Music for an Era of Change
The gondola approaches the waiting crowd almost silently. It’s not a joyful arrival – the arriving passengers are desperately awaited. Can they carry out this urgently needed operation?
“When the mists do descend
I‘ll be there to defend your honour
And I‘ll help your to mend those bridges
And hold your towers”
Scrambles, Anthems and Odysseys, the new Sofa Surfers album, will take you to a place somewhere in the future past. A place they’ve been travelling to for a long time, and to which they are now closer than ever before. The opening song, Grass Under Your Feet, overturns the usual album routines right at the start. The retro-futuristic ballad breathes departure and arrival simultaneously.
With Beyonder Girl, the mission really kicks off. Dark R&B from future decades is contrasted with beats reminiscent of the early days of rap and breakdance – it won’t let you sit still! Music is a motor, to create a revolution. And - once again - Mani Obeya’s voice brings clarity. In Bread & Circuses feat. Soulcat E-Phife, the pace kicks up a notch. The Viennese rapper throws her words and phrases spin through the dense atmosphere like stars; trap beats and stunning arpeggios signal the arrival of the unloved gladiators. No one comes out of this song alive.
The gondola’s crew is determined. They know: Their mental powers alone aren’t enough to successfully complete the operation. They have to rely on their instincts, to open the lead cages of their hearts and throw their emotions into the battle more than ever before. This is their only chance. Maybe.
“Check out my evil corpuscles
My evil eye and my muscles
Six-pack the envy of Adonis
MC hammer and sickle can‘t touch this”
... Mani Obeya sings in Most Dangerous Man Alive. And the song is just as dangerous as the person it is about. Driving yet soundtrack-esque, with an undetected undercurrent of evil. Until your mind falls apart. Now is the time for caution, to protect the operation from the danger of rogues. The possibility of a dirty fight is near. Worlds collide in Scramble - or is it actually the contradicting protagonists of the Scrambles, Anthems and Odysseys’ vision? Thick, driving grooves and Mani, the man who breathes life into the story. Subtle sci-fi synths and drones swell, defining the mindset.
But don’t be paranoid, now. When you’re paranoid, you make mistakes. You become the target, are always the prey. But no, it’s too late: Paranoid Triggerfinger is the soundtrack for an endless flight with no arrival. Don’t listen to what they’re saying, it would only poison your thoughts. But don’t be afraid, it’s gonna be alright. The antiserum is administered at the very last second: Woody’s Ballad feat. Issi Honi, a duet between Mani Obeya and his daughter Issi. Said to heal all wounds.
“This life will pass you by at high speed
Go zooming by
But you‘ll be laughing as you‘re lowered
Cos you lived so high”
Mongrel is a confident statement. It’s the moment when the leaf begins to turn - the obligatory triplet groove, the omnipresent 90s synthesizers, and Mani’s provocative vocals come together to hypnotize the opponent. A ray of energy at the perfect time. And then an unexpected transformation: Raven-Us takes off elegantly, yet without divesting of dark references. Magically illuminating and tantalizing, the bird hovers in the air, searching for prey.
The situation becomes dire. Now the operation must be completed and the attackers shaken off – no time to panic. With open hearts and open arms, the crew confronts the maelstrom, countering the attacks from all sides with bolts of pure emotion. It looks good, better than expected.
The secret weapon is used a second time: Skins feat. Soulcat E-Phife is a high-energy blast, able to tear down walls with its dubby foundation and the interactive play of Soulcat and Mani. Did we already mention that the entire album has an amazing number of different clap sounds under its hat?
And speaking of tearing down walls: The Fixer (Refixed) was the first single on Scrambles, Anthems and Odysseys, and this new version is even more elegant than the original one. Anyway, the Fixer will show us the way out, at just the right moment.
“These days seem polluted
Our lives convoluted
Our futures are looted
And we‘re all muted”
All is the last song on the album, a stirring yet melancholy statement on the state of affairs after completing the worldwide operation. The wounds are slowly healing, and the brief joy of triumph gives way to the realization that the fight for change, the great revolution, has only just begun.
Does the cover art by Brazilian graphic artist Bruno Biazotto show a fictive world? Hard to say, the painting was created along with the making of the album - under continual input by all parties. That means the painting merges into the music: making the common vision tangible. A vision that seems almost within reach.