Dresden-born, Berlin-residing Jennifer Touch’s superb debut album, Behind The Wall, is a fierce combination of inspiration and curation. The album draws (very obviously) from synthpop and darkwave acts of yore, but also incorporates sounds from surprising sources to make up an album of rather extraordinary diversity.
This is an album that evokes the frozen, ghostly wildernesses of Eastern Europe under Soviet rule, but also the damp, close atmospheres of Germany’s all-night, smoke-indoors clubs. It’s a stylish record, and it takes icy detachment seriously.
Take for instance Iggy’s Sight, which sounds exactly like Cabaret Voltaire covering I Wanna Be Your Dog. It has intensity, groove and style – and it’s an elegant synthesis of two complementary sounds. The gloomy, descending Stooges riff fits perfectly with the heavily processed beats, and Jennifer’s haunting vocals are the perfect accompaniment to the stark atmospherics. And if you’re going to throw out a tribute to anyone, why not the man who started it all – Iggy Pop invented this whole style in 1977 with The Idiot. It’s a shame Jennifer didn’t reach out to Ig, as he’s banging out a collaboration every week or so these days.
The album flits through the whole kaleidoscope of shades of black. Kraftwerk’s haunted gothic masterpiece Radio-Activity is often a touchstone, especially on tracks like Imaginary Boys, Attic and especially Supersize. Attic sounds as though it’s encased in ice on a far-flung planet somewhere floating in the cosmos, Imaginary Boys sounds like a ghostly dispatch from behind a Berlin Wall that never came down, and Supersize is grandiose and shot through with a doomy darkness. Teflon, with its operatic, almost baroque sense of saturnine grandeur, is a perfect counterpoint to the starker, more sparsely populated tracks on the record – especially Flatlands and Your Dawn, which are positively desolate.
At times, the album does feel a little too well-staged, like the set dressing is a better visual than the actor, but that feeling quickly subsides. This is an unashamedly retro-fetishistic record, made with love and sincerity – as though the past 35 years had never happened; it’s a sonic artefact of a time and place that never existed, and it is a touching tribute to the joys of the dark side. Gloom in June never sounded so good.