German Musicians

Der Tastenficker…what a great read

Before we go on: Don’t be put off by the title…

I don’t normally care for books by or about celebrities but Der Tastenficker* is an exception. Probably because it doesn’t feel like an “autobiography” as such. It is quite refreshing hearing about life and experiences in the former DDR yet not going on and on about the negatives and politics. And for a change, not about a terrible childhood and how hard and depressing life was – that’s what most biographies and autobiographies seem to be about. I enjoyed that fact that minimal names were mentioned and that it wasn’t about the famous band he is in. In fact, I never felt like I was reading about Flake of Rammstein but about Flake (real name Christian Lorenz), a normal everyday person and his experiences. Overall, interesting and light to read. And lots of fun (pianos aren’t practical to take to and from rehearsal and camping trips can become quite a challenge). The “random” photos add something different. I devoured this book in a matter of days. And felt so positive when I’d finished. (I also had a totally different view of this man who always comes across as the underdog when on stage)

*I’d only noticed after I’d received this book that it is actually a numbered, autographed first edition. Not that it is important but, I guess subconsciously, it added a little special touch.

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Meilenstein…Country gone more listenable…

HarmsuKapelleSo….finally I’ve listened and savoured Meilenstein (Harms & Kapelle). Ah, what wonderful music making. I was hooked a while back with Nach Uns Die Sinn Flut but the rest of the album keeps that hook in deep. Ah…what can I say?

Nach Uns Die Sinn Flut still has a special something, but having had a good listen to the rest of the album, gee, pretty much all the pieces hold their own despite me having a soft spot for aforementioned piece.

Here are my two cents’ worth on some of the rest that strike a major chord with me:

Wenn Sich Monster Lieben has a good rhythm and the refrain/chorus finds its way into my mind out of the blue (in fact, I find most of this album in my mind at all times of day including when I randomly wake up in the middle of the night). Instrumentation is well done too. Gosh, now I’m humming “Wenn Sich (pause) Monster” …I’ll have to put on one of their other songs now…

Bis Zum Letzten Mann, nice…I like, I like. Cool tempo, chilled yet not too much and totally awesome to listen to.

Moving on to a more rock-feeling piece, Rosenbluth isn’t bad. It grows on you.

Es Ist Ein Meister Vom Himmel Gefallen is another wonderfully mellow one (it lived up to my expectations as per my post Country Gone Listenable). Gives that feeling of sitting in a dusty bar on a hot sunny weekend afternoon nursing a drink and just enjoying the vibe. And then, along the same visual, but maybe with some dancing, we move to the funky, upbeat Mittelpunkt Der Welt. Man, this is such an awesome piece. It really gets you tapping those feet…nay, gets the whole body moving to the beat!

Ah, now the close second to Nach Uns Die Sinn Flut…we have Mein Leib. I just dig this song. What a great collaboration! Der Schultz’s vocal timbre works well with Chris Harms‘ deep, contrasting voice. This is one for the repeat setting…especially from about the 2:44 to 3:00 minute mark…I love that section – but then I love the whole section from 0:01 to 3:50…he he!

Well, I was going to pick out those that hit a particular resonance and have just noticed I’ve pretty much touched on most of the pieces. Oh well. So I move on…to Katharsis. Nice upbeat piece with interesting vocal harmonies…in a good way. All-in-all, a good song which moves smoothly on to a slower In Der Nacht which has an awesome refrain from a musical perspective. And we rev it up again with Nur Ein Mal which is catchy and wants to pull you along. I’m tapping my feet again…I must get them checked out, but seriously, who can resist the honky-tonk piano sound thrown in with just great music and great lyrics?

Then…a perfect ending (well, ending is not perfect for this work of art but I guess I can’t have an endless album…the repeat setting will have to suffice) is Das Narrenschiff which is the only “borrowed” piece from Reinhard Mey. The original is nice but this rendition just has that little bit…let’s say…oomph. No offense Mr Mey. Maybe it is a generation thing and I’m more on the wavelength as Mr Harms and his interpretation thereof. So, repeat has kicked in and I’m back to Nach Uns…did I mention how good….

What I really enjoy about this album is the diversity of songs yet within a cohesive style. The pieces work well together. So….super gemacht Herr Harms und Team!

Music Worth Mentioning

Has it ever happened to you that you’ve listened to an album over and over and, out of the blue, you “find” a song you didn’t even know was on there or you somehow didn’t acknowledge before?  For some bizarre reason that has just happened to me! I’ve been listening to A Life Divided’s The Great Escape CD over and over since I got it (yeah, well, don’t get me started on that…this most definitely hasn’t happened since I was a teenager (years and years and more years ago)) that I have music on repeat but this album just doesn’t let me go!) I’m embarrassed to admit this oversight but, boy am I glad I discovered it as it leaves me with one more track to enjoy! Wow…is all I can say about this awesome band. And I have the world of iTunes/Amazon recommendations to thank for this. Really, it’s true. In the old days one would go into a music store, generally bee-lining for the music you know and want, the chances of stumbling onto something new practically non-existent. Let’s be perfectly frank here but, unless a strategically placed album cover caught your eye, most bands didn’t have a chance. So, using fancy new technology and recommendations, had I not been browsing Rammstein (just in case a piece of theirs had slipped through my radar), I would never have been lead on this wonderful discovery of Oomph!, then Megaherz followed by Eisbrecher and bingo… A Life Divided.ALifeDivided

And just for the record…I honestly buy all my music. I’m a firm believer in this. So much effort, creativity, time etc. goes into the making of a single song, never mind an album, that I will always, always, support musicians. (I know from experience what goes into just the composing aspect never mind the rest). Anyway…

So, yes, not all German bands/musicians singing English make it work, but I think these guys do it pretty darn well. Or maybe, I’m just immune to German accents. What they also do well is keep A Life Divided stylistically different to Eisbrecher where Jürgen (singer and composer/songwriter) is also a member. It is so easy to become influenced, consciously or subconsciously, and I know that you will compose a theme/phrase that you think is totally your own but later realise it is actually something you’ve heard elsewhere. Nowhere do I ever get the feeling that this is Eisbrecher…and I guess it is wrong of me to even make that comment because both are separate bands in their own right and have other contributing members. Possibly, singing in English helps with keeping the two totally apart and I must say, they have really mastered the language well so that lyrics aren’t just a translation of what you would say in German (which often doesn’t have the same meaning or work grammatically). In my opinion, I doubt the lyrics could have been portrayed as expressively in German – I mean, honestly, let’s admit that German is a harder language. But that’s just my two cents’ worth.

What really stands out for me with A Life Divided is something that no other band has ever achieved for me…the visual song. Usually I will listen to music and just hear the lyrics, not listen (yes, maybe on and off) and they tend to blend into the overall piece of music.  Here, I just can’t help but listen to them properly without forcing myself to do so and they evoke such vivid visuals in my mind – yes, often dark and brooding, but that’s absolutely OK with me. Some songs stand out: Feel has a mood like no other.  But most lyrical, meaningful and plain beautiful, and never soppy, is Wait for Me. Then, there is something energetic, catchy and dare I say perfect about Perfect Day with the duet sections just spot on in terms of the different voices, both from a voice type perspective but also juxtaposing contrasting voice box “timbre” – one harder the other softer (no offense to either musician).

Perpetual, ah, now that’s something to tell you about. The song itself is really cool but, have a look at the live snippet online (not sure what concert). I really like the way these guys don’t come across as arrogant rock stars but seemingly regular guys having fun doing what they love. Watch the guys and enjoy how they are having fun themselves giving the impression that they are really proud to be up there. And probably, just a little, having a power-kick, but then, who wouldn’t if they got to be on the stage? Personally, there’s something powerful about being on stage, so, why wouldn’t it be even more so for someone popular?  That’s what makes me want to support them. I mean, sometimes you just want to know they are human and not on another unattainable planet called “celebrities” or “rock stars” which gives them the “automatic” right to be cold and clinical to their audience.

I’m glad they haven’t “boxed” themselves into a specific genre of music. That’s the beauty of this band. They seem to play how and when they feel – exactly what music is about – expression. They manage to create a solid album with the move between different tempi and styles so smooth, be it within a single piece or from one to the next.  And have you ever listened carefully with a good clear set of earphones? You’ll be amazed at the wonderful harmonies, progressions, modulations, rhythms and melodies you will be discover. Really, take some time and you will find some really awesome ideas just there underneath the obvious but without which, the music wouldn’t be what it is. Every now and then you also get them indulging in the “stereotypical” heavy metal “vocals”. I have a good chuckle when this happens as it really works. As does the one piece with an operatic style section – well sung!

A Life Divided is really worth every cent of the ridiculous shipping fees and import duties to get a beautiful physical CD to this end of the world. But then all quality comes at a price.

Macht so weiter Jungs!

PS: The band’s latest CD Human has recently been released but that’s something I still need to get hold of. Based on what I’ve seen on their official video, it is some good stuff.

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Evolution of a Band

If you’re into the German music scene, you’ll undoubtedly know that Emigrate started as a “side project” by Rammstein’s Richard Kruspe. This, however, is totally irrelevant…well, now, it is irrelevant (I always feel it unfair to compare bands in situations like these). What’s noteworthy is the musical journey that the band has taken since the release of the debut, self-titled, album in 2007 to the new Silent so Long. The first album came across like a tentative dipping of toes into a freezing pond. Wanting badly to take the challenge but just not managing to let go of the comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, there were some really nice ideas (and My World is one of the coolest “driving” songs, while New York City just rocks) but, on the whole (don’t shoot me down!) it was pretty much Rammstein with English lyrics. But wow, how this has changed with the 2014 album! It’s like, damn, lets just dive into that pond, carefree and refreshed. Eat You Alive is so catchy that just thinking about it now has put it on repeat mode in my mind – and there it will stick for a good while! The “dialogue” section with Frank Dellé portrays a wonderful energy, with the antagonistic undertones coming across so well. I’m not going to analyse each piece, but Get Down featuring Peaches brings along a great change in style. I like! I like! All-in-all, I think Emigrate has evolved and found themselves, delivering a solid work of music. (And I will not compare them again! Promise)

Country Gone Listenable

I’ve got this catchy, cool, country-ish (hear me out) song looping over and over in my mind. And that was the case after the second listening. In fact, the first time had me hooked! It is that good.

So, who and what you ask? That’s the thing. I’ve had this band keep popping up on my recommendations niggling, niggling, over and over, still niggling. You know, when you keep seeing the cover and just know who it is without a second glance and kind of go “ah, not again”? I don’t know why, but I never got around to having a listen. But, for some reason (maybe it is with music as it is with books – finding you when it is meant to be), I finally listened to Nach uns die Sinn Flut by Harms & Kapelle and all I can say is “wow!” and naturally “why didn’t I listen to these guys sooner?”. So, no, not pure country and definitely not singing about the girl down the prairie, but dark, gritty and with a great rock-type (I hate putting music into genre boxes) undertone which makes it so darn good and much more listenable than most country music (I just struggle to get into it, sorry).

Listen with a good pair of phones and you’ll pick up such cool underlying nuances, sounds and background “effects”. Adds even more atmosphere but I won’t tell – you need to listen yourself.

Ah, and then…the lyrics are in German. And it works so well. Quite refreshing actually (in this style). Come to think of it, German is just perfect for this heavier country-rock hybrid. Don’t need the typical twang or drawl.

Even the music video is brilliant with atmosphere of note! The singer, Chris Harms, mesmerises you, but at the same time, the band is intriguing as you never really get to see their faces (initially). They also have you wanting to pull up a chair, order a drink and enjoy an evening of good music ahead. I appreciate how they achieve even more mood through seamlessly integrating a modern band with a feeling of being in the past, yet, not really (watch it! hear it! you’ll understand). It gives a surreal, unsettling kind of feeling. But in a good way. A very good way!

Watching closely you’ll pick up the effects which make all the difference, albeit subtle but “in your face” when you actually spot them (or, maybe I’m just reading, I mean, watching, too much into it). Like, the reference to Heaven and Hell (with Heaven higher visually than Hell) which you’ll probably miss the first few times. Oh, and the angel wing smoke effect (very clever, intentional or not) in the one long shot. And believe it or not, the first time I totally missed a huge prop in the group shot during the last few seconds of the song. The old film reel effect is fantastic. Check it all out – I hope I haven’t given it all away.

So, now I’m off to devour the rest of this album (did I mention it is called Meilenstein?). The snippets I’ve sampled sound like they will have me addicted too. So far, I like those chord progressions in Bis zum letzten Mann; Mein Leib has me tapping my feet; Es ist ein Meister vom Himmel gefallen wonderfully mellow and Das Narrenschiff promises to be another catchy one. Oooh, I can’t wait! I suspect I’ll have the album on repeat at work tomorrow. And will tell everyone all about them – music like this deserves to be shared!