeing and honest-to-diva singing from Lamb's Louise Rhodes, Massive Attack's Sarah Jay, and Enik, who croons like a kraut male Björk. Balancing out these dubious vocal contributions, Lex Records rapper Tes, Sonic Sum's Rob Sonic, and beatboxer Mark Boombastic add crucial hiphop flavor to Funkstörung's typically compelling arrangements.

As you might gather, Disconnected is a mixed bag. At its worst ("Sleeping Beauty," "Like a Poet," "Moon Addicted"), the album sounds like bleached, coffeehouse trip hop, afflicted with soporific funk rhythms and melodramatic melodies and singing. The last two named cuts feature Enik's awkward "soul" vocalese, which, like sawdust sandwiches, is a taste many may find hard to acquire. But at its best (the three avant-hiphop tracks with Tes and Rob Sonic), Disconnected sounds startlingly vital. In this mode, Funkstörung challenge Prefuse 73, Dabrye, and Push Button Objects for glitch-hop supremacy.

Even before completing Disctruction, Funkstörung had gained a greater appreciation of the human voice through the many remixes they executed for people like Wu-Tang Clan, East Flatbush Project, the Notwist, War, and Björk. Add to this the fact that De Luca and Fakesch also had tired of simply editing wave forms on computer screens, and you can see why they wanted skilled musicians like trumpeter Nils Petter Molvaer, drummer Martin Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist), and pianist Mathias Modica to push air around in a studio.

Disconnected undoubtedly brings more emotional heft and instrumental warmth than did Disctruction. But there are many of us who don't come to Funkstörung for these qualities. We want crazy-angled rhythms, textures that crackle and fizz with deconstructive brio, beats that snap your sacroiliac. We want funk that sounds as if it's coming through radio interference and faulty modem connections. Of course, you can't fault De Luca and Fakesch for trying to expand their boundaries. (All right, you can, but they don't give a damn.) To my ears, though, Funkstörung have dissipated their strengths at the expense of becoming more "musical" and "organic." Sometimes artistic growth diminishes a band's music. Record store used bins are cluttered with such examples.

"The new electronica is all about programs and mathematics," Fakesch told Junkmedia Magazine. "We didn't like that. We wanted to go the total opposite direction. We like really proper songs, with song structure. Electronica is track writing. We've done a very techno way of doing music, and now we really wanted to try songwriting. But it was very complicated, because we're not educated musicians." Perhaps these uneducated musicians will learn a valuable lesson from Disconnected's errors: Stick to what you do best.

With Nordic Soul and Eddie. Mon June 28 at the Mirabeau Room, 529 Queen Anne Ave N, 9 pm-2 am, 21+, $10.

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