Music Reviews
Gregor Samsa

Gregor Samsa

Over Air

The Kora Records

I’ve already raved, at length, on these very electronic pages about Gregor Samsa’s album Rest. It was the sound of communal telepathy and wonderment, a group of egoless players in complete sympathy with one another, softly glittering drone wrought with very human hands. It was evocative of the best of 4AD, Kranky Records and/or Darla, with more than a hint of poised and stately chamber music. But whereas Rest was an album that was composed via email and other virtual means, with its members scattered across the country, Over Air is a completely different, full-throated performance. The bulk of the aptly-named Over Air is from a live radio performance given for Amsterdam’s VPRO Radio station in May 2008. And it’s downright fucking thrilling to hear all of Gregor Samsa in the same room, recreating, weaving the alchemical soundforms that made Rest so fucking special. It makes that album more human, while even more unreachable. Dig? Every dizzying high and plummeting low is present, and rendered far more directly and intimately than ever. The full membership of Gregor Samsa is present, cramped into a small radio studio creating music that summons forth wide, lush vistas, vas mountainous expanses, autumnal fields – almost ironic in that sense. The music becomes more in the moment, more human, and ambient, but the performances are so direct and so forceful that the songs are fuller than ever. The space itself, the particles in the air shudder and shake around the notes floating into the aether.

“Jeroen Van Aken’s” every lush piano chord and sotte voce swoon tugs at the heartstrings and makes cups runneth over. With the shudder of a cymbal before a simple drum tattoo propels the song forward over the lyrics, “it seems the devil’s got a hold on me” and a music box perfect glockenspiel, it’s almost too much! “Three” sounds like a walk down a narrow snowy path, under a brilliantly starry night. The gently urgent waves of piano buoys “Abutting, Dismantling” to a manic, uncertain place, all sawing strings and confused vocals – like a claustrophobic “All Tomorrow’s Parties” cut down to one verse, and then the sun peeks through at last. The idyll of “Young and Old” builds to a heroic crest of molten electric guitar (where did that come from?) and heartstomping string slides without ever losing that essential serenity.

In addition, the album contains some unreleased tracks. First off is an alternate mix of “Du Meine Leise,” that sounds like a Low song played on the last radio at the end of the world – the vocals are woozy and static ambiance crackles and lingers like a cloud. “XXX” is performed by a smaller lineup and reminiscent of AMP and Dead Voices on Air, and a there’s a remix of “We’ll Lean that Way Forever,” by fucking Labradford’s Bobby Donne. It’s bathysphere deep.

Is THIS the great lost This Mortal Coil album that I’ve been hoping for? And there’s a bonus video performance? Ye gods!


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