Morr Music merges electronic and indie musical disciplines that many consider the label to have invented its own genre. It’s roster is certainly a testament to this fact – the likes of Lali Puna, Múm, Isan, Seabear, Sin Fang, Sóley, It´s A Musical, Masha Qrella, Tarwater, Fm Belfast, Pascal Pinon, Butcher The Bar, Telekinesis, Opiate, Ms. John Soda, Tied & Tickled Trio, Electric President, Radical Face, The Go Find, and B.Fleischmann making for an impeccable roster. With more than 100 Albums in its catalogue, Morr Music is a label that truly has something for everyone.
THE ARTISTS / RECORDS
Pascal Pinon’s third album is the Icelandic duo’s rawest and yet most diverse musical statement within the frame of their Folk-influenced, minimalistic sound. Produced only by themselves, « Sundur » comprises material written over the course of 1 ½ years. While most parts of the album are sparsely orchestrated and follow the experimental lo-fi-leaning aesthetics of the duo’s previous two records, the overall tone has become rawer with its metronome-like rhythms, occasional synth lines and driving piano melodies.
« Sundur » lends its title from the Icelandic proverb « sundur og saman » (meaning « apart and together ») and could be considered the companion of 2013’s « Twosomeness ». Thematically, it reflects upon the voluntary separation of the two sisters. « We had never been apart our entire lives until we finished touring with our last album », remembers Jófríður Ákadóttir. While Ásthildur went to Amsterdam to study classical piano and composition and back to Iceland, her sister Jófríður went to tour the world with her other band, Samaris, and still leads a nomadic lifestyle.
Being apart is not only the main thematic thread running through « Sundur », it also turned Pascal Pinon’s writing process upside down. Although Ásthildur and Jófríður frequently visited each other in the Netherlands and respectively Iceland from early 2014 until late 2015 to finish the writing process, the geographical separation also influenced their compositions and thus the album as a whole. « The fact that we spent so much time apart creates completely different connections between the songs than on ‘Twosomeness’, which for me makes it more diverse in the best way possible », says Ásthildur in regards to the LP’s predecessor. Indeed « Sundur » sees two different people arriving at their shared creative goal.
Due to a conflict of schedules, Ásthildur and Jófríður ended up recording the bulk of « Sundur » in only two days. Their father, composer Áki Ásgeirsson, helped out with the engineering and contributed percussions played with scrap metal he brought with him, including discarded parts of airplanes. While few of those details will be audible on the surface, the unpolished sound design and added bits are crucial to « Sundur », the result of an intense musical collaboration between the three family members. « It makes the album feel more real and raw which is what it essentially is all about, » explains Jófríður. « It’s very sparse and a lot closer in the approach and in regards to the sound of our very first album. It’s kind of funny that seven years later, we would go back to the same place where we were at age 14! » Here they are however, with a record which is as intimate as it is mature.
A deeply personal and 100% contemporary take on electronic pop, « Spaceland » is more Southern Fried than Tropic of Cancer: Recorded between L.A. and Reykjavík, it’s an album that feels like diary entries spelled out like Billboard news headlines.
But it’s also a self-therapy made strangely infectious thanks to entirely new production means: Dark lyrics over electrified euphoria, personal confessions set to sizzling hi-hats and heavy bass action. « I wrote most of the lyrics after I started having panic attacks, » he explains, adding that the album title actually refers to the headspace he was in during that period when he felt like he « was dying all the time ».
Mostly written on the piano, entirely self-recorded and self-produced (with support from Jónsi & Alex), Sin Fang thus ventures further into the direction he took with his new project Gangly and unleashes something both banging and feather-light – a combination he already presents in dreamlike album opener « Candyland ». The same kind of push-and-pull, the same r&b-paced phrasings, a similar kind of juxtaposition is at work in « Not Ready For Your Love », a line Sindri repeats over and over, all sweet-voiced surrender set to uplifting arrangements and synthetic fields of bliss.
A tale of non-belonging, « Lost Girl » oscillates between minimalism and experimentalism, magma-paced introspection and sonic sunlight that belies the darkness, when Sindri jumps to the dance-floor. As for the vocal harmonies of « I Want You To Know »: That’s classic Sin Fang meets goose bumps like « Cry Me A River ». Former Seabear band-mate Sóley is at his side for another slice of epic (anti migraine) pop (« Never Let Me Go »), while Norwegian singer Farao is another female sidekick in the land of loops and swathes: Drawing a face in the melting snow for « Please Don’t », he picks up the pace with a hubbub of voices over a glacier-like arrangement. Towards the end, there’s more playful beats (« Branches »), more open space (« Snowblind »), and finally, a homecoming of sorts: Slow moving album closer « Down » feat JFDR (that’s Jófríður Ákadóttir) sounds like rays of hope rediscovered.
Drifting too far away from the sun, it can get mighty cold out (and in) there, gloomy and cold, and yet that free-floating state of zero gravity can also lead to entirely new places. Sin Fang was there – and now he’s back with « Spaceland ».
In January 2015, he started working on the eleven songs that make up the album. While the Steps-EP was mainly jams Rémi created in his room with a bit of pot, whiskey, Casios and a TR707, he got deeper into songwriting for his first LP. The songs were recorded with producer Tadklimp for 5 days in the Worm Studio in Rotterdam, using their many glorious vintage synthesizers, and in Tadklimp’s studio in Berlin. Apart from Charley Vecten, who started Slow Steve with Rémi as a live duo back in 2012, most of the instrument parts on the record were written and performed by Rémi himself.
When Rémi moved to Berlin, he met psychedelic pop outfit and fellow Morr signees Fenster. Rémi has been part of their live shows as well as contributing to their first two albums. There are certain familiarities between the washed-out sound of Fenster and Slow Steve, but Adventures sees Rémi doing his own thing. He says « I had weird science fiction in mind, visions of Jules Verne drawings from the early 20th century and science fiction/action movies from the end of that same century. That’s why it’s called Adventures: I’m picturing a kind of Indiana Jones going down to the bottom of the sea, to Lilliput and other crazy, weird worlds. » Song titles like « The Giant Spider Crab From Japan » literally imply that this is a cosmic synth dive into creepy depths, while in « Joséphine II (Rivière) » Rémi sends his two teenage nieces through the universe in some cute spacecraft. Elsewhere, you hear the inspiration that 70’s French sci-fi movies and their experimental electronic scores had on Rémi, for instance in the blissful nostalgia reverberating in « Oscillation ». Even the sunshiny guitar pop and blurred synths of « Sloth » or « Bali » sooner or later end up in humorous excursions. All song structures seem to follow some secret rules – challenging but always easygoing.
Adventures does what it says on the sleeve: surprise and mesmerize, somewhat wild and spaced out. Welcome to the curious world of Slow Steve.
There is a new straightforwardness in how Qrella sings about break-ups, new beginnings, rescue pills and keys: « Please don’t give me your keys / cause I don’t wanna have to give them back again, » goes the refrain of the title track, whose deliberately sparse instrumentation is unexpectedly interrupted by the noise of traffic and construction sites. It’s one of those little irritating and surprising twists that have always been crucial to Qrella’s music.
While her earlier solo records relied on more electronic elements, stumbling beats and sonic textures, Masha Qrella now puts emphasis on her voice and songwriting. Finally, every sort of shyness seems to have vanished.
« Every night another day, every day another night, every street leads to a new place than the one I used to find. » This is the opening line of the album, and you get the feeling that Masha Qrella is breaking new personal ground on this record, which marks her fourth full length for Morr Music. Every single song on « Keys » shows an immediate and open-hearted quality that Qrella did not quite reveal before.
With this record, Masha Qrella creates a very distinct version of pop music, subtly reminding you of her love for Elliott Smith, Neil Young, Air or Metronomy, but always staying true to herself. Join her on this emotional dance floor.
A lot has changed since Ms. John Soda released the first 7″ back in 1998, since Micha Acher (The Notwist, Tied & Tickled Trio, Alien Ensemble) joined Stefanie Boehm and completed the creative nucleus of this band around the turn of the millennium; day-to-day life indeed feels different some 16 years later (and half as many since the release of their sophomore album, « Notes and the Like »), but the basic chemistry, the intricate balance of electronic and analog molecules that orbit this nucleus – and thus, the resulting mood and vibe -, they’re still recognizable, still undeniably Ms. John Soda: Whether it’s the dense, intensely rushing soundscapes of « Hero Whales », numerous layers pushing and taking off into the same direction, the propelled clatter of « Sirens », a track like « Millions » that blows off more and more steam, a glistening, wheezing sort of madness even (though there is a tender side to it as well), the perpetual, magic lantern-like motions of « Name It » (think Trish Keenan and Broadcast) or the gradually descending melodies of opening track « In My Arms » – they’re all lined with a certain tension, underpinned by a certain atmosphere, a unique brand of melancholy that never quite gives in, keeps searching for new outlets and answers.
The album title Ms. John Soda have chosen for their third full-length, « Loom », obviously hints at this feeling of re-emergence, gathering and looming, but according to the singer, it also refers to a weaving loom: It’s about « weaving and combining a vast number of influences, ideas, instruments, melodies, rhythms, and layers to create a whole, » says Boehm, whose vocals span these new tracks like thick, reliable ropes that glow with marine luminescence. « It’s about weaving individuals into a group (‘Millions’), weaving and merging former ideals and hopes with reality (‘The Light’), combining ‘hi’ and ‘bye’, beginning and end (‘Hi Fool’), interweaving opposite or contradicting concepts, such as pushing forward vs. being pushed (‘In My Arms’). » And while the weaving, just like life itself, can easily get out of hands, « because you lose track, and yet life goes on (‘Name It’), » a lot of these songs – e.g. « Hero Whales », the billowing « Sodawaltz », « Fall Away » – revolve around a shimmering sense of something we can’t quite grasp or put a finger on just yet: « Intuitions, hopes, dreams, wishes, affinities, distances, temptations… »
Whereas Cico Beck aka Joasihno (drums, electronics), also part of Aloa Input and the latest addition to Ms. John Soda’s live band, and drummer Thomas Geltinger helped out on various tracks they recorded with Oliver Zülch in Weilheim, Boehm and Acher were also joined by Karl-Ivar Refseth (percussions) and Matthias Götz (trombone). Together, they keep feeding the loom with countless spools of yarn, until epic piano closer « Fall Away » seems to offer a temporary respite: « find your way/take the dry suit off/for a night ». Time to rest, to take a deep breath. Or is it already the first rays of dawn looming on the horizon?
With EMOCEAN, the band utilizes their classic approach to non-traditional percussion and instrumentation, but this time ventures deeper into new territory with funky bass lines (Off The Cahin) complimented by additional instruments like bass clarinet (Memories), flute (Phantasia) and modular synthesizers (Samson’s Theme).
EMOCEAN is a nuanced and surprising departure from their first two albums. The approach to this record was a more holistic exercise in « collective songwriting » and was resulted from a series of feverish jam sessions. The sounds evoke a broad spectrum of parallel universes – from soothing surfy tidal cliffs to analog synth dungeons, interstellar purple-funk disco-techs, wobbly organ’s in houses of worship, acid blues parades and delicate maiden’s picking daisies on the moon (Les Fleurs). The most danceable track is definitely Off the Cahin, and Memories is a sun soaked summer jam.
The Film: The film starts out as a documentary about the band struggling to finish their third record and they accidentally get transported into an alternate dimension in which they are deprived of feelings. In the surreal landscape of this foreign dimension, nothing is what it seems.
EMOCEAN was conceived as a conceptual soundtrack before the film’s actual production and evolved into the most ambitious project the band has ever done. With a year of planning, over a month of shooting on HD and mostly VHS, a cast of over a 100 actors and extras, numerous outdoor and indoor locations, the rental of an entire island for a day, drone cameras and a self-built green screen studio, the project is unlike anything you’ve ever seen and has brought the band to the edge of madness and what they thought was humanly possible.
The Band: Based in Berlin and hailing from four different countries, FENSTER began as a collaboration between Jonathan Jarzyna (DE/PL) and JJ Weihl (US) in 2010 and was later completed by Lucas UFO (FR) and Will Samson (UK). The band has released two full-length records on Morr Music (Bones 2012 and The Pink Caves 2014) to critical acclaim and has toured extensively in the USA, UK and 15 other countries in Europe.
The band intends to tour with the film and play the soundtrack live, transforming the experience of classic silent cinema into a fantastical journey headed for the unknown.
More infos : http://www.fensterfensterfenster.com
Referring to the silence that returns when last year’s « Krómantík » EP fades out, Sóley said, « … your closed eyes slowly start seeing something much deeper and darker, » and now that something is here, it’s right in front of us: « Ask The Deep » is a stunningly dark and deeply personal departure after the minimalist and bleak piano compositions of said EP: Relying on guts, ghost ships, and a sonic map that doesn’t show the same piano coordinates as before, her soft-sounding voice leads us deeper and deeper into the shadowy fairytale worlds only hinted at on previous releases such as her « Theater Island » EP and 2011’s much-praised « We Sink » debut album. Changing tactics to fight her inner demon with every track, « Ask The Deep » sees the bespectacled songwriter open Pandora’s box – and close it eventually. At least for now.
« Have I danced with the devil? », Sóley Stefánsdóttir asks on album opener « Devil », then crescendoing: « Does he still love me? » And that inner demon, responsible for all the sunless spots, the moist corners where silky mosses grow, he’s frequently beguiling her throughout « Ask The Deep », even spinning and dancing, since he’s hardly alone: Once the melodic surges of « Devil » lead to other fairytale soundscapes – the piano no longer being « the main character » of Sóley’s music –, more and more ghosts, both real and imaginary, enter the scene. Inspired by an actual news story about a man who was buried alive in Brazil, « Ævintýr » marches in circles with tribal beats underneath ethereal swirls, and « One Eyed Lady » is perhaps Sóley’s most minimalist lullaby yet: It’s the beatless account of a one-eyed witch that would actually « kill for love », as the song’s mantra reverberates into the void. Back in fairyland, a group of girls appears as nightmares in « Halloween », sailing on a ghost ship, ambushing the boys, the dreamers of this disembodied, infernal dream built on layers of beats: « Tell me how can I wake up again. »
With looped forces of gravity and swerving nods to Philip Glass, « Follow Me Down » is a brooding roll call to enter the distorted depths, to go beyond the point of no return, to leave the comfort zone. And it’s a reminder: We still sink. Amid the flotsam and jetsam, things appear that weren’t previously there – hard-hitting drums set to Beach House vibes (« Dreamers »), a haunted church showdown with the jilted devil (« I Will Never »), a hint of unlikely, hopeful pop even (« Breath ») – until the inner demon reappears once again: Built around a part of the « Devil », album closer « Lost Ship » deals with the same conflict, « my devil, my master, my mind and my soul. » « It’s saying I’m stronger than my devil mind, though sometimes it wants to take over everything, » she explains. Her final words on the album: « … and do not forget/I never loved you ».
It’s funny, but with Sóley’s music, metaphor is never just metaphor: When the multi-instrumentalist from Iceland sang « I run away from you » on her debut album, you could actually see her running through some forest (or some barren Icelandic field), and this capability to create a sense of situation, a surreal, dreamlike scenario via sound, it’s still her trademark – albeit crowed by way more ghosts and Beelzebubian shadows this time around: Taking her listeners on a journey to phantasmal grounds, her sophomore full-length is both more intricate and diverse in how it’s written, arranged and narrated. And it’s even more obvious that her voice is crucial in guiding the way to that place where one can live, that safe shore on the other side of the ocean.
« You must face your fairytale, » the former student of composition sings elsewhere on « Ask The Deep ». She doesn’t run. Faces him again and again. And even Willy Wonka would agree: She is the music maker – but we are the dreamers of the dreams.
More infos : https://www.facebook.com/soleysoleysoley/
Whereas last time around, they were all about « vocal harmonies from NYC to Cape Town » and « massive guitars from Portland to Düsseldorf, mixed with clattering beats from Berlin to Detroit » Aloa Input – a Munich-based three-piece that seems to be just as addicted to new input as it’s quick and productive when it comes to releasing more genre-smashing, ebullient output – are about to leave planet earth altogether with their sophomore release: Dropping only a year after the band’s debut album « Anysome » (with additional remix EP « RMX » released in-between), they return with an album that finds them dashing through the better part of recent music history, to eventually take off for the Red Planet: « MARS ETC. » is terrestrial life condensed, an experimental study in hands-on, sonic set theory, both a stunningly wild and unbridled beast of an album and a long-overdue update to 1977’s Voyager Golden Records.
While « Anysome » was recorded in cold Berlin during wintertime, the explosive and iridescent remains that constitute « MARS ETC. » were recorded on an island in Croatia – one that bears the almost Martian-sounding name Krk –, where Florian Kreier (aka Angela Aux, vocals/bass), Cico Beck (aka Joasihno, live member of Ms. John Soda and The Notwist; electronics/drums), and Marcus Grassl (guitars/vocals) turned a lighthouse into a temporary studio: A perfect spot to launch themselves and their increasingly cosmic network of influences (comprised of Art and World Music, Indie, Kraut, HipHop, Folk, etc.) into outer space.
After renowned production heavyweight Olaf Opal had seen them opening for The Notwist, he immediately reached out to Aloa Input, who happily accepted his offer to eventually co-produce and mix the Krk recordings in The Notwist’s own studio in Weilheim. The resulting full-length, « MARS ETC. », indeed feels like audio fireworks from the get-go, repeatedly indulging in the title’s « ETC. » and sounding like a retrospective survey sans nostalgia and restless departure at once: Opening track « Far Away Sun » – all kiddie samples vs. insane, Jel-influenced beats – was actually recorded right before Aloa Input folded their tents in the lighthouse, and while « Perry » nods enthusiastically to Mr. Beck Hansen, the inscrutable « Vampire », based on a Pocket Piano melody, seems to go for a last round on deserted roads (think Jarmusch’s latest movie). Elsewhere, there’s political statements in disguise (« Brother »), unhinged doors that swing and float in empty space (« The Door »), until the three-piece even manages to escape the influence of « highway designers » by emulating Hymie’s Basement’s similarly titled pop hymn with their own « 21st Century Tale », « probably the most wide-eyed Aloa track of all time »: A rather mellow confession of a maniac at first, until it drowns in a madcap collage of Disney soundscapes.
« Hold On » is – like the entire album – a bit rougher around the edges, « more beat-driven, playful, expansive and deeper » at once, a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson that flickers like old, beaten VHS tapes, whereas indie anthem « BlaBla Theory » is banging enough to even send school kids off in a frenzy. Overjoyed to finally escape the forces of gravity, they first have to overcome a feeling known as « Krk Blues »: a softly pounding ode to life in this wonderful lighthouse. After that, it’s time to pack a few all-time favorites (Beck, Flaming Lips, Beatles, Eels, Dylan, Beach Boys) in a single track (« Mad As Hell »), until all we’re left with is « Ruth The Communist »: A misunderstanding, now turned into the hologram of a femme fatale, and then: « The record takes off towards the sun, takes a quick look back, waves good-bye, and that’s it. »
To a spectator, shades and field glass at the ready, it would have looked like this: There’s a humming sound inside the rocket-like vehicle, the countdown’s over, flames start shooting up, and there’s smoke as well – but luckily, Aloa Input managed to keep that keyboard-charring cable fire in check as well.
More infos : https://www.facebook.com/aloainput/
For the Dodos « the best time to make a record is right after you’ve finished one » says vocalist and guitarist Meric Long. Having just wrapped up the sessions for Carrier, and fired up on the level of comfort achieved with brothers Jay and Ian Pellicci at Tiny Telephone studio, the duo immediately began laying to tape the batch of songs that would make up Individ.
« The songs came together easily, there was not a lot questioning, just moving ahead with the feeling that we were on the right track. We were freed up to do whatever came naturally, » says Long. And what comes naturally to the Dodos is creating music that sounds positively epic.
« In a lot of ways making this record brought us back to making Visiter, » their 2008 critical and commercial breakthrough, « relying heavily on the movement that occurs between just two instruments, guitar and drums. From the first take of the first song we tracked, things sounded huge and that set the tone for the entire thing. »
Individ’s first single « Competition » is a shining example of this proclivity, built on dueling guitar lines that overlap above and below a persistent drum beat as Long’s assured vocals soar above it all.
As the album closes with « Pattern/Shadow » (a track that features vocals from Thee Oh Sees’ Brigid Dawson), Long sings « Your shadow remains / I cannot resist / The mirrored escape / Of your pattern. »
It’s a moment that lyrically reinforces the record’s guiding force of acceptance, imparting a lesson to a band whose name inherently calls into question its future: resilience isn’t always about changing or adapting to a new environment, sometimes it’s about staying true to your instincts and asserting yourself in this ever changing atmosphere.
Explains Long, « Carrier was about breaking habits, recognizing and imagining yourself away from the washing machine that has you trapped. That’s why the cover image was of someone watching a tornado go away from him. This record is about accepting what is natural for you or maybe even a part of you. Individ is what it sounds like inside the tornado. »
More infos : http://www.dodosmusic.net