~reviewed by Kevin Filan
The best music is both timely and timeless. It echoes the best of its era, yet transcends the commonplace and the trendy. At its best "Outerbeats," the latest release by German outfit Malory, meets that high standard. Variously evoking artrock, psychedelia, shoegazer, ambient/chill and Ethereal, "Outerbeats" never settles into one easy pigeonhole. It is the work of accomplished musicians who are familiar with several genres, yet who are never merely imitative.
In place of the bleep-whoosh synth sound we've all come to know and tolerate, keyboardist Jorg Kahler gives us grand harmonies reminiscent of the mellotron. "Lake of Doubts (Maladon Remix)" and "Painted Dreams" reminded me of the Moody Blues and early King Crimson, minus the pomposity and the pretensious lyrics. Both would have been standouts on a 70s Krautrock album. "Xirius Polar Station," on the other hand, would fit in nicely in any Ambient/Chill DJs set. A slow, pretty guitar shimmers above a keyboard wash, then gives way to tasteful drum/bass interplay from Sven Ziesche and Jorg Jakel. "The Choice You Have" and "I Can't Stand" are smoother, cleaner Shoegazer, while the standout tracks "Space in your Mind" and "Deja Vu" are tasty slices of neopsychedelia.
Malory's vocals are exceptional. Jorg Kahler's smooth tenor and Jordis Marschner's sweet soprano combine for harmonies which are greater than the sum of their parts. Alas, Jordis has since left the band. Her replacement, Daniela Neuhauser, makes her debut on "Falling Shine." Neuhauser is a superb vocalist -- but her lovely, ethereal wisp of a voice tends to get lost amidst the three-guitar-and-keyboard background. This is more a problem with production than anything else: bringing Neuhauser's soft Mazzy Star-esque singing to the forefront is no mean feat, particularly in a lushly instrumental band like Malory. Still, this is a minor quibble, and I suspect that they will have those bugs sorted out by their next release.
Malory's music is leisurely but rarely meandering. Much of the credit for this goes to drummer Jorg Jakel. His steady hand is particularly evident in "The Choice You Have" and "Argo Night Shuttle." To see what an important role he plays in the band, one need only listen to "Three Elements (Wanatu Remix)." While it's a nice enough song, and danceable (or "twirl-about-like-you're-changing-a-light-bulb-able", as the case may be), it really never takes off. The electronic drums keep the beat, but they're no substitute for the real thing.
I took a while to review "Outerbeats:" I couldn't find it. My girlfriend listened to this CD once and fallen in love with it. It went into her heavy rotation list, providing the soundtrack for her morning's commute into the city... and, once I finished reviewing it, I suspect it will go back into her "Bag O'Subway CDs." If you buy this CD, I suspect that you too will find yourself listening to it over and over... and, if you have a domestic partner, you may want to buy two copies.
Jorg Kahler: Vocals, guitar, programming
All songs written and performed by Malory