Singer Kristina Brodowski basks in the warmth of an orange stage light
The expression biding your time is an important one to creative people; true artistic success isn’t always tied into youth, or being on the cutting edge of fashion. Often creative people spend a good number of years becoming good at what they do, perfecting their technique, and weeding out their imperfections.
The problem with music, though, as a creative art is that it is so tied into commerce and the “rock star trajectory”, that the only way to be successful is to capture the youth market — and that often means by being young yourself. When you look at the bands that have had the biggest impact with a mass audience, they have often only ever been a few years older than the audience, and as they age, they take that audience with them, like the Rolling Stones have with the baby boomers.
German band The Sweeps, however, are a few years older than the average band and are working with the sounds they have grown up with, rather than a purely contemporary sound. A trio consisting of singer Kristina Brodowski, and Christoph Duwe and Niels Wesner, who both play synths; provide back up vocals; and add finishing touches with a glockenspiel and a melodica.
Their fourth self-released album, In the Night, showcases their affinity for analogue synthesizers like the Moog and the Italian designed string-synthesizer the ELKA. With many eighties elements in their music (think Cutting Crew, New Order and Clannad) they have acknowledged a love of Italian singer Valerie Dore and italo-disco, but also cite more recent influences like Röyksopp, Air and St Etienne.
Falling into the same class, as acts like Sally Shapiro (who were also influenced by Valerie Dore) and Ontario’s Junior Boys, the Sweeps have a more mainstream pop range, reminiscent of, funnily enough, Phil Collins, and English band Talk Talk (Gwen Stefani covered their song “It’s My Life” a few years back).
They nail a particular sound that a lot of younger artists are trying to emulate — that cool, French Riviera, discotheque sound, their success lying in the fact that have grown up with it and have a natural infinity for it — and are not just fetishisizing it as generational outsiders.
The other thing that is very interesting about this album is that many of the tracks segue together, something often not looked favourably upon by big record labels who want something that they can market in distinct chunks.
But an album, as a whole, is often a programmed journey for the listener; musicians think carefully about how all the tracks fit together to tell a story — not always conceptually, but in the mood that the songs evoke, and what kind of feelings the songs will stir in the listener. Major artists have often lamented about letting music executives make decisions about their track-listing in the final stages of their album, and wrecking the feel that they were looking for.
The Sweeps technical accomplishments on this album goes without saying; they have performed, recorded, and mixed the album entirely by themselves — and musically, its fantastic. Tracks like Days Gone By and Synthetic Lover are excellent; conjuring up an imaginative landscape, it would be great if at least a couple of these songs could make their way into normal radio airplay, or onto a movie soundtrack, the way that many neo-eighties songs were recently picked up by Nicolas Winding Refn for his Drive soundtrack.
Below is an extended remix by The Silicon Scientist of one of their earlier songs, Facing the Night, which was recently released on the fourth Radio Cosmos compilation. The original version appeared on their 2009 Missing Pieces album.
There is also a great video for another version of this song by Zak B, a dark trip through Laura Palmer country.
Electric Electric (2006)
The Great Lie about Eternity (2007)
Missing Pieces (2009)
Nostalgia for the Future EP (2010)
In the Night (2011)
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