I don’t know if there were any pop concerts that I’ve been to in Germany where they had bouquets of flowers standing at the bar, if you leave out all those performances taking place in opera houses, institutions or gallerys.
Although looking onto a stage through a bunch of easter lilies and bell flowers seems nothing particularly remarkable, this might have framed my view of what was happening on it. The whole night at the little bar and club of Acud in Berlin-Mitte with both its lovely performances therethrough acquired the status of someone charmingly presenting to you a gift you could only be grateful for in return.
This lovely organic feature of having flowers at the bar corresponded to the point that both Berlin-based artists, JAMES K and DAN BODAN, would impress mostly through their voices and what they could do with them. It was the glamour, that within both performances appeared in its very distinct way, and the scope and strength of the voices that would have convinced an even greater audience than could fill the little club of the Acud.
The first to start the night was Jamie under her stage name JAMES K. I heard people saying they had never heard someone sighing and groaning so professionally and beautifully after Jamie had finished her performance. But to call the way she made use of her voice a sigh would certainly underestimate or misjudge what would remind the ear of a music professional maybe of cantus choralis sive ecclesiasticus.
The multiplying and echoing that JAMES K did to her voice evoked the acoustic properties of a church or some other sort of vault or cloister vault. That way her singing certainly had something sacred or mythological to it and would have equally delighted people that liked listening to Clannad and Enya during the 80s and 90s still. For sure the sound design added something very different to it, turned the myths into what would express itself in various ways of signal processing such that JAMES K‘s performance would address those that like the BJÖRK of Hyperballad or Desired Constellations and those that are happy to find a beautiful and soft voice over ambient and minimal techno. It was certainly softness what would unite the performances of both acts that night and especially their way of singing, a softness comparable to that of SHADE, WHAM! or HALL AND OATS and other great performers of the 80s. The latter seem in terms of their softness and relaxation a point of reference for DAN BODAN’s LP titled „Soft“ which is a recent release on DFA records and which Dan presented in a partly more aggressive interpretation of it at the Acud. Lyrics are almost all about making love, sex and relationships and such is the whole tone of the album. On the one hand the album is all tribute to its title, Soft, and so was Dan‘s performance. On the other his voice has a certain resistance and peculiarity to it which positions itself within a certain tension to a rather innocent and harmonious sounddesign and puts some more sexiness to the otherwise soft-pop composition. That way the softness becomes rather ambiguous, more raw and substantial. And a softness that is, if you like, less one-dimensional and straightforward than it is in its 80s predecessors, but less abstract than in its 90s interpretations and within those of about the last 20 years as e.g. in CHROMEO or THE WHITEST BOY ALIVE. Text & Photos: Hanna Fiegenbaum