The Royal We

[Rakete Musik,]

White Spot

[Rakete Musik,]

Keyboard Lies

[Klein Records,]

So Ghost?

[Karaoke Kalk,]

Kissing My Grandma


This is just a bunch of music that happens to be released by labels in German-speaking countries.
Englishman Dylan Kennedy moved to Germany a while ago and had mild success with Scumbucket. Now, he changed directions in a new band The Royal We, whose self-titled record is ten perfect little pop-rock tunes. With a little help from Urlaub in Polen and Von Spar, Dylan learned to play guitar and penned nine of the ten songs on this record ["Swinger" was actually written by Fuck]. Neither melancholy, nor uplifting, The Royal We seems to fall between the cracks of music that is just there to enlighten and entertain. Acoustic guitar work seems to permeate just about every track, while Dylan sings in whispers rather than outright hollers. The stuff he needs to say [pain, love and heartaches - usual topics for any good three minute song] is best told slowly in a dour voice, with a serious face. Electric guitar work is varied. While "Pivotal Thing" features some drone-like work at its initial stages, twangy guitars are usually par for the course. Borrowing influence from various 80's bluesy bands that preferred the twangy guitar sound [does anyone still remember Green on Red or The Feelies?], the music recalls another era altogether, when production values meant warmth. [Now we can get into a whole discussion of vinyl vs. CD] The Royal We's debut is a solid effort.

Hamburg duo Urlaub in Polen [Holidays in Poland] unleashes their second release in the form of "White Spot". Made up of Georg Brenner and Ian Philipp Janzen [both of whom share guitar, percussion, moog and vocal duties], the duo fuse the hardest punch of hardcore with the user-friendly elements of rock and metal. Grungy guitars are nearly everywhere. Vocals are angry and coarse, while percussion is either dead-on pounding of the skins or clusters of programmed drum machines. Man, these two are pissed off. In between the metal infused "Panorama" and "Last Bus to Leisslinger" or the drone machinations of the extended "Fuse", this band likes to take chances. This isn't Judas Priest, but then again, those days are long gone, aren't they? I wonder what effect anger management treatments would have on this act?

"I can slap it when I want to", so begins the new album from E:Gum. Austrian entity made up of Hans Platzgumer and Jens Döring are clearly fascinated with d'n'b and light dub. They think that hiring Catorina Shaw to sing some vocals on their album will make their album more life-like. Which brings us to the record's biggest downfall? "Keyboard Lies" is cold, cold stuff. For the most part, when I check out dance-oriented music, I'm looking for some sign of warmth; even if it were a dim glimmer of hope. Nothing here indicates that these guys are going for the heart. Their brand of throw-back, retro break-beat is dry. Overtly repetitive loops of drums just make this whole affair a bland one. When Catorina sings, she does so with little feeling and certainly barely any emotion comes across. Who knows, maybe if E:Gum hired another vocalist or maybe if they varied their approach somewhat, this album would actually take off. As it stands, the clicks, pops and stutters just don't add up to a satisfying whole.

Who's this Roman guy and why is he making robotic music? Do people still listen to Kraftwerk and take this sort of cheesy sounds seriously? His second release "So Ghost?" is full of contradictions. On one hand, the guy clearly loves cheap drum machines and fuzzy effects to accentuate his love for kitschy dance pop. On the other hand, this guy has a really great voice [I swear!] and he can pop out a ballad like it's nobody's business. On "So What?" he's a gentle giant crooning a tale of high morality, while a cheap and fuzzed-out beat provides the back-bone. Then on "Saving June", he's all bile; spewing out one-liners on top of a crooked beat. Nonchalance in his voice is something to fall in love with. [You'll either love this sort of a cold, distant croon or you'll hate it.] Otherwise, just another pop record that will all too likely not make a dent in anyone's long-term memory.

Austrian trio Mauracher's second full-length "Kissing My Grandma" turns out to be a mixed bag of tricks. Straying neither to the rock side, nor concentrating overtly on the beats, they seam to like to stick it out in-between genres, as it were. Front-man Hubert Mauracher puts together these tiny little pop-rock ditties. One minute, he's Serge Gainsbourg ["Petite Fleur"] and another minute he reinvents himself as a soft-spoken rapper ["What You Make of It"]. Musically, the record is varied. From the rock anthem "Going Home" to the soulful chorus of "Kill Me", the band wants to rub every possible nook and cranny before the sign says stop. Maja Racki has a scorching set of vocal chords. A bit on the dry side but still, she delivers the goods on each and every track. From the quasi-blues of "Mr. Egon" to the nonchalant poses on "Watching You Leave", she varies her approach. A bit of house and electronic elements are thrown in for good measure; just to keep things interesting as it were. The only drawback [if you can call it that] is the total unpredictability of each track. Just when you think you'd figured this band out, they turn around and throw you a curve ball. Who said that "Kissing My Grandma" was a disgusting sight?

- Tom Sekowski

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>> THE ROYAL WE - The Royal We / URLAUB IN POLEN - White Spot / E:GUM - Keyboard Lies / ROMAN - So Ghost? / MAURACHER - Kissing My Grandma
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+ Mick Harris - wywiad
+ WEF 2005: Andrij Kiryczenko w Zachęcie