Thursday, January 8, 2009
Raving On His Own: Sune Rose Wagner's Solo Album
As if he weren't busy enough last year, Sune Rose Wagner, better known as one half of The Raveonettes, digitally released a self-titled solo album back on December 8, but I've just gotten around to listening to it now. This record highlights an interesting issue that crops up for me once and awhile, namely assessing music with lyrics in a language I have no knowledge of. You see, Wagner's solo debut is completely in his native Danish. With songs in French and German, I have a hope of understanding the lyrics, but Danish, despite its similarities to German, is well out of my range. It's not like I can't appreciate music in and of itself without knowing the lyrics - I've done so with many Welsh-language tracks; it's just that without knowing what the words mean, the lyrics become less of an exercise in semantics and more about sonic aesthetics. By sonic aesthetics, I mean an appreciation of how a language sounds in an abstract way; for example, I find the Welsh language very naturally lyrical and poetic without understanding more than a few words and phrases. After listening to Wagner's solo album, I find the Danish language to be just as romantic and beautiful. Also, without a distraction of meaning, I get to concentrate far more on the music itself. Musically, Wagner continues to wear his earlier influences on his sleeve, including Sonic Youth, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Velvet Underground, and 50s Americana, but he seems to have shed the darker, brooding noise of last year's Raveonettes' album in favour of a dreamy pop sensibility and 60s influences ranging from girl groups to Francoise Hardy.
The album kicks off with the bouncy snares of Hvad Der Sker, a sunny, melodic piece with Wagner's distinctive trebley vocals and echoey, chiming guitars, a song which makes me envision girls dancing in white gogo boots. The following track, Et Underfuldt Liv, is a little slower and moodier, but with its sonic textures and light, sing-song vocals it recalls the psychedelic flamboyance of Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd. Afgrunden then bursts forward with a gorgeous assault of layered guitars that are as bright as white light. Altid is like those slower, 50s-inspired ballads with tomtom and tambourine that he does so well with The Raveonettes, but it has less white noise and thus gains a purity and sweetness without the tempering of a dirtier sound. The album continues with Tyskerpiger, a track which, with its more ominous undertones, would feel perfect as a soundtrack to a late 60s party for the drugged-up mods and it-girls on their spiralling descent. A gentle innocence pervades Samme Vej while a more plodding beat dominates Svinske Maend. Featuring those 50s chord progressions and triplet rhythms, Gi' Mig En Pige is like a lullaby prom song. Like Hvad Der Sker, Beruset Og Forhadt is entering swinging 60s territory with its bopping drumbeat and its groovy guitar licks and effects. Wagner finishes the record off with mournful-sounding Din Mund, which floats along like hypnotic mod swirls and refracted, watery light from a slow-moving disco ball.
This album may not be a huge departure from Wagner's work in The Raveonettes, but it is still a commendable piece of work; Wagner isn't exactly a yé-yé girl, but he has his moments of retro chic and trendy naivete. As of yet, there doesn't appear to be a physical copy of the album available, but Wagner is going on a solo tour throughout February and March in Denmark. You can also view an intimate live set he performed back in October here. This album, which would find its most likely market in Denmark, is an obviously personal project for Sune Rose Wagner, but like all good music, it transcends language barriers.
Hvad Der Sker - Sune Rose Wagner
Beruset Og Forhadt - Sune Rose Wagner