on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2012 20 Jan

Caroline says (in praise of Mr. Sam Genders)

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog,Musik aus 2012 | TB | 3 Comments



The brains behind Diagrams is former Tunng frontman Sam Genders, who spent the last three years working in a primary school and extricating himself from an emotionally „dark place“. Fittingly, Black Light is a departure from Tunng’s folktronica: Genders has mostly jettisoned the folk, and retained the tronica, yielding an album similar in spirit to Hot Chip and Moloko. The sound is precision-tooled – all brittle beats and loping basslines – with Genders’s sweet, multi-layered vocals imparting the human touch. Human? If anything, he sounds all too fallible, sketching intimate scenes as if speaking to himself: „In the morning light I was baking up bread in the afterglow of a long night spent in your motorcade of intense red words.“ Cavity-wall insulation is provided by guitar, trombone and strings, giving the end result a warm, melodic sheen. Both accessible and experimental – check out the off-kilter jazz creation Appetite – this album is a real winter warmer. (Caroline Sullivan, The Guardian)

Oh, eine neue momentane Lieblingsplatte. Mit Bedauern nahm ich vor Jahren zur Kenntnis, dass Sam Genders, eine der zwei zentralen Figuren der sehr britischen Folk-Exzentriker von Tunng, die Gruppe verließ. Er war in einem dunklen Loch gelandet, deren Details nie an die Öffentlichkeit gelangten. Er kehrte in seinen gelernten Beruf zurück, und ganz behutsam näherte er sich wieder der Welt der Töne.

Das Wunderbare an diesem raffinierten Luftgebilde namens BLACK LIGHT hat Karoline in prägnante englische Worte gefasst. Das Absurde, das Verrückte, geht Ton in Ton mit einer sehr einladenden, pophimmelbewohnenden Leichtigkeit. Solches Leichtgewicht zu produzieren ist allemal eine Kunst, denn hinter der schwebend-pulsierenden Scheinnaivität werden gleich reihenweise Dämonen ausgetrieben.

So ist es ein Zaubertrick, wie Genders‘ zarter Gesang die Untertreibung schlechthin verkörpert. Fast schon körperloser Gesang, und der Anhänger schwarzer Soulstimmen wird sich fragen, ob dieser Mann das Wort „Teppich“ mit der gleichen Emphase singen mag wie das Wort „Liebe“. Man schnappt eine Zeile auf, und schwupps!, verwandelt sich die Stimme in Sound.

Die Wortbilder lösen sich in Luft auf. Auf solch sanften Wellen zu reiten, kann auch bei großen Klangartisten rasch Ermüdung produzieren, man denke an die leicht monotonen Sanftmütigkeiten von Sam Prekop, oder die stets etwas zuckrigen  Arrangements des Beach Boys-Bewunderers Sean O’Hagan. Sam Genders‘ Kompositionskunst ist raffinierter. Das Flüchtige besitzt hier eine gefährliche Unscheinbarkeit.

Wie Alice im Wunderland bannt Sam Genders mit seinen DIAGRAMS manches Grauen mit spielerischem Witz, einem unendlichen, ja, liebevollen Gesangsstrom, der zwar immer über der Erde schwebt, aber aus dunklen Träumen stammt. Dabei ist das Feld weit genug; in einem Lied backt das singende Ich Brot und trinkt heißen Tee, in einem andern fordert er uns auf, mit ihm zum eisigen Berg zu fliegen, und mit den Löwen dort umherzukreisen … Und, glauben Sie mir, der Mann hat kein Drogenproblem.

This entry was posted on Freitag, 20. Januar 2012 and is filed under "Blog, Musik aus 2012". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Caroline Sullivan hat diese treffliche Besprechung der CD BLACK LIGHT von DIAGRAMS für den Guardian geschrieben. Ich habe dieser Musik mit großer Freude gelauscht, heute Abend, während draußen vor dem Nordsee Hotel auf Borkum das Meer stürmt (mit Blitz und Donner, das volle Programm)

  2. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Genders’ vocals will be familiar to Tunng fans, but it’s with Diagrams that he really comes into his own. His Derbyshire accent and soft, almost breathless qualities dominate and help bolster the album’s spectral qualities. There’s also something quintessentially British about the near-deadpan delivery and the dry sprinklings of eccentric and absurdist humour among the lyrics.

    It’s an effervescent album full of successful and unpretentious ideas – a less safe pair of hands could easily have resulted in esoteric Shoreditch wank but Genders and co have created a heady combination of diversity and invention without losing any pop sensibility. The thing that immediately hits you is that there’s no doubt or chin-stroking while you wait for a track to grow on you – this album gets it’s hooks into you immediately. Fans of the genre may desire something more emotionally distant, but the warmth of Genders’ approach is the album’s greatest asset and goes a long way to make Black Light an enjoyable delight. (Darren Lee)

  3. Michael Engelbrecht:

    Scattered throughout the press release for Diagrams‘ debut album Black Light are continual variations on the word pop: ‚minimalist pop‘; ‚funk pop‘; ‚dubby pop‘; ‚leftfield pop‘. It sparked a memory of a conversation I had with a friend many years ago about what the true definition of pop music actually was. He argued that the likes of The Beatles were pop, as they were ‚popular music‘. My argument was that I saw pop as being more a specific melody-driven, dance-beat orientated construct born out of music becoming a consumer product: an attempt to fit the shape to the hole rather than build the perimeter around the shape. Of course, we quickly moved on when seemingly more important topics arose (like constructing and conducting a ‚world cup‘ of girls at our school…as you do) but for some reason, this conversation has always stuck in my mind. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I’ve realised that things aren’t that simple to pigeonhole. Yes, we have and always will have consumer pop which can range from the utterly sublime to the grotesquely ugly. But over the course of the last 50 years, pop has twisted itself into new and weird ways. For example, were Talking Heads pop? On the surface, probably not. But when you explore the melodic constructions, dynamics and golden choruses, they had more in common with conventional pop than many would care to admit. The rules have changed now; the boundaries are no longer so simple to define. So after all that, my friend was probably right. The sod…

    And these cracks between definitions are where the seeds of Diagrams (the product of former Tuung frontman Sam Genders) grow from. Essentially, Black Light sounds like Tom Vek giving Sufjan Stevens a piggyback with Gruff Rhys and Guy Garvey looking on and yelling encouragement. It is a sumptuous blend of jerking rhythms, sweet melodies, sonic oddities, electronic loops, acoustic guitars and gruffly endearing admonishments. Much of it is comprised of taut white-boy grooves, as neatly emphasised on the euphoric ‘Tall Buildings’, the alternating wire-strung snap and orchestral swells of ‘Appetite’ and the Vek vs. Elbow tussle and skitter of ‘Mills’. Diagrams are however, remarkably adept at developing neatly ramshackle bric-a-brac’s of a softer nature: opener ‘Ghost Lit’ and ‘Night All Night’ being particularly striking examples of this. It manages to do an approximation of ‘Close To Me’ by The Cure at a Laser Quest disco on the title track and even twists the melodic fanfares of Sufjan’s ‘The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders’ in a weirdly wonderful manner on ‘Antelope’: this is not an album lacking in confidence, ambition or skill. The closing ‘Peninsula’ wraps everything up in a suitably epic manner: the warm, sweet introduction building into a marvellous electronic charge towards the finish line. Throughout it all run a continual series of neatly tessellating rhythms – rhythms that change and vary but eventually re-appear around the record in a cyclical manner. It is this commitment to the beat and the groove that ultimately helps to pin the record together, allowing the free-form ideas and melodic prettiness to bloom without any concern or threat.

    Aside from the quality and continual innovation, one of the strongest compliments that can be given to Black Light is that each and every track sounds distinct and individual, suggesting that Genders has chosen to intentionally vary his angle of approach. I’ve always considered that to be a mark of both quality and confidence in a musical outfit: it is very easy to simply repeat but more challenging and ultimately rewarding to vary, reframe and reposition your sound. If there’s one thing to consider putting on the Diagrams wish-list, it is that one or two stridently mainstream-orientated singles could very easily push them into the centre of public attention (in the same way that Hot Chip achieved with ‘Over and Over’). Whether Diagrams actually want this is another question entirely, but in a just and fair world, many more people would be listening to music of this undoubted calibre. And after all, the likes of Talking Heads and The Beatles got away with the weird and darkly experimental stuff because they surrounded them with gleaming and easily accessible gems.

    Ultimately, despite the cerebral design of the record – its intelligently constructed archways, its tastefully decorated corners and its whip-smart grooves – the feeling I walked away from Black Light with was one of joy and intense satisfaction. And ultimately, isn’t that – aside from any genre definitions or boundary lines – the true definition of great pop music? Words are interchangeable, feelings less so. A delightful and thoroughly rewarding piece of work. – David Edwards

Manafonistas | Impressum | Kontakt | Datenschutz