Let’s take it back for a minute and reminisce.
Eight years ago, give or take, we were more than halfway through the first millennial decade. Bush was still in office, Al Gore saddled us with An Inconvenient Truth (which may be worth a global re-watch…) and films like The Departed and Borat became frequent sources of quotation. Not to mention, slider phones were all the rage. These were much different times.
And, for all you indie-electronica inclined, this was the last blip of activity from the German duo, Stephanie Boehm and Micha Acher, collectively known as Ms. John Soda. They released Notes and the Like with a 2006 time stamp, and then drifted off into their other ventures with Couch or Notwist, leaving a shroud of mystery around their two-man band.
After a near decade-long stretch of radio silence, the Weilheim natives have re-emerged with their LP, Loom, released under the Morr Music label. The title is more than just a nod to events that have been a long time brewing. It’s a reference to the careful weaving of different strands into a single tapestry, which in this case would be comprised of feminine vocals, piano accompaniments, and—as their press release stated—“the intricate balance of electronic and analog molecules.” It’s this theme of new and old and delicately-balanced foils that define this album.
Take their track "Hi Fool," with its ambient, slow-to-unfold opening and spoken-word style of singing. At the song’s closing, Boehm spells out “Hi Fool” and “Bye Fool” in quick succession, capitalizing on that push and pull of trying to hold on but needing to let go (while also playing on the “let me spell it out for you” idiom, I gather). Then there’s "Millions," with a steady percussion and deep bass that hooked me from the start, self-described as a, “glistening, wheezing sort of madness.”
Along with Ms. John Soda’s main man and woman, the duo was accompanied by musicians like Jeffrey Logan on percussion and Matthias Götz on the trombone (who gives the LP those moments of dark, metallic timbre). As you go through the ten-track compilation, you realize Loom is a tightly-knit exploration of the nebulous driving forces of human nature, “intuitions, hopes, dreams, wishes, affinities and temptations.” It’s these kinds of high-concept ideas that the band had eight years to ruminate on, and then transcribe.
Their sign-off track, "Fall Away," is a soft-tempo exploration of the ruts we tend to find ourselves in at different points in life. The lyrics urge us to “Take the dry suit off for a night,” or break free from the rigid monotony of routine. It’s an interesting concept, especially from a band that’s gone off the grid for so long. It’s hard to say whether they’re back for good, after an eight-year refresh, or if this is a fleeting burst of activity. Either way, if Ms. John Soda has taught us anything, it’s there’s interest in unpredictability.