A few years ago,
i noted that a lot of wonderful music was coming out of the
Eastern Canadian region. These days, it seems, there is
more and more good music coming out of Germany. There is Ulrich
Schnauss, The Notwist,
Morr Music and their compilations,
and Lali Puna.
Of course, Lali Puna's current lineup includes
Notwist guitarist Marcus Acher, so i guess there is some
cross-pollination going on in the Deutschland scene these days.
Nonetheless, Lali Puna's latest, Faking The Books,
is a stunning release.
The music involves electronic noises, live drumming, sparse
chiming guitar, and the vocals of Valerie Trebeljahr. She sings
... well, like a German. There is something about German pronunciation
of English that seems distant or cold. I dunno what it is, but
listening to her you think, "Yup, a German fraulein."
This is perfectly summed up on B-Movie, a tune which
features incredible drumming and a swirling, noisy chorus. But
the lyrics are sung in an almost stereotypical manner. "It's
like, in a B-movie/You always know what's coming next." That
simple repeated phrase is so crisp and clear that you almost
expect her to be scowling down her long thin nose at you while
she tosses her long blonde hair. And yet, the music behind her
is catchy and joyous…
Aside from her vocals, the guitarwork that Acher turns in is excellent. He
plays very lightly, with a real economy of notes. Every chord
is precisely timed and exactly in its place, without any unnecessary
excess. After repeated listens, i think that this style of playing
is what The Dismemberment Plan
were hinting at on their last two releases. There is as much
guitarwork in the silence between chords and the echo that lingers
after the notes as there is in the actual strumming of the strings.
Acher stands out most on Grin and Bear, which reminds
me of Pilot off of the
last Notwist album, and Micronomic, which really
sounds as if it was taken from the follow-up to Change,
and succeeds in being annoying catchy. (Try it -- the damned
thing sticks in your head for days!)
The drumming is loud and fast and moves. Drummer Christoph Brandner really knows his stuff. He drives the excellent B-Movie along, and also lays down a really great beat on Call 1-800-fear, which is really a dance tune more than a pop song.
The final band member is keyboardist Florian Zimmer, who shines in the pianowork on Small Things, although Zimmer also provides nice accents throughout the album.
There are also some IDM elements strewn about, but i have no idea which band
member is responsible for them. For example, Faking The Book
takes Lali Puna's catchy pop and slows it down a bit, before
adding strange noises and pops and crackles. The end result,
when you throw Trebeljahr's voice over it, is highly reminiscent
of Múm: mellow, quiet, very precise and ordered, and
I almost want to say that this album is over-produced. Almost.
There was obviously a lot of time spent mixing it and cleaning
up the various sounds that go into it. And there is a certain
sparkle to the music that only really polished stuff gets. I
usually tend to like a little bit of messiness in my sound --
when things seem too squeaky clean, it normally leaves me bored.
However, Faking the Books doesn't do that to me.
I don't know what it is, but the recording was polished to an
almost blinding shine, and yet it still seems to breathe and
feel human. That is, i think, a rather remarkable feat of studio
Overall i am very impressed with this album. If you like catchy pop music with great drumming and funky electro/keyboard bits, then Faking The Books is an obvious purchase.