Sometimes there'll be a record or film that although it has no vanguardism about it, although you would never try and make great claims for it as an earth shattering masterpiece, is nonetheless something you find yourself living with, which quietly insinuates itself, until you realise you've listened to the thing hundreds of times. This was how I might explain away an obsession with Barbara Morgenstern
's Nichts Muss
a few years ago, which was essentially just a singer-songwriter record with some clicks & cuts trimmings, yet moved me like nothing else at the time, save for more Modernistically acceptable records by the Junior Boys and Dizzee Rascal. Nichts Muss
is a collection of a kind of miniature chanson, evoking the elegant miserablism of Francoise Hardy, only shifted from the left bank to a colder, more bereft central Europe. In a kind of less rapacious, less replicant manner to something like Cassie's 'Me and U' it was so much more affecting for its restraint, the measure and precision of Morgenstern's voice eliciting all sorts of stereotypes of the Teutonic, only without any of the gruff, staccato element- sentences full of bafflingly long and intricate Germanic phrases sung as mellifulously as Robert Wyatt or Hardy herself. The song on there that was always particularly quietly devastating was 'Kleiner Auschnitt', about which I once asked her in an enormously gauche manner, 'so what is a kleiner auschnitt?' 'Er...it's like a small part of you...'
As one of the more enjoyable parts of writing a zine with a circulation of 27, as I did some time ago, was being able to use it to interview interesting people, something that is rather more difficult to do on a blog
: the word itself still sounds somewhat sordid
. So in Stockholm, after seeing Morgenstern play a set of icily precise liebeslieder in a decidedly unrestrained manner, myself and my colleagues asked for an interview. It wasn't particularly successful in the end, but one upshot of it was her admitting the influence of ABBA, and singing the praises of 'Super Trouper'- 'the one where she's on stage- she's so alone, it's so sad...'
So while this led to brief fantasies of her having some sort of 'Dragostea Din Tei' style transeuropean Europop hit to warm the cockles of Robin Carmody
's heart ('The suppression of Eurodance...is driven by an aggressive denial of any further possibilities for pop and life'), there's little sign of this on the new(ish) The Grass is Always Greener
, where her songs become, for the most part, yet more hermetic: full of peculiar industrial hissing and clattering in the background, with jagged and decidedly Weimar song structures. She's cited Joni Mitchell here and there, and the record sounds sometimes like a Germanic version of the decentred electronics and anti-hipster stance of The Hissing of Summer Lawns
, determinedly ploughing its own undemonstrative furrow with a wit and invention seemingly in direct opposition to the bluster and pomposity of its contemporaries.