Blackberries – ‘Disturbia’
Playing on the edge of psych-rock, krautrock and blues, Blackberries display their musicianship and knowledge in order to make an old-fashioned sound fresh, without losing authenticity.
With furious live performances the four-piece German psych-pop band made a name for themselves even beyond national boundaries and played shows from the US to China. Only a logical next step that the guys, looking like they just visited Woodstock and stopped by Timothy Leary’s house on the way back to present, left their home shell in western Germany to record their LP Disturbia all the way in the Ice Cream Factory Studios, Austin, Texas. The result turned out as a linear progress resulting out of their previous works, oscillating between psychedelic rock, blues and repetitive Krautrock elements. On Disturbia Blackberries dig deeper and explore the roots of each of the genres that shaped them, with songs reaching from loose blues jams (Another Day Of Violence), to The Doors-like psychedelic trips – like the opening title-track with an irresistible organ riff – and finest monotone krautrock loops a lá Neu in Fonograf, where a steady beat provides the foundation for airy sounds and floating vocals. Always underlaid by a smooth and atmospheric 1960s vibe.
The challenge by making this kind of music, which has been around for decades and thus seems timeless, is to not just to sound like the heated-up version of former pioneers, but to manage by all affection for the traditional to sound fresh and vivid. One one hand Blackberries handle this by introducing new musical elements, like bongo drums at the end of the opening track Disturbia and oriental sounding melody lines in Sphinx II. And on the other hand, by not wanting too much, by creating space for these songs to unfold. The bass and guitar lines are able to develop and create a vibe on their own. At first listen this happens on the expense of drive and punch, making the songs sound a little too casual. But giving them time to grow, after a few runs they drag you into their very own universe, revealing the band’s deep affection for melody and musical interplay. (Abhilash Arackal)
Trentemøller – ‘Harbour Boat Trips Vol. 02: Copenhagen’
The Danish artist unravels a marvellous mixtape for all you goth kids out there.
A good sampler can feel like a good story. It follows a dramaturgy, surprises with twists and turns and will be able to captivate the listener. A lot of compilations couldn’t care less about that in the past but it somehow feels as if the age of streaming and playlists brings carefully curated mixtapes back into the limelight again. Danish producer Anders Trentemøller is a pioneer and expert in that field. His first Harbour Boat Trips sampler from 2009 was a haunting journey into darkness and introduced me, for example, to artists like Grouper, Beach House and Gravenhurst which I didn’t know before. It took him almost one decade to come up with a second part but it was worth the wait. Once again the artist gives a great insight into the music that inspired his own work but also manages to tell a great story; one that might be only loosely connected to the Copenhagen harbour. It does, however feel like a walk into the heart of darkness, on your own and on a grey and cold winter day. With that scenario in mind, Trentemøller compiled wonderful songs, own material, rarities and obscure picks that perfectly match into one big aural adventure.
Time For Wind by Pyrit and his freshly produced rework of A Place To Bury Strangers‘ Never Coming Back start the mixtape with a gloomy notion and the sense of impending darkness that comes creeping in. By now, Trentemøller left his euphoric techno days behind years ago and follows his own melancholic path towards the twilight; something the sampler documents pretty well. Other highlights include a weird yet sensual ABBA cover by Danish art rock band How Do I from 1991, a surprisingly dark 1966 beat pop single by The Lollipops and the seven-minute-long hypnotic Children Of A Lesser God by Tropic Of Cancer which almost feels like a meditative mantra. Trentemøller partly brings groove into the equation with the help of Black Marble, a duet between John Maus and Molly Nilsson as well his own work (including a cover of a forgotten 1982 Neil Young song) but most of the time he keeps things mellow. Like its predecessor Harbour Boat Trips Vol. 02 is a mixtape born out of love for music, darkness and alternative culture. It’s a wonderful listening pleasure for and a great introduction to previously unknown sounds. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another ten years for the third part. (Norman Fleischer)
La Stampa – ‘Bonjour Trieste’
A record as multifaceted as its composers: Post-modern pop, rearranging the foundations of European music traditions into a celebration of its own.
The six members of La Stampa unify at least the same amount of nationalities, backgrounds and languages in one band as a modern football club – with the big difference that we’re not talking about bought-in people chasing money, but six musicians, having found their way to each other through pop music. And now living and working in different cities across Europe and still being able to release a record on the UK label The Vinyl Factory, right before the uncertainty of the Brexit takes over. If this isn’t a living example of European cohesion, what is?! Integrative, multifaceted, traditional and modern, preserving and renewing, with songs sung in five different languages and members with backgrounds from Switzerland, Argentinian, Bulgaria, Bohemia, Germany and former Yugoslavia.
To top it all an Italian band name meaning ‘The Press’. And over all hangs the idea of democracy, as each of these backgrounds stands equally side by side. French pop (Une Fille D’Officier) and a groovy slow dance song sung in Spanish (Protector Solar) next to German NDW and krautrock vibes (Surface to air, Transformateur), British post-punk (Don’t rely on me) and Balkan folk elements next to a cover of the Bosnian band Elvis J. Kurtovic and his Meteors (Šta Da Radi Insan) – one of the early protagonists of the New Primitivism movement in Serbia and Bosnia in the early 80s – with a piano intro stolen by Chopin. Variability is the star on this record, right next to the capability to unify an undefinable number of musical streams into a single record under the umbrella of pop musical freedom. Driven by an irresistible groovy bass, turning the dreariness of our time into wild potpourri of musical identities, displaying the rich cultural foundation. There are no boundaries to pop music so La Stampa let it deconstruct und rearrange itself over and over. All happening on Bonjour Trieste in an oddly satisfying way. A slap in the face for all the nationalist and claimers of a dead European idea. Pop music leads the way, we just have to follow – while Chopin again waives us goodbye in the closing song Always At Night. (Abhilash Arackal)
Art Brut – ‘Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!’
Look at them: They reformed the band! Thank god they did.
No, the world wasn’t waiting for a new Art Brut record. Following the subsiding of the mid 00s indie rock wave hailing from the UK it feels as if the band around eccentric leading man Eddie Argos was destined to become an entertaining but partly also forgettable footnote in recent music history. But those who were hoping for this to happen clearly underestimated the stubbornness and determination of Eddie Argos. Like a phoenix out of cigarettes ashes him and Art Brut rise again with their first new full-length in seven years. The years since 2011’s mediocre Brilliant! Tragic! have been defining ones for the singer as he sums it up: ‘I moved to Berlin, I nearly died with Peritonitis. I was in a hospital for a bit. I had a son; I had a relationship that broke up. I wrote a comic, a memoir, a musical, and had a one man show.’ Now, Argos and the reformed Art Brut return with what they’ve always been best at: Powerful, humorous and catchy independent rock. And they couldn’t have picked a more fitting title than Wham! Bang! Pow! Let’s Rock Out!
‘I got an extra life. I’m born again’ shouts Argos in the furious opener Hooray!, leaving no doubt that this is not a half-baked comeback attempt. This is hundred percent of passion and dedication. If you never got the ridiculous genius of Art Brut their new LP will probably not convince you as well but if you used to be a fan back in the days it actually does feel like the return of a long gone friend. You know, the odd one that simply refuses to grow up. Because that’s what Eddie Argos is about. ‘There’s a fire in my soul I can’t put it out’ he screams in the catchy title-track. He still can’t sing but that’s what makes him unique and even allows him to dedicate one song to himself (Kultfigur). This band still takes the fun quite serious, delivering joyful indie rock anthems about girls, nightlife, big city parties, pop culture and rock and roll like it’s still 2006. It’s an album to make you smile despite you can’t shake off a certain nostalgic feeling every now and then (realising how time flied). These guys still consider themselves to be ‘Top Of The Pops’ and they surely won’t stop before everybody gets that. And while the world never asked for this record its sheer existence actually might have made this earth a bit better. (Norman Fleischer)
Jacco Gardner – ‘Somnium’
The Dutch psychedelic composer dives deep into the history of science-fiction.
The music of self-declared baroque pop multi instrumentalist Jacco Gardner has always been closely connected to a certain psychedelic notion but Somnium takes this love even further. The main difference to its two predecessors is the instrumental character of his third record. That’s right, the Dutch artist isn’t singing this time. Instead Jacco Gardner unfolds a musical sci-fi soundtrack that is directly inspired by Somnium, the novel of the same name. Written in 1608 by Johannes Kepler it is regarded as the first ever science fiction novel. Fascinated by the detailed space travel description from around four hundred years ago the songwriter created this record in a sonic, almost alchemic, capacity. His voice would have only corrupted the listener’s experience.
Instead the record feels like a conscious stream of sounds, psychedelic grooves and ideas that are partly inspired by pioneers like Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Brian Eno. It got that analogue and hypnotic vibe in which the single tracks merge and blend into one big listening experience, something that was intended by Gardner. For him, Somnium is a tribute to the album format, one that calls for your attention in today’s fast-paced society. You need to concentrate on it as he explains in a press statement: ‘It can often be difficult to enjoy a meaningful uninterrupted moment. This album is where true mystery and wonder is waiting to be discovered.’ And the record does that in the best possible way. It’s difficult but also slightly unnecessary to separate these tracks, it’s a whole package, one that gets his power from its coherent vibe. It feels like a good mixtape and a soundtrack for a movie in your head that is waiting just waiting to be played. (Norman Fleischer)