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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Orioxy “Lost Children”

OrioxyEvocative storytelling perfectly suits this quartet
Orioxy’s third album resonates most when it re-imagines the template of simple folk music. Evocative storytelling perfectly suits this quartet of Manu Hagmann on double bass, Roland Merlinc on drums, harpist Julie Campiche and Yael Miller’s voice which at best is pure and unadorned, yet rich with the flavour of her mother tongue, Hebrew.

These stories have a modern accent though. Princeless is Yael’s re-telling of the Cinderella tale, it’s riven with longing and bereft of the happy ending. Soft electronic cries, a melancholic double bass and bare drum taps use a delicacy that binds the whole piece together. Yael Miller’s voice flips between innocence and sensuous knowing throughout, calling on her natural ability for drama. Song of Love is wonderfully accompanied by a percussive typewriter as if the singer is dictating her letter. Some type of squeeze box murmurs sadly and drops of electronica fold into a sympathetic bass solo, all the while the fountain-like harp sparkling light and fresh.

Julie CampicheCampiche’s timing seems to fly directly from her heart
The harp is really the heroine of this album with Julie Campiche’s myriad of subtle colours and styles perfectly placed again and again. Her solo in Isha is spine-tingling. This track is ranging and borderless, a landscape of yearning vocals and grooving rhythms helped by tape rewinds and effects. At first the harp captivates with Middle Eastern vibes amid deep double bass twangs that fall into dark scrapes, before the harp emerges in a solo full of soul and expression. Campiche’s timing seems to fly directly from her heart.

I don’t mind Yael’s rapping or the use of the Sami Darg Team (rappers from Gaza) on Bachour Meshouamam (A Bored Boy) but it does break the spell of the delicate web of lovelorn melodies. As an album, Lost Children does face the danger of its gentle downtempo mood coming to a lethargic halt so I welcome a bit more spit and verve. However, this is best done with their own instruments such as in Old World. Using a bow on the double bass and suitable electronics they bring a free rock track together without a whiff of lead guitar.

There could be a further clarity of the unique Orioxy sound
‘Music doesn’t have a style,’ Yael sings and it’s true this album does not fit into a neat genre. But music does need to have a clear identity, and although this is a decent third album I feel there could be a further clarity of the unique Orioxy sound gained through exploring further musical depth and developing musicianship and songwriting skills.

Interestingly, Orioxy do a captivating interpretation of Paul McCartney’s Blackbird. But in a way that cover serves to show what a truly stunning song can do. It’s the track that has stayed in my head. Orioxy have a good line up of gigs, often a chance for a band to get to know itself on a deeper level. Grab a chance to hear them play as I’m sure there will be some wonderful moments of magic.

Orioxy website and tour dates

Ephrem Lüchinger: «Are You Prepared?»

are you prepared

Vor sieben Jahren ging der Pianist Ephrem Lüchinger für zwei Tage ins Studio, improvisierte und experimentierte alleine mit seinem Instrument, das der Zürcher mit allerlei Gegenständen präparierte. Das Material, das in diesen Tagen entstanden ist – zeitweise in Begleitung des Posaunisten Michael Flury – jagte Lüchinger später durch den Laptop, verfremdete und arrangierte die Klaviersounds neu und setzte sie zu 34 Stücken zusammen, die nun, auf der CD-Trilogie «Are You Prepared?» zu hören sind.

Ephrem Lüchinger – Are you prepared from ephrem lüchinger on Vimeo.

Entstanden ist eine reichhaltige Sammlung an neugierigen Klängen, die wahlweise technoid schimmern, romantisch schillern und auch popnah dahinschlendern können. Soundclips, Tracks und auch Songs sind auf «Are You Prepared?» zu hören – und die Trilogie entpuppt sich mit dieser Formenvielfalt auch als Suche nach den sonischen Grenzen des Klaviers, eine Suche, die allerdings scheitert. Denn Lüchinger, der in zahllosen Bands seine Spuren hinterlassen hat, entdeckt in seinem Instrument zuweilen Sounds, die man auch beim dritten Hördurchgang nicht mit einem Klavier in Verbindung bringt. So ist «Are You Prepared?» eine überaus lohnenswerte Reise in den Saitenkasten eines Instruments der unbegrenzten Möglichkeiten. Möglichkeiten, die Ephrem Lüchinger verspielt und doch konzentriert auslotet.

Ephrem Lüchinger, “Are You Prepared?” (Dist CH Irascible)

 

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