Elfi Aichinger

Kiss the Frog

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AllMusic Review by

The art songs and compositions of singer Elfi Aichinger have long been a part of Germany's fringe music scene, shrouded in mystery and obscurity. This album then, the first in a series cataloging her works with piano accompanist Stephan Maass, is a welcome revelation of how strangely beautiful they are. There are nine songs on Kiss the Frog, among them are some of Aichinger's finest songs, including the enigmatic "Fear Is the Stranger" and the truly heartbreakingly beautiful "Memory of Without Memory." Often there are no words in Aichinger's songs, her open alto coursing through compositions rife with ostinato and almost minimalist melodic and harmonic ideas. For instance, "The Snow Has No Voice" offers a single haunting phrase played over and over again with only a wordless vocal floating in its foreground, hovering, like a ghost of a voice that has been exiled to the margin. On "Cause We Are," syncopated time signatures chop and slip through a tiny melody leaving it all but unrecognizable, and Aichinger's voice offers the lyric and its attendant sounds as both forethought and afterthought but never as part of the musical narrative. Other places' great groans and fire-spitting syllables come charging from the center of the mix and bring attention to the two- or three-note figure in the bass clef on the piano ("Hundsturm Troubles"). No matter what the architecture though, Aichinger's individuation and respect for the ideology of song comes through. As she tears down acceptable notions of what that might be, she replaces them with new ones. This is a compelling and sometimes unnerving set that is not for the squeamish, but holds great reward for the adventurous.

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