Smoke + Fire
You are taking the TGV from Paris to Brussels to Cologne, observing the landscape as it stretches before you, as you hope to rendezvous with friends on your way to the next party. You stop at a cornershop to pick up an issue of Le Soir playfully making note of the soundtrack in the store. Thoughts race through your head as you try to make out the words, you hear a girl’s voice. She has a distinct German accent. She seems to be commenting on a transcendental question. How appropriate. The culmination of hundreds of years of Western thought are boiled down to SEX, GOD & MONEY. Her voice is bathed in sound. You have just made contact with the sound of NEULANDER.
For those of you unfamiliar with NEULANDER, let me contextualize where they fit in the musical spectrum by referring to recent articles about them: The New York Times described Neulander as a hot tip for 2003: “Neu taking on The Human League in battle” and “Neulander are melodic, unusually cool and slightly aloof”.
The Disko B website states they basically use a drum machine, 2 keyboards, a cello to generate sound but also suggest: “The lyrics seem to suggest Russian poetry colliding with an abstract and personal response to the confusion of 21century media culture.” I think that’s an extremely grandiose statement to make. In listening to these songs, it is as if she is giving commentary on her life or the fate of Western Society more than anything else.
Critical praise came for their 10inch ‘Sex, God & Money’ when it appeared last year at Number 33 in John Peel’s Festive 50 on BBC Radio One. The four outstanding songs on this release are off that same 10inch- Sex, God + Money, If You Could, Just There and Schauspieler.
NEULANDER is the work of Korinna Knoll on vocals and Adam Peters arranging the music. Korinna is fairly new to the world of pop music. Her vocal range is surprising and effective in this case. Adam Peters is a veteran arranger and keyboard player having worked with ECHO AND THE BUNNYMEN and has been an associated musician, arranger or producer with BETH ORTON, FAMILY OF GOD, SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES, LLOYD COLE and THE TRIFFIDS amongst others. His experience couches Korinna’s neo-extentialist lyrics in beat based electronica.
This is an album of pop songs, first and foremost. It clocks in at 39.8 minutes, each of the songs average 4 minutes in length—as soon as you get used to them they disappear. This slight ephemeral nature of the tracks makes for brilliant pop songs but weak dance tracks.
Several songs on this album would make great dance tracks if extended remixes of them were put out on 12”s. As things are now, you barely get a taste for the band before the songs are over. With that in mind, I should stress that this disc is essential electronica for anyone following the electro pop scene with any degree of interest. I can already envision NEULANDER making its way onto compilations in the months to come.
runs 39.8 minutes
- SEX, GOD & MONEY - poppy
- IF YOU COULD - poppy
- GIRL OUT WALKING - bit more somber, about a night trip
- FLYING – whose chorus consists of "my mother is dead and my father is dead and my heart goes boom boom boom"
- MIDDLE EAST – the first bassy, guitar driven track on the album
- BLUE BIRD PARTY - fully charged anthem about a party before the end of humanity
- JUST THERE - cut off the earlier 10"
- SOMETIMES - full piano-based ballad that explores the range of her voice
- SCHAUSPIELER – probably my favorite, its a nice bassy built track with drum machine and cello-- sounds incredibly futuristic. It is the only song sung in German, with her voice having a siren-like effect in between her lyrics unravelling a metaphysical tale ending with the line "schauspieler werden geboren!" (an actor has been born)
- PEOPLE’S LOVE - closing guitar backed by drum machine almost country sounding track-- about a search for love