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CD: Tobias Christl - Wildern | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Tobias Christl - Wildern

CD: Tobias Christl - Wildern

German jazz singer goes pillaging rock, from Paul Simon to Joy Division

Christl stuffs iconic rock songs into his poacher's sack

“Wildern” means “poaching” in German. That’s as in pheasant, rather than egg. On this album, German jazz singer Tobias Christl goes poaching (foraging might be more accurate) for iconic rock songs, which he adapts for his jazz quintet. Retaining on some level the basic emotional character of the song, he otherwise manipulates freely, to the point where in a couple of cases it’s not obvious which song he started with.

We end up with familiar melodies made radically unfamiliar, with saxophone improvisation, eruptions of krautrock, distorted vocals and stretched rhythm turning familiar songs into a compelling and diverse collection.

In the case of tracks with a broad, sweeping melody, such as “Sound of Silence”, based on Paul Simon, and “Take On Me”, the a-ha anthem, Christl’s approach is to retain snatches of melody, but to entwine them with improvised sound. In the very different “Love Will Tear Us Apart Again” Christl captures Ian Curtis’ repetitive style, but renders the lyrics in his eerie falsetto, with startling effectiveness. Similarly warped are the lyrics of the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Talk [Put Your Head on My Shoulder]”, which become a desperate, yearning wail. Perhaps the least successful is the second track, Tom Waits’ “Anywhere I Lay My Head”: it’s bold to be adapting something that’s already both effective and highly original. Christl’s version, a falsetto-voiced ballad over sax and synth, is attractive, but it’s the only one in which there doesn’t seem to be much added value.  

From the very start, when people like Jelly Roll Morton took blues tunes and adapted them for improvisation, jazz has been “poaching” popular songs; the principle of what Christl has done is perhaps less original than the label blurb suggests. It’s still a great technique, just as it was a century ago, and the range of styles he masters here is impressive. To add something original and sympathetic to songs from Leonard Cohen, and Paul Simon to Joy Division takes a pretty special level of skill, and the album requires several listens to appreciate how cleverly crafted these new versions are.  

To add something original and sympathetic to songs from Leonard Cohen, and Paul Simon to Joy Division takes a pretty special level of skill


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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