Some of the greatest rock record of all time spring from bands traveling – literally – outside of their comfort zones. Paul McCartney and Wings’ Band on the Run was largely recorded in Lagos, Nigeria (with all the drama one might expect from setting the Maccas loose in Africa); Exile on Main Street found its roots in France; and the Beach Boys’ Holland pretty much speaks for itself. For Los Angeles-based rock and art experimment [debut] and creator Gareth Thomas, that holy land was Berlin.
Thomas describes [debut]’s unusual format as “more than a band. It’s a music and art collective with an ever-changing cast.” Embracing the ambiance of Germany, [debut]’s Postcards From Berlin contains all the flavor one might expect from a pre-1989 East German techno outfit, merged with Western instrumentation and universal flavors. Take lead single “More Than This” for example. While some might find its thrashing backbeat a little off-putting, there’s a melodic, and even soothing, piano line that comes to the rescue and carries the song into legit pop territory. The mere fact that Thomas has bridged the gap between something that, on the surface, sounds so inaccessible, but upon closer inspection is almost safe, is a feat in and of itself.
That theme runs throughout Postcards, as “Want” begins as a pretty, if commonplace, pop tune that quickly evolves into something otherworldly, building to an explosive climax. That same moment is felt in many of the album’s 10 tracks (one of which is a hidden CD bonus track) in some form or another; the surprise lies in when and where it’ll happen. The only exception to the rule is the exquisite “Everyday I Love You More” which showcases sharp strings through its nearly five-minute run. It’s emotive, absolutely, but it’s also the balance the album needs to stand on its own, and it’s a credit to Thomas’ vision that he was able to recognize that it deserved a place among such cinematic material.
It’s not an oversight to say that everything about Postcards From Berlin is inventive and important, but possibly the most telling thing about the record is that it was completely fan-funded through Kickstarter. The people have spoken in a big way, and Gareth Thomas is answering with a satisfying and fresh collection of musical moments. Don’t be surprised if you hear these beats pumping out of a nightclub very soon – be it in Kreuzberg or Cleveland.