Marek - "It's These Magic Moments That I'm Living For"
Aber Das Leben Lebt - "Perfect Teen"
David Lipp - "In immer: Love"
Gelee Royale - "Wir Schiessen Nicht Daneben"


Do you ever wander what the state of Austrian pop music is? I do too. Let's dive together into the latest batch of releases from the land that gave birth to "The Sound of Music".

Marek is actually Christoph Marek - a multi-instrumentalist - who chooses to go it alone on his new release "It's These Magic Moments That I'm Living For". Here, he uses everything from guitars, electronics, boomboxes to something he calls "weird shit". This stuff is potently folk-tinged, moody and most of all, overtly melancholy. Half-way through the CD, I was worried for the mental state of Marek. Is he about to kill himself? Is he just coming off from a toxic relationship? With that said, majority of the eighteen tunes are about love, lost love and fears of loneliness. This is some lo-fi stuff. If you can imagine an Austrian guy trying to imitate Daniel Johnston, you'll get most of the picture. Then again, my favourite is an electronically tinged anthem called "Flag". [Its' title is even marked in white so you don't confuse it for a down-in-the-dumps anthem.] Real dire music for those times your life isn't worth living.

Austrian trio Aber das Leben lebt have a few albums to their name already and with their newest "Perfect Teen", they're continuing on their quest of putting the minimal into their brand of music. Guitar, bass, piano and some accordion along with the sometimes dour, sometimes light vocals make for an interesting listening experience. Nowhere is this trio half as manic-depressive as Marek, which is a good thing. This lighter approach to life leaves them more room to explore other subjects besides loneliness and suicide - such as black humour - something they employ in nearly every song on their new release. Sure, the music is still somehow gloomy [these are not pop songs in their traditional sense after all] but with the addition of some nice choruses and light guitar work, the gloom isn't nearly as heavy. You can actually hum along to their songs. Recalling echoes of Yo La Tengo and John Cale, this band is certainly about a lot more than simple gloom and doom. But don't get me wrong, Aber das Leben lebt are willing to experiment a little too. Case in point, they invite Christof Kurzmann to do some of his programming magic on "Tatoos on my Wings". I have one gripe with the album, which is its' artwork. Half a dozen pictures of the "Perfect Teen" are featured, though strangely, these are all white females. My question is would this be a sarcastic swipe at the notion of the "Perfect Teen" or is this the representation of Austrian teens today? Regardless, pop has rarely sounded sweeter than it does on this release.

Once a singer in Austrian rock band 4 Experimentelle die nur 2 Sind, David Lipp decided that it was high time to present music solely on his own terms. "In immer: Love" is a brief [26 minute] album that is heavy on the subject of love. The only problem here being is the songs are sung in German and I can't understand a thing. What I have to go on is purely the music. Soft glowing electronic humming is what David Lipp chooses for his debut solo record. It works well as most of his singing isn't really "singing" in the traditional sense. He's trying to annunciate his words clearly and his method of singing is rather one of talking over the music. With that said, monotony starts to set in around the third track, as his voice falls flat on its' face. I can't seem to distinguish excitement from sadness, sorrow from joy. Perhaps, this is David's style? What saves the record is the light, poppy glow. If you're looking for an album on love, "In immer: Love" is not the best place to start.

The duo known as Gelée Royal are the most challenging out of the four releases presented here. Their "Wir Schiessen Nicht Daneben" is an album full of surprises. [I had no idea Niesom label ventured this far into left field!] The Offenhuber - Wenzl duo concentrate on eccentric side of melody, while pushing boundaries that their synths, samplers and other machines of love can add to their brand of soup. While they take cheap stabs at humour - as on the hilarious "Sex Machine" - one of their strengths are slower, almost ballad-like pieces, such as "Tisch". Then again, all peace is broken up by extreme cacophony as dirge guitars come along and ruins the whole melodramatic affair. "Anorak" seems to be a better attempt at a toned-down composition, which throughout is permeated by an industrial and gloomy atmosphere. Most of material included on the release sounds as if recorded inside of an empty warehouse. This is a deliberate move, I'm sure, as the duo probably want to outline their frustrations with their loneliness and with their version of the world. As much as I hate to say this, Gelée Royal is a band that has not yet come to grips with their place in the world of music. They're attacking too many genres [Industrial music? Pop? Experimental? Noise? Rock of frustration?] on too many fronts all at once. This only leads to diluted music, which may be adventurous but confounds listeners at each step of the way.

Tom Sekowski

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