Premiere: Single: Alex Stolze ft. Ben Osborn and Anne Müller ‘Babylon’

April 9, 2020

PREMIERE/Dominic Valvona




Alex Stolze ft. Ben Osborn and Anne Müller   ‘Babylon’
(Nonostar)   Single/10th April 2020


A Nonostar imprint communion, chamber-electronic star Alex Stolze once again teams up with his label’s roster of congruous artists to poetically lament about an ever-fracturing Europe on the new biblical augur entitled single ‘Babylon’. Receiving its UK premiere on the Monolith Cocktail ahead of its official release on the 10th April, this sparse, stark but gorgeously arranged neoclassical elegy brings together the talents of violinist, composer, label boss Stolze, lyricist, pianist, award-winning sound designer and deft soundtrack composer of acclaimed “libretti” Ben Osborn, and renowned experimental-cellist and solo artist Anne Müller.

Repeated foils, both Osborn and Müller have collaborated with the Berlin-based Stolze on number of occasions in the last few years: Müller joining Stolze and the UK polymath Sebastian Reynolds on two volumes of the Anglo-German Solo Collective project, and Osborn, finding common ground through his shared Jewish ancestry with the former Bodi Bill, Unmap, and the experimental avant-garde Dictaphone star, releasing his debut LP Letters From The Border on Stolze’s burgeoning label in 2019.

Channeling that Jewish musical heritage once more on this fragile suite, Osborn’s perceptive and haunting Tarot liturgy-rich lyrics, sung by Stolze, echo over a classical bowed Eastern European toiled arrangement of despair and protest at the state of a continent on its downers. A plaintive chamber-pop requiem simultaneously timeless and chiming with the political lurch towards populism, nationalism and a rejection of neo-liberalism and institutions in general, ‘Babylon’ is a foreboding travail through an imagined vivid European wasteland.

As Alex explains: “Babylon is a tribute to community and the dreadful consequences that can occur when societies lose a sense of communal cooperation, with this in mind it made sense to develop Babylon in this highly collaborative way”.

Alex adds: ‘“Ben’s lyrics talk about what’s happening in Europe at the moment, and all over the world. My favourite phrase is ‘I was walking home through the streets unknown when a fist struck out of the silence, and a voice called ‘yours is to walk alone’. It’s an image our time, when nationalist and far right fear coincide with stock market crashes and it feels like we’ve gone back to 1929.”

But then came Coronavirus, and now all hell has been unleashed at a time of great fragility, not only Europe, but around the entire world. It remains to be seen how we all pull together, especially when the message is one of self-isolation and distancing.

 

You may very well detect it, but among the lofty inspirations for ‘Babylon’ are the later protest themed works of Leonard Cohen – specifically the albums You Want it Darker, The Future and I’m Your Man – and the legendary 1736 arrangement of the liturgical song ‘Stabat Mater’, by Italian composer Pergolesi. You can add just a hint of Anthony And The Johnsons too to that rich cerebral mix.

Stolze’s latest beatific if pining single follows on from a brilliant electronic chamber pop EP, Mankind Animal, and the 2018 fully realized album suite Outermost Edge. Highly political, yet preferring to romantically allude to the instability and rise of authoritarianism and the ongoing migrant crisis with both poetic sonnets and metaphors, Stolze provides neo-classical pop maladies and aching heart music that comments without division and rage. That last LP weaved sophisticated undulations of effects and synthesized waves with amped-up trip-hop like live drums brilliantly. ‘Babylon’ however returns to a more stripped, less synthesized augmented production. A song of unity in turbulent times, at a moment in history where minds have never been more concentrated, let’s hope the message of this song leaves an indelible impression, and sets in motion a change.


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