Sunday Munich is a duo from Atlanta (Georgia):
vocalist Sarah Hubbard and multi-instrumentalist Avis.
Their marriage of gothic rock and dance music debuted on the
innovative and entertaining album Pneuma (Kyat, 1998).
While textures and beats are crucial at establishing the mood of these somber
ballads, it is the singer's impersonations that steal the show.
She starts off as Bjork's little sister in
Prozac, sung as a childish lullaby, surrounded by
ghostly piano, mournful cello and swampy backbeat; a pattern that recurs in
Capable of harrowing manic depressions, Hubbard sounds like
Lydia Lunch in the
hypnotic psychodrama Smallest Tragedy, set against an arrangement
that approaches the austerity of chamber music,
and like Sinead O'Connor in the
vibrant middle-eastern shuffle Tiny.
While Avis sails toward a busier rhythm,
Hubbard's whispered somniloquy echoes
Cocteau Twins' dream-pop in Home.
Hats off to the sonic sculptor, who manufactures claustrophobic pieces such as
Ugly and Two Missing, in which the voice becomes merely one of
Rhythm is always lively and creative, and the cello is the second voice of the
disc. Notably omitted are both the guitar and the keyboards. The format is
rare, if not unique: a singer accompanied mainly by percussions and cello.
Emphasizing the gothic element and downplaying the dance element on
Vinculum (Precipice, 2000) did not benefit the project.
The album is a 16-track monster, but few tracks are as memorable as
Prozac, even if vocalist Sarah Hubbard's phrasing has improved
and the production is slicker.
Once you heard opening track Dent, you heard half the album.
Sure: the instrumental Phone is wrapped in choir samples and haunting
guitar tones, Her Name lets the voice float in a distorted psychedelic
space, and Feeling Here (almost a leftover from the first album)
has a harder edge.
But too many tracks use similar rhythms and similar melodies, whereas variety
was the first album's main weapon.
Somehow the emotional tension of the first album is gone.
The second half of the album restores some of the magic with
Cell, a delicate madrigal sung through a filter and accompanied only by
Flu, a slower number that returns to the cello-piano interplay of the first album.
A shorter album without the filler would have probably better served the cause
of Sunday Munich.
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