textura (UK)

In certain respects Los Angeles is a parallel work to Michaela Melián’s 2005 debut Baden-Baden: both albums are diverse, non-dance-based collections of pensive instrumentals, and both releases end with Roxy Music compositions featuring Melián’s singing, “A Song For Europe” on the first and “Manifesto” on the second. The new material is less exuberant by comparison, however, and more prone to introspection yet the brooding soundscapes remain affecting despite their less aggressive character. Playing violincello, Spanish guitar, ukulele, bass, organ, and melodica, the classically-trained FSK bassist and exhibiting multi-media artist simulates a mini-orchestra on the new album, and is aided by co-composer Carl Oesterhelt who contributes synthesizer, glockenspiel, and programming.

Prompted by its pole position and ten-minute length, I expected “Locke-Pistole-Kreuz” to be more epic in scope but Melián largely opts—not displeasingly, mind you—for brooding quietude and subdued atmosphere. Despite the mid-song addition of a metronomic electronic pattern, the piece unfolds meditatively with minimal piano chords and acoustic guitar the primary colours and a fuzzy string-and-horn drone. “Angel,” predictably, shines warm light upon its shimmering loops and stately tonal clusters, and adds further warmth with a four-note bass line and the near-subliminal presence of heavenly voices. The likewise pensive “Föhrenwald” exudes a kind of rustic mournfulness one hears in Eleni Karaindrou’s music, while the gentle pitter-patter of acoustic guitar and glockenspiel in “Stein” is almost drowned out by the lulling, Fenneszian blur that loops throughout.

Los Angeles isn’t all softly swirling loops and stately stillness, however, as a couple of infectious, dance-based songs make clear: “Stift,” a jaunty, countrified romp augmented by melismatic string punctuations, and especially “Convention,” which weaves a jazz piano sample, muted horn accents, and extended string tones into a pumping Euro-techno clubber that oozes macabre decadence. “Manifesto,” Melián’s Bryan Ferry homage, is a pumper too though one’s attention shifts away from the bass-heavy pulse to the singing once Melián’s rather manly sprechgesang appears. One other thing Los Angeles shares with Baden-Baden: both are rich and studiously-crafted labours of love that reward repeated listening.