It seems that every few years a different scene
stands up and says "we're doing cool stuff over here -- so pay
attention". a few years ago it was distorted
guitar bands in the greater Toronto area. And now it is,
apparently, Germany. Sure, Germany is a big country with lots
of folks in it, and to lump all of the country into one "scene"
is probably terribly wrong. However, my German isn't too great
anymore, and American journalism is so insular that it will
be 15 years before people will write about "the stunning German
music of the first decade of the 21st century". And there is
some interesting stuff coming out of Germany these days: from
Mouse on Mars to The
Notwist to Kompakt's Records Pop
Ambient series to this, a 2CD set showcasing the
Morr Music label of Berlin.
Apparently Morr Music is a label dedicated to music that is
dreamy and echoy, with subtle meandering beats. It's not quite
ambient, but it is mostly mid-tempo. It is also mostly electronic,
although some of it has the feel of being electronic-analog
fusion, much like Mouse on Mars
and The Notwist. I guess
the Germans are really into that.
The first CD of this set is all covers -- 12 Morr artists and
cover 10 different Slowdive songs. Slowdive, if you remember
the early 90's, were a shoegazer band with rich melodies and
subtle waves of guitar. Here, the melodies are still rich, but
the waves of guitar have mostly been replaced with keyboard
tones. Additionally, there are often subtle glitchy beats rather
than the minimal drumming of Slowdive. It's slow dreamy music,
and quite nice for sitting and listening, but not so nice for
dancing. Standouts include the Lali Puna cover of 40 Days,
which is a darned fine IDM song with nice vocal interplay, and
Ulrich Schnauss's cover of Crazy For You which drips
80's cheese in a good way. But really, the whole disc is interesting,
especially if you are a Slowdive fan.
But the second disc! As the germans themselves would say, "Mein
gott, das ist sehr schone!" That is, "My god, this is beautiful!"
This second disc is a simply stunning collection of cutting
edge music: all glitchy and fuzzy and groovery and fun. It,
quite simply, totally rules. There are so many good songs on
here, and let me talk about just a few of them.
The first track is a fusion of glitchy beats and fuzzy noise,
all layered behind a sultry dreampop vocal, called Summer
Haze by the band Manual. Good stuff.
And then there is House Full of Time by Guitar. People
on My Bloody Valentine fan lists started buzzing about this
act late last year, and this is all i have heard to date. But,
from this one song i would say that the comparison is pretty
apt. House Full of Time is a wall of overdriven guitar
that echoes in cascading layers, with a little dance beat thumping
away behind it and a female voice singing in that bored tone
that Germans seem to have. Good stuff, and loud compared to
everything else on this compilation.
Ulrich Schnauss, now joined by vocalist Judith Beck, turns
in a good original peice called Wherever You Are, which
is a nice compliment to the cover he did ont he first disc.
It is generally pretty similar to the work on his Far
Away Trains Passing By, only with the addtion of female
vocals. Nice, dancey keyboard music.
But really, there is so much to like on this compilation. I
personally think that it is rather brilliant. Fans of glitch,
electronica, and shoegaze will all find things to like here.
I had not really heard any of these artists before now, but
after absorbing this compilation, any releases by Morr Music
are on my "to look for" list. And that is, after all,
the poing of a label compilaiton. I hope that Morr Music keeps
churning out stuff of this high quality.