Music

Ms. John Soda: Notes and the Like

Michael Keefe

Ms. John Soda is the collaboration between Micha Acher (of Notwist fame) and singer/keyboardist Stefanie Bohm (from not-so-famous experimental rockers Couch).


Ms. John Soda

Notes and the Like

Label: Morr Music
US Release Date: 2006-03-21
UK Release Date: 2006-03-06
iTunes affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

In the world before the Strokes, we had only electronic music to listen to. (Hey, as an American, I prefer my history to be both revisionist and reductionist.) From this vast, synthetic realm, glitch-pop emerged, at the turn of the century, as the perfect sonic medium between the beat-and-texture appeal of IDM and the strident hookiness of synth-pop. Glitch-pop was softly effervescent. And Germany's Morr Music was the master of the sub-genre, housing a strong array of acts with a unified, recognizable sound. Their 2001 double-disc compilation, Putting the Morr Back in Morrissey, remains one of my very favorite chill-out excursions. With artists like Isan, Lali Puna, and Styrofoam in their stable, Morr Music claimed a distinct niche in the world of electronic music.

At one edge of this niche sits Ms. John Soda, the collaboration between Micha Acher (of Notwist fame) and singer/keyboardist Stefanie Bohm (from not-so-famous experimental rockers Couch). Ms. John Soda formed eight years ago, but Notes and the Like is only their second full-length release. Given Acher's other loyalties (he's also a key member of Tied & Tickled Trio), it would be easy to view Ms. John Soda as just another of his side projects. And, based on the outfit's prior discography, such a view would be encouraged. Their first LP, 2002's No P. or D., had its moments, but wasn't satisfying as a whole. 2003's follow-up EP, While Talking, felt tossed-off, with one solid opening track leading to mostly half-baked experimentations.

The time off between efforts is immediately appreciable. Notes and the Like sounds like a thoughtfully conceived and carefully executed album by a real band. In addition to the principle members, Thomas Geltinger (also of Couch) and Carl Oesterhelt (from FSK) contribute to the record's fuller sound. Despite these extra hands in the sonic kitchen, Acher remains the signature chef. On this new album in particular, the line between the Notwist and Ms. John Soda collapses. The mood is somewhat lighter and the vocals are female and Teutonically dispassionate, but the sounds and musical ideas follow the template laid out on the Notwist's exquisite Neon Golden.

Despite all this, Notes and the Like is somewhat lacking. While Stefanie Bohm's vocals have an endearing quality, especially when she brings out her fragile soprano, they too often fail to rise above the mix. On the very pretty "A Million Times", for instance, Bohm's presence is undercut by the lovely string duet conversing throughout. The lead singer, however, seems to have relatively little to express. She is more effective on the anxious "No. One", in which she talk-sings over a clipped beat while a synth squeaks out in kitten mews around her. It's Chicks On Speed redux, but cool enough all the same. She has her strongest moment on "Scan the Ways". With its pulsing guitar lines, the track has great energy, even with its almost dead-stop breaks, and Bohm peps up for the ride, finding just the right amount of bite in her voice. On the average, however, her lack of conviction brings a degree of flatness to the whole affair.

That said, I am a sucker for the Morr Music sound, and Ms. John Soda carry on their tradition with Notes and the Like. It's not a great album, though. For moody, guitar-reinforced electronic pop, Ladytron's Witching Hour has it beat. This disc, with Micha Acher's face staring out from the cover, foils itself by resembling the far superior Neon Golden, but just enough to inspire daydreams about the next Notwist album. Whether or not Ms. John Soda are a side project or a real band, Notes and the Like ends up as more of a stopgap. Okay, Mr. Acher, this is nice and all. Now give us all what we really want.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image