Arriving three years after Sweet Silence, her first album sung entirely in English, German indie electronic chanteuse Barbara Morgenstern's Doppelstern is a collaborative album touching on various aspects of her sound, from blippy electro-pop to more ornately orchestrated compositions. Neo-classical artists such as Hauschka and Jacaszek contribute dramatic piano-driven pieces, with Jacaszek's "Den Kommenden Morgen" also featuring ominous, whispering choral vocals that seem like they're evoking some sort of cult ritual. While most of the songs are sung in German, a few of her duet partners lead songs in English, such as Monika Enterprise label boss Gudrun Gut, who slinks around "Too Much," and Corey Dargel, whose "No One Nowhere Cares" sounds like a more atmospheric version of Morgenstern's earlier sound marked with primitive drum machines. The album's poppiest moment is "Übermorgen," a glimmering chillwave cut featuring Robert Lippok and Justus Köhncke. Lucrecia Dalt collaboration "Gleich Ist Gleicher Als Gleich" is far more murky and abstract. "Facades," a mostly instrumental track featuring Canadian cellist Julia Kent, seems primed to soundtrack a stormy drama film or television series. On "Lost in a Fiction," Morgenstern and Richard Davis sweetly harmonize "take away your expectations of what you want me to be," and Doppelstern demonstrates Morgenstern's resistance to being pigeonholed or settling into predictability.
Barbara Morgenstern Beide EP
With a earthy yet airy voice and an advanced degree in experimental electronics, Barbara Morgenstern seduces your ear with melodic German poetry while the sounds of electronic frippery provides an aural wallpaper of ambient experience. This little EP offers up 5 tracks all done in conjunction with other Krautrock electronics technicians.
"Ubermorning" is almost pop sounding with a 4/4 underbeat overlaid with a double time 3/4 melody, Justus Löhncke is her dance partner and while I can’t translate the lyric, it's pure '80s pop song joy. "Scrambler" with Robert Lippok is the dance track, and if you dance moves are limited to swaying in place while sipping designer water, why that’s just fine. Your über ungeradetracks lies in "Gleich ist Gleich Als Gliech." Here Morgenstern sings a dreamy lullaby as metallic sounds clank charmingly in the background. Drugs or meditation, either could use this as an effects anodyne to an altered state.
2012 Review Round-Up: July
Berliner Barbara Morgenstern has been responsible for some of the loveliest music of the last decade or more, throughout a productive career that's seen her maintain a consistently recognizable aesthetic – balancing sweetness and warmth with a slight, distinctly Teutonic frostiness – while her sound has evolved from bleepy, toylike indie electronica to sprightly techno-pop to more fully organic, expressively artful songwriting.
Sweet Silence, her sixth proper (solo) full-length, tweaks that trajectory somewhat, returning to an almost entirely electronic palette (mostly understated drum programming and a battery of cuddly-soft synths) after the piano- and full-band-dominated BM. But it also finds Morgenstern honing her popcraft and scaling back her artier impulses to yield her most concise, song-oriented and – relatively speaking – immediate work to date. Except for three typically lovely, nostalgia-tinted instrumentals (which are themselves highly melodic), Morgenstern's distinctive, lulling coo appears on every track here and, notably, she sings exclusively in English for the first time. If that change is a bid for greater accessibility (Morgenstern has basically said as much in interviews), it's an appropriate choice in conjunction with the album's general musical tack, but, although Sweet Silence certainly could and should help introduce a few new ears to her secluded sound-world (and despite her boast, on the pleasantly frisky "Need To Hang Around," that "in the past two weeks I could have written tons of number one hits"), this isn't exactly Britney Spears (or Robyn, or even Goldfrapp) territory – Junior Boys, perhaps. Non-German-speaking fans may (or may not) appreciate the greater insight the English lyrics offer into Morgenstern's mentality. (Themes tend toward the philosophical, socio-political, gently inspirational and somewhat abstract – "Spring Time" is "when ideologies blossom"; the indicatively-titled "Jump Into the Life-Pool" contains such nuggets as "if life is a treasure itself then I'd still like to know am I myself" – while the plushly grooving "Night-Time Falls" offers a more personal, somewhat surreal narrative.) But in any case they don't significantly affect the experience of the album: Morgenstern's music is much more about sound than sense, and – particularly given her rather adorably prominent accent – her voice functions mainly as just another piece in her delightful sonic jigsaw puzzles, sometimes in beautiful harmony with itself. All of the aforementioned numbers are highlights – and no song here is without its own quietly quirky charms, though some take longer to distinguish themselves – but perhaps the album's apex is the penultimate "Status Symbol" (the only track to exceed four minutes), a sneaky charmer with vague shades of Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" that gradually works its way into a lather of darkly clubby beats; the album's most (though not only) overtly techno moment.