Various Artists

Monika Bärchen: Songs for Bruno, Knut & Tom

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AllMusic Review by Heather Phares

Monika Bärchen: Songs for Bruno, Knut & Tom celebrates Monika's tenth year of releasing music that's largely electronic and often created by women; it's entirely thoughtful and unique with a collection of previously unreleased tracks from the label's roster. Songs such as Quarks' "Willkommen," Lile's "Sticky Images," and Michaela Melián's "Locke Pistole Kreuz" define the delicate, feminine electronic music that Monika is often known for, but the collection goes wider and deeper than that: Eglantine Gouzy & Landini's "L.A." offers electronic pop that's catchy but never obnoxious, and Iris' "Fever" and Mico's "I See a Soul" deliver subtle sensuality. Rosario Bléfari's "Verdad" is punk en Español that goes even farther afield of the usual Monika sound, and the acoustic pop of Masha Qrella's "Goodnight Lovers" is so simple and straightforward that it's an automatic standout. On the other hand, intricate instrumentals like Robert Lippok's "Heart of Nuut Picked by the Crows of Neu Koeln," and Max Punktezahl's "Dashes" reflect the label's commitment to more strictly electronic artists as well. Not surprisingly, though, two of the collection's best moments come from its stalwarts: Monika founder Gudrun Gut's "Monika in Polen" shows the same gift for creating vital atmospheres that she did on her long-awaited debut album I Put a Record On, but with a more light-hearted vibe, as she turns chirping birds, a Polish folk song, and rounded beats into a playful, head-nodding track. Longtime Monika artist Barbara Morgenstern turns in another highlight with "Wilderness," a subtly elegant meditation on nature vs. nurture and instinct vs. civilization. Despite the comp's diversity, all of its tracks sound completely natural together, a sure sign that Monika is doing something right.

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