Sophie Hunger “SUPERMOON”

Cover_SophieHungerMuch has been written about Sophie Hunger‘s stellar credentials: polyglot singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, film-maker, the only Swiss artist ever to play Glastonbury, etc… Yet, visually speaking, there’s little hint that she’s one of Switzerland’s most incisive, defiant and successful artists. Watching some of her live footage on YouTube, I was struck by how demure her physical appearance is; she could easily be mistaken for a young graduate turning up for an administrative internship at the local bank. I mention this simply because after listening to her fifth studio album, SUPERMOON just released on Two Gentlemen, I realise that she is indeed establishing herself as a heavyweight on the Swiss alternative pop scene and personally find her lack of super-sized-me visual representation very refreshing. A woman of substance. Like a tough hand in a velvet glove, Hunger’s musical approach often seems understated but is as tough as a big slap when you decide to pay attention.

Uncompromising, intimate, bewitching

The LP was recorded, mixed and mastered in a variety of international locations, hinting at a healthy investment of the part of her record company and a musical confidence of knowing who was going to bring out the best in her sound. SUPERMOON bears many her usual trade marks: uncompromising, intimate, bewitching. Inspired by a trip to the Golden Gate Park museum in San Francisco, the moon takes centre stage as muse in this work and sets the haunting, floaty, echoey tone throughout most of the 12 tracks.

It’s a generally sparse, languid, introspective work that to its credit doesn’t feel over-produced. Space is indeed the place. The title track is all gentle folk guitar and echo-chamber vocals, languid and contemplative with beautiful harmonies that soon seep in and have you looking at the earth from her dark, lunar perspective.

A perfectly lilting, sombre pace

Melodically beautiful and emotionally rich ballads are plentiful. ‘Die Ganze Welt’ being a prime example of a perfectly lilting, sombre pace that is cut through by her sensitive vocal limpidity. ‘Fathr’ is also a stand-out slowie, wonderfully uplifted by divine string arrangements and again a peg on which to hang a silvery vocal delivery full of depth and feeling. Footballer/actor, Eric Cantona makes an unusual appearance as her erstwhile lover in the duet ‘La chanson d’Hélène’ and together they make a decent enough job of this cover version originally done by Romy Schnieder and Michel Piccoli – possibly a strategic move to please Sophie’s large French following.

The potential to be a screaming smash hit single

Thankfully, it’s not all liquid, languid grey tones, there are bursts of great up-tempo rhythms that retain Hunger’s defiant dark edge, adding some fire energy to the moon dance. ‘Mad Miles’, again inspired by her recent trip to California, has the potential to be a screaming smash hit single with its sinister start, big pop chorus, distorted guitar solo middle and tidy end. Similarly ‘Love is not the Answer’, ‘Superman Woman’ and ‘We are the living’ – all examples of perfectly formed, socially-conscious, urgent 3 minute indie wonders.

The question is does Sophie Hunter really want to get into the smash and grab international pop arena that she sometimes hints at? Or is it preferable for her to stay slightly aloof in the shadowy world of underground cult status? A kind of Swiss PJ Harvey full smoldering talent and recalcitrant attitude? SUPERMOON suggests that both options are possible.

Forthcoming live gigs:
17.05 – Zürich, X-Tra
10.07 – Montreux (Montreux Jazz Festival)
25.07 – Lucerne, Blue Balls 

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