The title of Rosa Anschütz debut, Votive, has a spiritual ring to it – a votive is an offering in fulfillment of a vow – but as an LP title it leaves room for imagination. As the artist says, “I don’t want to limit the interpretation by explaining my personal view”. Throughout the record, Rosa creates spaces for the listener to see and feel the music through their eyes. Narrated only loosely, the lyrics cannot be pinned down to a single story. “Writing in English allows the words to be more open to interpretation. A lot of words have a certain ambiguity”, the musician says about her writing process in English. When working in German on the contrary, she notices that the language makes it easier to conjure images. “in German it is easier to convey an emotion through images, like on Zitterndes Wasser”.
Zitterndes Wasser – meaning as much as ‘trembling water’ in German – features several sound effects making it sound like an intro to a dystopian sci-fi film. The echoing vocals fill the entire room in an almost church-like grandeur while the electronic elements give the song static tension. Rosa Anschütz walks that tight rope with ease –the entire record the vibe keeps you one edge as if with the next beat something were to creep around the corner. The musical tension is relieved by the ethereal vocals providing a delicate contrast to the dark pulsating bed of instrumentation. Floating in the room like a white veil in a dark cave, Rosa’s voice tells whole stories in a few hums.
“I don’t really sing in German”, she says. “it is more spoken word than singing. In German I can be more theatric and step out of the music context for a moment.” On Zitterndes Wasser her slow recital of lines in German reminds of a poetry performance rather than a song. Rosa Anschütz crosses the border between mediums and writing styles smoothly. “When I sing in English it is easier to put that into a music related context. Then I also sing more than I talk.”
Distanced But Connected
The second lockdown stopped the artist from touring with the new record, but a lot of the songs were already part of her life set. And instead of playing live, the musician found other ways of connecting with her audience. Over the past week she has been delivering her LPs from door to door in person – this special service is only available in Vienna though. “People usually take as a pleasant surprise and distraction when I drop off the record in person.”
While the pandemic put a halt on concerts, Rosa has been using the time to work on new material she tells me. “I have been struggling with the genre ascriptions a little and I wanted to work outside of the boundaries of genre. Especially in Berlin, I did not want to succumb to any specific scene and category but lately I have been giving myself the room to also sound like a certain genre if that is what feels right.”
Between Analogue and Digital
As a native Berliner, the musician has of course dabbled in the infamous clubbing scene. Some of her tracks, especially the remix of Rigid fit the edgy vibe of the techno scene with heavy beats drilling right through your bones, jacking up heart-rates even without synthetic enhancements. “I never wanted to only make club music because it is really hard to step out of it once you have such a tag. For Votive I worked with a lot of analog instruments as well.” The record features everything from keys to guitar and even the flute made an appearance.
“When I work with analog instruments in comparison to the modular synth, I feel like I have more control. The flute, for example, I always have to blow into the proper way to make a certain sound but when I plug the cable into the synth, I cannot entirely control the sound that comes out of it.” But that experimental and improvisational way of creating is something Rosa Anschütz relies on and many of her songs originated through nocturnal experiments.
Music for the senses
Listening to Votive is a sensual experience. The record touches on more than just the sense of hearing, Rosa’s vocals seep through your skin and the beats pulsate in your veins. From the punchy Methane to the electronic Opacity, each track triggers an emotional response. When writing, Rosa tells me, her senses play a center role. “It starts with the setting. I usually write at this very table and it depends on the time of the day and the light around me. Those two things influence my writing a lot. During the lockdown I got a LED lamp which switches colors and each color creates a different energy in the room.” In that setting the singer falls into trance-like euphoria in her hourlong jams.
As a transmedia student, Rosa often elaborates on her musical concepts with other mediums. For the techno-reminiscent Rigid, she created a virtual-reality-like music video in which she dives into the world of an abandoned online game. Votive is accompanied by a set of sculptures gracing the covers of the single releases and since last week – an Instagram face filter. “I tried to separate my studies from my music making because I didn’t want them to influence the way of expression, I had already found through music. But now I think I found a way to merge these different types of artistic expressions”.
The conceptual character of the record is something that Rosa traces back to the influence of her studies. And while she wants to keep incorporating different mediums to create an experience that goes beyond music, she is also happy to collaborate with others to pass on some of the workload. “The more I focus on music making the more things need to be done. It really showed me where I need to draw my personal limitations and trust others as well. I started involving more people in the process.” Currently Rosa Anschütz is primarily working with the German producer and musician Jan Wagner. The collaboration between the two artist works well and Rosa says that repeatedly working with the same artists taught her how to trust others with her concepts.
Jan Wagner, the transmedia studies, and the analogue instruments were a big part of making Votive happen, but the relationship the arist has to her modular synthesizer is a special one. She says “a synthesizer can literally absorb you. It not only has a range of sounds, but it also has its own personality.” Each song is shaped by the conversation between artist and her instrument. “The way I work with the synth also has a lot to do with the lyrics. For example, on Opacity, it is almost like a conversation observed from the outside and the synth had an upbeat energy. There is no other instrument that reacts to touch the way the synthesizer does”.
By engaging in exchange with each instrument, Rosa Anschütz creates an immersive record. From the first song to the last she upholds a tension that will have you on the edge of your seat. Whether it is through the ambiguity of her lengthy ethereal vocals, the spacious echoes, her German spoken word, or the statically loaded loops she created, the elements are paired carefully.
The free and improvisational energy gives the record a loose feeling, as if everything is still up in the air, everything is still possible. “I am very happy that I stopped taking classes and started playing the instruments the way I felt like I connected with them. My parents encouraged improvisation from a young age on and I remember that I used to play improvs on the piano in our family home.”
“As a kid”, Rosa Anschütz adds, “it is easier to perform and to openly like the attention. I used to dress up, put on shows, get on any stage without feeling embarrassed. That is something I am trying to regain – the youthful confidence. It took me a long time to stop feeling uncomfortable when standing in the spotlight. Self-representation and attention are necessary especially as an artist.” While the conceptual framework of Votive is the work of a mature and distinct musician who knows their voice, Rosa Anschütz still kept alive the youthful spark and the knack for experimentation. The outcome is an album that is ever-fluctuating and like its creator moves in different artistic spheres.
Votive is out now via Quiet Love Records.