Sunday Munich
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Pneuma , 6.5/10
Vinculum , 5.5/10
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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 Refrain,
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 the instruments.
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 guitar, and 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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