© 2017

Margareth Kammerer
Why Is The Sea So Blue
MIKROTON CD 26 | 2013

Edition of 500.



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1. My Foolish Heart
2. In Time Of Daffodils
3. Everytime
4. Speak Low
5. Timeshaped Face
6. High
7. mmmm
8. This Is Not A Dream
9. Why Is The Sea So Blue

Margareth Kammerer voice, guitar
Christof Kurzmann voice, saxophone
Axel Dörner trumpet
Burkhard Stangl vibraphone
Werner Dafeldecker double bass

In Why Is The Sea So Blue Margareth Kammerer continues to explore songs in experimental music contexts, elaborately interweaving lyrics into nine wistful soundscapes. Originally recorded in 2006, with the band consisting of Christof Kurzmann (voice, saxophone), Axel Dörner (trumpet), Burkhard Stangl (vibraphone), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass), Big Daddy Mugglestone (percussion) and Marcello Silvio Busato (drums), the album’s final shape emerged with the production of Valerio Tricoli in 2011, who fashioned them into rich, emotionally versatile tomes. Between the narrative duets with Kurzmann and more extended abstract incantations, the album unravels like a late afternoon walk along a rocky shore, the sky is foreboding but the wind is still warm.


The Sound Projector, Paul Khimasia Morgan:
This is a curious item, for me, a vocal album, but not one hewn from the traditional strata. The concept is like a strange amalgam of Derek Bailey’s Standards and David Sylvian’s Manafon. Or a dream pop / Stereolabic hybrid with very full excursions; with a welcome esoteric feel courtesy of Christof Kurzmann’s minimal arrangements. In other words, Kammerer has put her own musical arrangements to lyrics by some well-known wordsmiths. Interestingly, this is no ordinary album of cover versions, rather, these are reworkings; the compositions are credited to Margareth Kammerer and the lyrics are credited to the relevant persons, as diverse as Cole Porter, EE Cummins, Coleridge, Frederic Ogden Nash, Ned Washington and Tchicaya U Tam’si.
Opener “My Foolish Heart” is a kind of mutant cabaret, while the following track “In Time Of Daffodils” in particular has the minimal and bereft feeling of Syd Barrett’s reworking of James Joyce’s “Poem V” from Chamber Music into “Golden Hair”. Here, Kammerer duets with Christof Kurzmann. Her Telecaster hovers on the edge of the realms of intentional production much like Barrett’s did toward the end of his tenure with Floyd.
Margareth Kammerer’s melodic re-imaginings are particularly effective and affecting on one of the most recognisable songs of the Twentieth Century; Cole Porter’s Waterstones classic “Everytime”. To be fair to Waterstones, every time I visit the Brighton branch, they’re playing Sarah Vaughan – I think it’s the only cd they have. Whereas track four, “Speak Low”, is Frederic Ogden Nash’s words. Nash was the lyricist for the Broadway musical One Touch of Venus, collaborating with librettist S. J. Perelman and composer Kurt Weill. Which is what the subtle “cabaret” feel on this album touches upon, possibly. If there was Fender Rhodes on this it would remind me heavily of Red Peal. The guitar tips itself slowly down an infinite well of Shoegaze in a most pleasant manner.
Kammerer includes two tracks that are all her own work – “Time Shaped Face“ and “This Is Not A Dream”. “High” is an urgent mid-90s Dutch anarcho-bar cabaret torch song. On “High”, there is liberal use of Burkhard Stangl’s vibraphone and delay/reverb fx cutting cleanly into Kammerer’s vocals. All good, for sure, but by track seven, “mmmm”, things are getting a bit slow perhaps. “This Is Not A Dream” reminds me of an off kilter version of My Bloody Valentine and “Why Is The Sea So Blue” begins with almost a dawn in a tent in a field kind of vibe before going vibraphone-crazy in a David Lynch short.
Stereolab loom large in my mind at various points in this album, but unlike their cynically recycled myopic motoric gestures, filtered through a weird mid-60s influenced idea of Britpop, this “groop” really do play space-age batchelor pad music in the blinky night, but they are resident in a nightclub owned by David Lynch and Jack Nance. Incidentally, any of these pieces could work nicely as soundtracks to a documentary about Lynch’s snowman photography. Kammerer comes on like a more alert Laetitia Sadier. But This Space-Age Groop Don’t Play The Same Chemical Chord For Over Two Hours Of Every Single Night Of Their Lives.
At 34 minutes in total it is a pop album, at least it is my idea of pop.

Just Outside, Brian Olewnick:
I keep wanting to like the avant-song movement that, among others, involves Kammerer and Christof Kurzmann much more than I end up liking it. This is a 2006 session, Kammerer and Kurzmann accompanied by three other fine musicians, Axel Dörner, Burkhard Stangl (vibes in addition to guitar) and Werner Dafeldecker, who is really good here. Percussionists Big Daddy Mugglestone [sic] and Marcello Silvio Busato also appear. My problem is a combination of not entirely getting into the vocals combined with the feeling that the song structures uncomfortably straddle the area between more traditional composition and a kind of looseness they apparently strive for but, to my ears, miss both. Here, lyrics often taken from existing standards or poems are set to music by Kammerer, arranged by Kurzmann.
Kammerer’s voice reminds me a bit of Astrud Gilberto in the sense of having a limited range but whereas the latter had a voice that I can happily lose myself in no matter its sameness, Kammerer’s wears me out rather quickly. Elsewhere, I recall Julie Tippett but without the bite. That sameness pervades the compositions as well. They’re languid, relaxed to the point of sliding to the floor. It’s rare that I really have any desire to hear a hook but damned if I didn’t feel that way several times during this disc. There’s a zone that can exist intermediately, to be sure–Ashley mines it regularly to great effect–but for these ears, there’s too much shapelessness, too much similarity in the vocal lines. Studio atmospherics, including echo, are overused. It is a very intimate recording and if one thinks of the music more as a casual, living room performance, it has its charms.

Boston Hassle, Patrick Collins:
Forgive the impressionistic descriptions here, but the title track from Margaret Kammerer’s Why Is The Sea So Blue (Mikroton) is a musical isolation tank. The record is a product of multiple collaborations over seven years: Kammerer set high and low verse, Christoph Kurzmann arranged the songs into jazzy kaleidoscopes, and Valerio Tricoli remixed the tracks into weightless orbs. One can sense the plural sources, of voices slowly colliding into and enveloping each other. The result elicits strange feelings of both dissociation and convergence, the kinetic stillness of open water.
A concise statement of the thematic head. Syncopated vocal lines are awash in the intertwining resonances of monolithic guitar arpeggios, ghostly harmonics, metallic refractions of lap steel, and sinusoidal string-like synth. Staggered delays and superimposed doublings displace pulse – a rotation around oscillating chords instead of a temporal progression.
Morphing the head with improvised elaboration. A lonesome, streetlight trumpet solo, lulling and lyric, bruised and beatnik, with occasional compound interval leaps that flash like bioluminescence. The wisp of wordless voice rejoins. The vibraphone shimmers. The trumpet and its double explore the polar ends of its range, blooming timbre from pure mutes through rough Alveolar trills.
A suspended calm in sinking descent before drowning.

Improv Sphere, Julien Héraud:
Comme le dit le label, Margareth Kammerer continue d’explorer avec Why is the sea so blue les chansons dans un contexte expérimental. En réalité, si tous les musiciens sont issus des musiques improvisées et expérimentales, cette suite de neuf chansons est tout de même bien plus proche de la chanson que de l’expérimentation sonore. Aux côtés de Margareth Kammerer (voix, guitare), on retrouve Christof Kurzmann (voix, saxophone), Axel Dörner (trompette), Burkhard Stangl (vibraphone), Werner Dafeldecker (contebasse), ainsi que Big Daddy Mugglestone aux percussions et Marcello Silvio Busato à la batterie, sur quelques titres.
Vu comme ça, quand on retrouve quatre des membres les plus importants du réductionnisme et de l’echtzeitmusik (Kurzmann, Dörner, Stangl et Dafeldecker), on s’attend à quelque chose de très abstrait. Mais la musique de Kammerer n’a rien d’abstrait, et rappelle plutôt les excursions pop de Kurzmann (the magic i.d – groupe auquel a participé Kammerer, ou el infierno musical). Sur des accompagnements musicaux jazzy avec tout de même une large part de nappes sonores un peu abstraites qui évoquent le post-rock, Kammerer seule ou en duo avec Kurzmann propose un chant lyrique, sobre, intime, et un tantinet froid. Il y a un côté Art Bears dans cette ambiance parfois un peu sombre et froide proche du film noir, mais le tout est réchauffé par le côté un peu swinguant (même si le swing est bien lent) des instrumentistes.
Comme pour The Magic I.D., on retrouve les longues notes, les pauses, la superposition du chant harmonique et des instrumentations atmosphériques. En plus, le son a été superbement traité et est d’une qualité irréprochable. Avec cet album, Kammerer propose une suite de neuf chansons vraiment agréables, personnelles et belles. Des chansons aux ambiances très variées, souvent lentes et sombres, mais parfois assez chaleureuses ou colorées avec un accompagnement musical discret mais très inventif. Vous voulez de la pop de qualité, une sorte de post-rock décalé proche du jazz et de l’electronica, en voilà de très bonne qualité.

Vital Weekly, Frans de Waard:
Something else, completely and utterly something else, is the music by Margaret Kammerer, of whom I never heard. Maybe Mikroton wants to run a little side business, or perhaps these musicians want to do a bit of jazz anyway. We recognize in her ‘backing band’ Christof Kurzmann (voice, saxophone), Axel Dörner (trumpet), Burkhard Stangl (vibraphone) and Werner Dafeldecker (double bass), while Kammerer plays guitar and sings; with a bit of percussion by Big Daddy Mugglestone and and Marcello Silvio Busato. These nine pieces were already recorded in 2006 and the lyrics are by by Ned Washington, E.E. Cummings, Cole Porter, and such like and, well, alright, it might not be entirely jazz like, there is a jazz like feel to these pieces, especially in the way Kammerer sings these songs. The music is sparse at most of the times, but melancholic and moody, like we have been invited down to a smokey night club; except that the music is perhaps not entirely jazz standards. It’s interesting to hear these musicians playing this kind of music and it’s great to find such a release on Mikroton, even when, on the other hand, none of this is really my cup of tea.

Monsieur Delire:
J’ai, comment dire, “résisté” à la chanteuse-guitariste allemande Margaret Kammerer jusqu’à ce jour. Or, Why Is The Sea So Blue a eu raison de moi. Ce tour de chant est fort réussi. Kammerer ne figurera problablement jamais sur la liste de mes chanteuses préférées (quelque chose dans son grain m’irrite), mais le travail de composition et d’arrangement de ces nouvelles chansons m’épate. Kammerer y met en musique des poèmes de Cummings et Coleridge, entre autres, mais aussi des paroles de chansons très connues (“My Foolish Heart,” “Everytime We Say Goodbye” de Cole Porter) pour lesquelles elle a écrit de nouvelles musiques. C’est très intéressant. Elle est aussi bien entourée: Christof Kurzmann (mais uniquement aux choeurs et au saxo; pas d’électroniques), Axel Dörner, Burkhard Stangl et Werner Dafeldecker (les deux derniers de Polwechsel). Plus convaincant que les albums du groupe The Magic I.D. (dont font partie Kammerer et Kurzmann). [Ci-dessous: Vidéo officielle pour la pièce titre, texte et musique de Kammerer.]
How can I say this… until now, I had “resisted” to German singer/guitarist Margaret Kammerer. But Why Is The Sea So Blue is winning me over. This song cycle is just too good to resist. I will probably never include Kammerer in my top female vocalists – something about her timbre irritates me – but the composition and arrangement work in these new songs is stunning. Kammerer turned poems by Cumming and Coleridge (among others) into songs, and lyrics from well-known songs (“My Foolish Heart,” Cole Porter’s “Everytime We Say Goodbye”) into brand new songs. Very interesting approach. And she is well surrounded: Christof Kurzmann (on back vocals and saxophone only; no electronics), Axel Dörner, Polwechsel’s Burkhard Stangl and Werner Dafeldecker. More convincing than the albums by Kammerer and Kurzmann’s band The Magic I.D. [Below: Official promo video for the title track, lyrics and music by Kammerer.]

freiStil, Andreas Fellinger:
Ganz andere Töne evoziert die Sängerin und Gitarrespielerin Margareth Kammerer samt Gästen (Christof Kurzmann, voc, sax, arr; Axel Dörner, tp, Burkhard Stangl, vib; Werner Dafeldecker, b; Big Daddy Mugglestone, Macello Silvio Busats, perc). Erläutert wird die rhetorische Frage why is the sea so blue. Kurzmann hat die Arrangements für deren Beantwortung zu verantworten und ist nach längerer Zeit wieder einmal am Saxofon zu hören, während Stangl ausnahmsweise das Vibrafon bespielt. Im weitesten Sinn verhandelt man hier Jazzsongs, aus der Komplexität gewinnt man eine Schlichtheit, wie sie auch das Quartett The Magic I.D. (u.a. mit Kammerer und Kurzmann) verkörpert.

Skug, Curt Cuisine:
Blau wie die See, schwarz wie die Nacht CD No. 26, »Why Is The Sea So Blue«, stammt von der Südtiroler Sängerin Margareth Kammerer und glänzt mit einem großartigen deutsch-österreichischen Line up (Christof Kurzmann, Axel Dörner, Burkhard Stangl, Werner Dafeldecker). Wir hören eine eigenwillige Auslotung zwischen Jazz und Elektroakustik, bei der Jazzstandards in betörender Sperrigkeit gegen den Strich gebürstet werden, wobei sich Kammerer wohlgemerkt nur die Songtexte ausborgt. Herrlich, wie das von Song zu Song stilistisch ausfranst und doch ganz dem Klangspektrum des Ensembles treu bleibt. Auf dem Stück »mmmm«, ein Duett mit Christof Kurzmann, lachen einem sogar die Extended Versions kurz entgegen. Nicht nur für hopelessly devoted fans eine schwere Empfehlung.

Современная музыка, Илья Белоруков:
Новые Mikroton’ы. Какие они? Первое, что приходит на ум при прослушивании – пост-рок. Никогда ранее релизы московского лейбла не звучали так музыкально, так правильно. Кажется, что заранее знаешь, что будет в следующем треке. Остаётся лишь получать удовольствие от самой музыки. Однако, это не всегда получается: мысль “Почему это выпустил Mikroton?” периодически возникает в голове.
Альбом ансамбля Михаэля Тике (Michael Thieke) – это коллаж из очень сильно отличающихся композиций самого немца или совместных импровизаций международного состава (имена можно легко найти на сайте лейбла, не буду их перечислять). Тут и полевые записи, тут и электроакустические дебри, тут и фри-импров. Но почему-то основными центрами альбома хочется обозвать как раз-таки пост-роковые темы. Всё, что до и после них, хорошо, но фоново, если не безлико. Эти же треки выигрывают за счёт красивых наслоений поверх отлично сыгранной ритм-секции: приём всегда срабатывающий. Но ведь “Ночные песни” и должны быть такими: тихими, в полутьме, расслабляющими и ненавязчивыми, лёгкими. Да, под этот альбом можно сладко заснуть, что я и сделал уже не раз.
Диск Маргарет Каммерер (Margareth Kammerer) вроде бы из этой же серии: полу-импров, песни, электроакустика, но пост-рок. Ну, конечно, это не Sigur Ros или Mogwai. Тут всё тоньше и деликатнее, играют-то мастера импровизационной сцены наших дней. Но почему тогда опять в голове это пресловутое и вроде обидное словосочетание “пост-рок”? Похоже, что я понял: дело в прилизанности записи. Всё плавно и комфортно, без острых углов и лишних экспериментов. Казалось бы, слушай! Но нет, непривычно, ждёшь от Mikroton совсем других вещей. А вот голос Маргарет, парящий над звуком группы, хрупок и прекрасен, спору нет.
Я бы рекомендовал эти диски начинающим поклонникам импрова, приходящим в эту музыку из рок-тусовок, коммюнити эмбиент-музыкантов или же неравнодушных к романтичной музыке барышень типа Джулии Холтер (Julia Holter). Mikroton’у: респект за то, что издаёт разную музыку и не боится этого делать, и дисреспект за то, что эти релизы чересчур правильно звучат, если сравнивать их с прошлыми выпусками.