“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guest is the grey matter behind the spatial sonic temples of Baal & Mortimer, an entrancing, enticing prospect that’s like Cybotron on Mogadon, coming from the rich artistic and musical tapestry of Düsseldorf and “sonically exploring questions of resistance, autonomy, language and identity” as the blurb puts it in no uncertain terms.
Alexandra Grübler, since it is her vision, her expressive axis, has been making music as Baal & Mortimer since 2014, and after the release of “Earthrise” on the label HEAVEN in 2018, a debut album – the tricky to pronounce without the internet – “Deixis” on astute arbiters of aural architecture Bureau B, is out now Not only is Grübler all about the self-conscious space between the notes, the breath between the minimal beats, like James Blake or Zomby via Berlin techno club culture, she’s erudite and expression and cordite in potential, as is borne out in the elegantly described song choice. It’s a pleasure to welcome to VS, Alexandra Grübler aka Baal & Mortimer!
First, please check out the video that’s like Jonathan Glazer’s virtuouso “Virtual Insanity” in an industrial lift shaft, and yet strangely reminiscent of the ISS too. It’s an intoxicatingly apt mix.
Below is one of my favourite press shots of the year, by Chris Filippini it’s both self-consciously lo-fi and yet desolately cinematic.
Grübler has collaborated with Black Merlin, Musiccargo and Rupert Clervaux and was most recently a mentee of Laurel Halo for the Berlin Amplify program. As Baal & Mortimer she is as much an installation artiste as performer and regularly presents her material in clubs, art spaces and festivals – such as Torstrassenfestival Berlin or Open Source Festival in Düsseldorf, while the album “Deixis” was recorded in bedrooms and studios throughout Düsseldorf and Berlin. The word “Deixis” means the function or use of deictic words, forms, or expressions. Perhaps this represents a need for the material to be understood in the context in which it was made, which is either a sign of humility or a need to beckon the listener into a wider and immersive soundworld – part electronic, part music concrete, urban and yet brittle, functional yet beautiful, the sum of it’s binary code parts.
The compositions “Prostheses” and “The Ship of Fangs” were gestated during the Amplify Mentoring Program (a residency for creative development in Berlin at which the brilliant James Young/Darkstar and the legend that is Mouse On Mars’ Andi Toma is currently a mentor), in which Laurel Halo (Hyberdub/Honest John who has worked with Julia Holter) selected Baal & Mortimer to partake in a month-long residency.
You can get a further sample of the album on this Bureau B/Soundcloud link below…
Alexandra is very much a product of Düsseldorf’s legendary and influentially idiosyncratic club Salon des Amateurs, as her song choice attests, so without further ado, this is Baal & Mortimer’s surprising and Anglophilic “song for ewe”…
“I came across the track “Bullet” by the British band Furniture early in the morning some years ago, at the Salon des Amateurs in Düsseldorf. Detelf Weinrich aka Toulouse Low Trax played it in the zone of the last hour of the night and the first hour of the day, when birds could be heard and the sky would melt into the colour of mauve.
Back then one could still smoke everywhere, so everyone would slowly glide their way out of the Salon through thick smoke, accompanied by Jim Irving’s sparse vocals, more speaking than singing.
What gets me each time is the opening line: “Can I get a Kleenex?”. It’s a strangely personal moment, relatable yet fully hidden and veiled. One doesn’t know what the person needs the Kleenex for; to blow their nose or for something sexual, we don’t know who is being spoken to, we just get pulled into the moment and can relate immediately. It’s a personal detail that draws you in but never reveals itself while being very applicable to the listener: we all needed a Kleenex at some point or another for one reason or another. It’s these hermetic nuances in works of art that create mystery and addictive qualities in my opinion. We witness an intimacy that touches us yet is never fully ours.
Next to these lyrical aspects the melodic composition is extraordinary. The track is carried by a subtle beat, Maya Gilders’ sweet synths unravelling in the background. It is poppy but always with a break or a split element, such as bleak lyrics like “Sometimes I touch you and I feel nothing”: harsh words embedded in a sweet piano blanket. There is a harmonic release at 3:35: having heard that in a slightly intoxicated state in the early morning was truly transgressive. I swear, I felt the sun coming up exactly in that moment. Carried by that I would walk home over the bridge, passing the Rhine Tower, tired and grey in the face, but I’d be so moved and so touched by that one Kleenex, that got handed to someone, somewhere, sometime.
Furniture was a five-piece band from West London in the 80s, and the track is on the 1986 album “The Lovemongers”. It can also be found in a slightly pitched down version on Toulouse Low Trax’s phenomenal mix “Colour of Smoke”.”
THANKS TO ALEXANDRA AND TO SEAN NEWSHAM AT MUTANTE.
“Deixis” by Baal & Mortimer is out now on Bureau B and available from the link below…