popshifter (US)

Gudrun Gut – Wildlife

Wildlife is the new album by Gudrun Gut, released on Gudrun’s very own Monika Enterprise label. Her last musical outing prior to this was her collaborative project known as Greie/Gut Fraktion (a partnership with Antye Greie), but Wildlife is an actual solo outing (her second official solo album since I Put a Record On from 2007).

Wildlife is an exquisite collection of themes that are definitely in touch with nature. What I mean is that the focus is on nature in more than one context. No, this is not a tree-hugging manifesto; it has more to do with being aware of your surroundings, in a physical, as well as an emotional manner. It focuses on the vulnerability of humans, as well as all other living organisms.

The concept of this album is definitely directly influenced by Gudrun’s environment when recording. It was created in the rural landscape of Uckermark, Germany. Uckermark is about two hours outside of Berlin (which has been Gudrun’s home most of her life). Berlin has always had an influence on Gudrun’s music; she has used its actual environmental noise in her compositions. With Wildlife, she has definitely incorporated Uckermark’s peaceful tranquility, including the fact that in bucolic settings, you are also surrounded by the unknown. Rural living has always been associated with a slower pace of life, but in actuality, it is not! Many dangers lurk, and your cries for help may go unheard (unlike in a metropolis). All sorts of living beings flourish, when uninterrupted.

I feel Gudrun has captured the idea of vulnerability with Wildlife succinctly. Field recordings of birds and insects swirl throughout as more than a mere motif. It gives you the sense that you are alone as a human, but not as a creature. Musically speaking, there are collages of not just living organisms, but inanimate objects, too. Heavy use of an oscillator is abundant, and drumbeats sound liquefied. One of the things that always stands out in Gudrun’s work—in contrast to her experimental waves of sound—her voice is always clear. Her vocals are more like a stream of consciousness narration, telling stories of her inner and outer workings.

The first track, “Protecting My Wildlife,” has a cyclic theme of what goes around, comes around. I got the metaphoric message of “Be Careful!” or “Take Care of Yourself!” because if you don’t, the worst of nature will be there waiting, and she won’t be so kind! “Garten” (German word for “Garden”) has a good groove to it. It clearly touches on the idea that a garden isn’t just a place where you grow plants, it’s more of a metaphor about living your life. It’s stated like a reading from a list of ingredients. “How Can I Move” is actually a bit comical in a way. It questions, more or less, how you can carry on in your own life without affecting another life.

The fourth track is a bit of a surprise—and that’s because it’s a cover song. A cover song of what? “Simply The Best,” yes, that big ’80s hit by Tina Turner. Despite the song’s popularity, the meaning of the lyrics has always been a bit lost. The lyrics on their own are emotionally vulnerable. They are pretty much about the theme of love, but if the love isn’t reciprocated, the lover in question would rather not be alive. Gudrun’s voice draws attention to the helpless pleas of love and admiration of another living being. As much as Tina is a vocal powerhouse, the emotional rawness of the lyrics themselves doesn’t come across. Gudrun’s narrative states it the way it was written.

“Tiger” has a primal and sexual energy to it. It’s not cheesy, either. In a way, it actually reminds me of Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf,” but from the female perspective. It is about sexual desire, but focuses on needs, not wants.

In regards to the track “Frei Sein,” I can’t really comment on lyrically (as I am not fluent in German), but musically it has an interesting contrast in sound. You hear delicate sounds of a child’s toy piano, mixed with a mechanical, churning, thud-like beat. Sonically, it invoked paranoia for me; it gives the impression of being chased. Maybe it is a segue from “Tiger” and possibly about being hunted.

“Little Nothing” is the longest song on the album; it swirls and swoops, but yet is hypnotic. It’s a mixture of an out-of-body experience, and a love song; honestly, it reminds me of an orgasm. Not the primal act of sex, but the leg-tingling part of it. The part wherein you detach from the act itself to only the pleasurable sensation, when you feel like you are floating.

“Erinnerung” is another one in German (so I cannot comment on its lyrics), but the title roughly translates to “memory” or “keepsake.” This track has a march-like beat and gives me the impression of getting back to business! Like, after the bliss is over . . . work needs to get done.

“Mond” is more or less an instrumental. Mond translates to “Moon,” and by the sound of the music itself, I believe this may be a reference to cycles of the moon, and how many moments in life are based around those cycles. The music throughout this album has a cyclical basis to it. There are random noises, but they all seem to tie in with a circular motion.

The last two tracks—”Leaves Are Falling” and “Slow Snow”—clearly represent autumn and winter, which are signs of how life has come full-circle, and sadly, will inevitably come to an end. Both are executed beautifully, and I feel end the album on a good note.

Overall, I really love Wildlife, and its concept. It almost makes death not seem so scary.

Music Review: Gudrun Gut, Wildlife