©Roberto Silva Ortiz
Maia Vidal’s newest album: You’re the waves (and I’m the beach)
Europe Parties On
This set of reviews highlights some European releases of the last months. Maia Vidal is back with her long-awaited third album You’re the Waves. Schnipo Schranke celebrate their triumphant debut with Satt, following months of viral airplay of Pisse (Piss). Sündenrausch debut with a sizzling set of songs focusing on lust: Sündstoff. Last but not least, the Eurnovision compilation delivers a knockout punch to its mainstream counterpart. ***
It’s been a joy to follow Maia Vidal’s releases over the years. In God is My Bike and Spaces she reflects the coming of age experience of discovering art, literature, love and the surrounding universe, with many a bittersweet note. Her music has appeal not only to young people in that position where everything is new, but to anyone fondly recalling that experience, whether forty, fifty or eighty. With her new album Maia sets her sights on the experience of love.
The album sparkles in so many directions, with references to world music (La Luna), 1950s doo wop (Mama Told Me So), a refined kind of techno (Jell-o, Eyes Ears Lungs Lips), and a few songs in the language of her adopted country, Spain. The opening track Bones, set to an irresistible rhythm, is the song of an empowered woman approaching the man she’s attracted to. This lays the basis for the subsequent explorations. In Islands of You and Me love can do the impossible, like finding a why to rhyme kissing with tree: “You and me in a sycamore tree, we’re K-I-S-S-I-N-G.” In Eyes Ears Lungs Lips it can overpower one’s rationality: “Once my body was mine, now it seems like it’s yours. Used to be in control, now it does what it wants.”
You’re the Waves showcases the extraordinary singing, songwriting, musical and production talent of Maia Vidal. It is co-produced by Van Rivers, which is what probably gives some of the songs a club feeling. Though love as a theme is as old as human imagination, the songs sound remarkably new and fresh. Maia creates a positive universe in which it is comforting to know that even the bittersweet aspects of love are part of the natural order.
The nuanced texts, a wide range of instruments, and a chorus of backing vocals that are Maia herself combine to create a realm in which one feels at home and close to the never-ending discovery of love. The album is not only a worthy follow-up to her previous two releases, but completes another piece of that mysterious and wondrous puzzle that is life. Website: www.maiavidal.com
© Fred Roberts
Schnipo Schranke celebrating the release of Satt at Hafenklang, Hamburg **
Friederike Ernst und Daniela Reis are the duo Schnipo Schranke. Their debut release is so remarkable it must be seen in the societal context of the last sixty years. When rock and roll began to be adopted by Germany’s youth culture, parents and the establishment were in panic, as was the case in other countries, as well. However, the battle over Elvis took a different direction in 1957 Germany.
Sensing a lucrative market, the schlager industry quickly moved in and undermined the honesty of the genre, sanitized the sound and lyrics of rock and roll into innocuousness, and − supported by the medial infrastructure − succeeded in delaying the development of authentic musical culture for several years. Now with the release of Schnipo Schranke’s Satt (English: satiated), any remaining sentiment from those days officially achieves zombie status.
The grip of the schlager is shattered to the last shard. With a revolution from below, the song Pisse has worked its way from station to station into playlists in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Schnipo Schranke have inspired enthusiastic reviews in the largest media organs in the German speaking part of Europe: Focus, Die Zeit, Die Welt, Musikexpress, Der Spiegel, Stern, and a mention in Rolling Stone as well as national television exposure on various German stations including 3Sat. They’ve been hailed as the new “fräulein wunder” and their songs recognized as speaking for the generation of Harry Potter graduating into life.
The album Satt includes songs from Schnipo Schranke’s repertoire of the last two years as well as some new surprises. Schnipo Song, heard here for the first time, is given as their statement: “Life’s motto: shit on it (Lebensmotto: drauf geschissen) Favorite sport: French kissing (Lieblingssportart: Zungeküssen). We are new school, we are Schnipo Schranke (Das ist die neue Schule, das ist Schnipo Schranke).” Schnipo Schranke take an honest approach to dreams, desires, morbid obsessive loves and bodily fluids. If you don’t speak German, this is the record to learn it from. And when you are finished, you will know a lot more than just German. https://www.facebook.com/SchnipoSchranke ***
Sündenrausch: Gothic night at the Indra music club, Hamburg ***
Sündenrausch is the name of a Gothic combo around Kira Sinister’s songwriting and the music of Michael Albers. The name of the band means something like forbidden intoxication and the album’s title Sündstoff is a play on words in German of explosives and the stuff sins are made of.
Kira’s voice is kaleidoscopically angelic, rough, seductive, winding its way through a cycle of songs that could be the soundtrack of a brief and intensely passionate love affair. The gothic idea lies in the transience of such an affair. In the seeds of passion also lies its destruction. Combined with Michael’s rocking arrangements, Kira unites these two opposing forces into a mood as volatile as the encounter. The song titles give an idea of the intensity: Brenn! (Burn for Me), Lüg mich an (Lie to Me), or Verstand verloren (Losing one’s senses). It’s as if Nena had curled up with a volume of Else Lasker-Schüler poems, then sat down to write these songs. But Kira is a harder, sexier Nena whose texts perform a steamy dance on the line between desire and its demise.
The Music Machine (1969) appear to envision Kira in their protogothic number Dark White, a song of desire that could be a complementary perspective of this album. A powerful track on the album is Narben (Show Me Your Scars), a tender ballad which captures the fragile intimacy between two lovers in a way that goes to the marrow. When Kira sings “Es ist OK” it’s the embodiment of that feeling of safety and sanctuary in the arms of another, however fleeting that moment may be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr3zPdUmnEA
Sündenrausch successfully bridges the gap between Gothic, light metal, rock and mainstream pop, and should turn up in the German charts. http://www.suendenrausch.de ***
The Euronovision compilation presents a new geography of the Old World. ***
Finally there exists an alternative to the pompous, over-hyped event known as the Eurovision Song Contest! The title of the project is rather fittingly Eurnovision (You’re No Vision). It is an exciting look at outsider acts across Europe today curated by Paul Mangan.
The styles of the 20 entries are a fascinating range from light techno to experimental to avant garde, so that no single listener may like all of them, but the point of a contest is to have favorites. A few of the names were known to me, such as Motor Combo, masters of cybersensibilities, representing Catalonia with Electric Massage and Mary Ocher representing Russia with a thoughtful anthem By Nature with minimal accompaniment, creating beauty on the strength of her voice alone, and the German entry, a collaboration of Felix Kubin and Matthias Brosch with Cassandra Call, like a lost Kubinesque masterpiece.
I also found some new friends, whose music I want to explore more closely: Echo Beatty Knots (Belgium): I’m a sucker for stunning ballads. Just Friends and Lovers Isaac (Austria): grrl garage band, adore the blunt frankness of the lyrics “open up the dress to get access to the nipples.” Morningdeer This Time (Hungary): dark, dreamy, hypnotic intricacies. Cleaners From Venus Rose of the Lanes (England): post beat hinting at early new wave as heard on the label Bomp. Kim Ki O Yersiz (Turkey): synthpop number that transcends all borders from a duo that may be Turkey’s best kept secret. Kodagain Berlusconi Stole My Teenage Girlfriend (Serbia): just because of the title. Clockwork Orchestra Don’t Listen to the Ghosts (Ireland): a post Munsters bit of fun by the curator of the collection.
The one element that is missing in this anthology is the visual aspect. I want to see the 2016 edition of the project broadcast live as an alternative to that other event, as the place for people to go to find musical integrity. If you want a snapshot of contemporary underground culture in Europe, songs that are much more lasting than the official event, Eurnovision is spot on.