Who’s ready for some springtime romance? Show of hands? Thought so.
Here in northern Europe, at least, we’re at that inflection point as spring first crawls its way out of winter, tiny buds on the trees and ice/rain mixes giving way to faintly warm sunbeams. This is music that matches that mood. And it’s music that finds a voice, that can sing – not just in beautiful vocals (and the likes of Brolin certainly suffices in his latest work), but in music that is crafted from some intimate place. These are productions that are immediate and intensely personal in the same way as singing.
And there’s another reason to look at these artists. Sometimes artists blow up because they met the right people, they played the right parties, they hit the mainstream at the right time. This is something different. These artists have all taken some turn in their own musical identities. That seasonal metaphor works: they are bursting, creatively, in the best possible way.
Full disclosure: I get to be impossibly lazy as a journalist here, or certainly very lucky, in that I’m the warmup DJ for this lineup tomorrow in Berlin. But it’s one of those rare situations where you get called to play, and wind up losing yourself listening to the promo materials they sent over. I wish that happened all the time; we know it doesn’t, so I won’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Brolin (video, top) is an artist on the verge of really blowing up to a wider audience – if he can break the Google curse; no relation (that I know of) to the American actors of the same last name.
I would say there’s something in the water in England, but I know exactly what’s in the water – a superior music education for singers. The result is nailing spot-on technique without sounding overly controlled, that ability to make tone that purrs but retains a lightly rough edge.
Brolin, if you know him from earlier releases like his track “Portland,” has traded that cuter, more twee sound for something with more depth. (The videos have gotten better, too. It turns out that the Internet is so savagely competitive that cute dogs and cute models in jean shorts actually aren’t enough to attract an audience.)
Pairing that sound with electronics works perfectly. With the German duo Kruse & Nuernberg, he produced the hypnotic video at top, an ideal foil to the deep house-inflected, pop-worthy track. (Kruse & Nuernberg have also graduated from more conventional house tracks to a grown-up, laidback take of their own.)
Their collaborative EP I think will be a huge hit:
Brolin has jumped into the deep end of chilled-out, smart electronics, adding his whisper-close vocals. For further evidence, check out this free mixtape with more of his work:
His single “Swim Deep” is more pop-y than the waters I normally tread, but you can hear that vocal technique as it’s developed. I’m curious to see the live act tomorrow.
So, that’s the UK. Meanwhile, in Hamburg, there’s Luka Seifert. His own personal breakthrough came from lightening up on the edits, he tells The Fader: sampling recordings raw, returning to his roots on the guitar, leaving an organic feel rather than over-producing, to get something that’s “honest.” It has the same immediacy as his Tumblr feed of photos – rough, but effortlessly drenched in aesthetic sense. (Somehow the ghosts of the Bauhaus in Germany seem to do that to people here.)
I think the result is spectacular, swells of sound, hiss that becomes its own color and air.
Luka’s “Lowdown,” released for XLR8R, is in a similar space, floating atop a cloud of sampled noise and echoing with lullaby-like tune and percussion:
Glenn Jackson, usually at no loss for words, actually stumbles a bit on how to categorize it in the article for the free download – which I think is a good sign:
Luka “Lowdown” [XLR8R Downloads]
Luka’s Hamburg sometimes-neighbor, the globe-trotting, gypsy nomad Sofia Kourtesis, is a kindred spirit in this new style – something made partly in technological chops and partly in dreams.
Sofia is one of the people behind this lineup in Berlin. We covered her previously, but it’s worth visiting her yet again – because she has found a way to get still more personal with her tracks, closer to the core of their being. With singles she released on XLR8R and The Fader to accompany her new EP, she’s built tracks that are melodic, dreamily evocative atop their rhythmic framework.
And she has likewise found her way to some of these same corners. Amidst the aggressive gothic clanging of tribal rituals that has become the mainstay of electronic music, this is music that can be genuinely, comfortably vulnerable. I can think of nowhere better to conclude.
And speaking of getting personal and vulnerable, “Zaza” reminds us why we do that in music. It’s a musical reflection on the loss of her grandmother, finding life again by using sound as a window to memory.
I’m fortunate to get to warm up the room for these folks and the rest of the lineup. If you care to join us and you’re around Berlin tomorrow Friday, we’d love to see you. The fact that we’re playing the former cultural embassy of Czechoslovakia, remade as a club, is another reminder that seasons’ change can rejuvenate:
6 March from 22h / 8€ / Konzulát – Leipzigerstrasse 60, 10117 Berlin, Germany
And if you can’t, I do hope you enjoy listening from afar.