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(independent release As broadcast on WVIA-FM 8/7/2013)
Being of a certain age, I tend to be drawn to recordings by younger groups who incorporate influences from previous generations. And there are a lot of very good examples of such music ranging from thoroughly retro to merely hinting of some of the older sounds.
But it's interesting to hear what emerging young groups are doing musically -- at least the ones who are not copycatting the commercial hits -- and especially when the group is innovative in their own way. And this week we have good example. It's a band called Nosoyo, and their debut recording is called Just Before the Faint.
Nosoyo is a young quintet from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Founded and led by German-born Donata Kramarz who has been living in Amsterdam for the past few years, the group had previously released this CD in Europe last year, but now Just Before the Faint is getting some promotion in the US. I think that the operative word about their album is "interesting" in the best sense. The group is influenced by some of the more contemporary 21st Century pop, but their sound is eclectic enough that it's not obvious where they are getting their musical ideas. Ms. Kramarz is an appealing vocalist, frequently singing in a manner that can reflect the moody and at-times atmospheric nature of some of the songs, and she occasionally can do some vocal gymnastics approaching yodeling. The compositions and arrangements are what makes the band's CD so intriguing: intelligent rock with occasionally quirky rhythms. Lyrically, the Just Before the Faint is open for interpretation. The words were written by someone for whom English is perhaps a third language, so they can range from poetic to sophomoric. They can be inscrutable enough that fans can have fun dissecting them. The band's publicity bio says that the songs' subjects are the timeless ones of love and death. The band is self-contained on the CD except for flute on one song.
Leading off is one the best tracks on the record, Close to Me. It's musically interesting in a number of ways, including its quirky rhythmic line at the song's outset, <<>> and Ms. Kramarz' excellent vocals that demonstrate her considerable range. <<>>
Rather more contemplative in sound is a piece called Stepping Stone, with lyrics that are on the border between poetic and fatuous. But musically, the band makes the song worthwhile. <<>>
On one of the subjects set forth in the band's bio, is a song called Closest to Death. It's folkier than most of the rest of the album. <<>>
A track called Bloody Mary Poppins has some of the more inscrutable lyrics. Stylistically the song hints at a jazz waltz at the beginning <<>> before going into one of the few instrumental solos on the recording. <<>>
For me, one of the best sets of lyrics comes on the track Mirrors. The piece is quite atmospheric and another notable high point of the album, though definitely taking a darker approach than much of the rest of its material. <<>>
On the other hand, the band's quirkiness reaches its height -- or maybe low point -- on a tune called Smoke Signals. <<>>
There is track sung in Ms. Kramarz's native German called Dreck. Unfortunately, there is no translation in the CD's liner notes or on the band's website for the monolingual. It one of the more rock-oriented pieces Nosoyo offers.
The CD ends with From Now On, a song that the band had issued as a single before the completion of their album. The piece sums up the interesting mixture of sounds and influences that Nosoyo represents. <<>>
Just Before the Faint, the new debut album by the Dutch-based group Nosoyo is an intriguing record by a young contemporary band who definitely come up with their own sound: a creative mixture of mostly contemporary influences, but eclectic enough that one cannot easily pick out any obvious sources of musical inspiration. The music is always engaging -- for alterative rock -- and while the lyrics are sometimes a little muddled or too poetic for their own good, most of the time, they succeed in addressing the topics for which they set themself up to expound upon: love and death. The band's website does not provide and origin for the band's name, but if read out loud, in Spanish "No Soy Yo" means "I am not me" or "myself."
Our grade for sound quality is a "B." The recording is rather good for an alternative-rock CD, with fairly decent clarity, but the sound is volume-compressed to be loud all the time, killing much of the ebb and flow of the music.
Nosoyo, though clearly part of the contemporary alternative rock-influenced scene is a difficult band to categorize. And for me that's a good thing. Their combination of musical elements that avoid cliches, the pleasing vocals of principal songwriter Donata Kramarz and the textures which run from rock noir to atmospheric, makes this a satisfying listen.
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