Barbara Morgenstern


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Fjorden is a remarkable leap forward for Barbara Morgenstern, released only a year after her tentative Monika debut, Vermona ET 6-1. There's a marked difference between the two, since both are formatted similarly, with vocal tracks interspersed by evocative instrumental ones -- except the sung numbers are much more fully developed here, both lyrically and structurally, while the music itself throughout the album is superlative in every regard: dynamics, melody, rhythm, and so on. The palette of electronic sounds from which Morgenstern crafts her songs has increased several fold. For instance, the sounds of Vermona ET 6-1 are bleepy, for the most part, and quite rudimentary by electronica standards. However, here on Fjorden, Morgenstern incorporates all kinds of sounds, from found sounds to treated samples to standard instrumentation, thereby giving the album a much broader range of sounds overall. Each song is unique musically, as well as in terms of tempo and mood, and this variety is furthered by the increased employment of lyrics, with the singing well in the forefront of each vocal track. Morgenstern seems to be writing and singing with much more confidence here, putting herself center stage and expressing herself to a greater degree creatively. This sense is perhaps confirmed by the album cover, which is a close-up shot of Morgenstern's face, a highly personal image that couldn't be more in contrast to the cover of Vermona ET 6-1, which featured a sterile close-up image of an electronic musical appliance. The contrast between Fjorden and Vermona ET 6-1 is noteworthy in many ways, clearly, yet it's the overall achievement of Fjorden that should be stressed. With this album, Morgenstern arrived as a major artist among the German indie electronic underground, and every album of hers henceforth would be an accomplishment. The first several tracks of Fjorden, in particular, are amazing and among her best work ever. The album does slow down and meander as it passes its halfway point, but the music remains generally engaging as it eases toward the lulling finale, "Der Wunsch Teil Drei."

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