Tonic; Fri 23 Sound Fix; Sat 24
Thu Jun 22 2006
Photograph courtesy of Monika Enterprise
Even if she doesn’t perform her single “The Operator” at Tonic, Barbara Morgenstern will surely turn any number of hearts in the crowd to goo. There’s plenty of seductive power in the Berlin electronic-pop auteur’s flair for whipping up an orchestra’s worth of charm with only a laptop, one or two keyboards and her supple voice, even minus the repeating “take me” that anchors the single’s buoyant chorus. Besides, Morgenstern isn’t looking for love per se—she just wants directions. Like the rest of The Grass Is Always Greener, released in April on German indie Monika, the single was inspired by her 2004 Goethe Institut--sponsored world tour.
What stands out most on Morgenstern’s fourth solo album is that nothing stands out; her powers as a composer, vocalist, pianist, programmer and producer are so perfectly balanced that the whole totally overshadows the sum of its parts. Typically, given her spectacularly subtle M.O., she downplays the travelogue aspect, singing mostly in German and hewing to a more refined version of the elegant Eurofunk first revealed on 1999’s Vermona ET 6-1. But her palette has grown enormously. Splashes of pianistic color illuminate much of Grass, and the climax of the instrumental “Die Japanische Schranke” is all the more satisfying for the surprise appearance of frothy, metallic guitar. While we’re unsure what her stage setup will be like, anything Morgenstern does is bound to bedazzle.—Rod Smith