Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Undiscovered Soul: Micatone

Micatone (group; formed 2001)

Lisa Bassenge (vocals)
Boris Meinhold (guitar, electronics)
Paul Kleber (bass)
Sebastian Demmin (keyboards)
Stefan Rogall (electronics)
Tim Kroker (drums)

On a recent trip to the U.S. city of Atlanta, I visited a couple of record stores. Most of them were quite exceptional considering the economic culture and the state or record retail in the U.S. But one store stood out for me and I was a little upset that I wanted to make this my last stop of the day. Moods Music was a slight goldmine for me. I found a number soul, acid jazz and electronica records that I had been searching for over the last year or so. I also stumbled upon a few records that I heard about but never actually got a chance to listen to. One of the groups that I discovered was Micatone.

I really hadn't heard Micatone before. I remember seeing there name pop up on my "Amazon You Might Like These" list but didn't give it any attention. I asked the clerk if they could play a little of it for me and to my shock they did!

Micatone are an incredible band from Germany. Lead singer Lisa Bassenge has a lovely soulful voice that wraps Jodi Watley, Bille Holiday,N'dea Davenport and Corrine Bailey Rae in with the funkiness of Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies and trip-hop sensibility Rae & Christian. It's a nice blend of nu-jazz and electronica that works well immediately on first spin.

The first album, Nine Songs (Sonar Kollektiv) combines soul, drum n' bass with a Bassenge's late night jazz cafe vocals for a bright and inventive debut. Setting the tone in the beginning are vibraphonic sounds of "Still In Time" and "Tranquilo". Both of which feature some nice funky beats against a moody hypnotic electronics. As Bassenge sings in the chorus of "Tranquilo", "...I'm for real". While this track is more about the feeling one gets from their significant others love, it can also state the intention of the band. They are for real and the lyrics and music make that case crystal clear.

The follow up, Is You Is (Sonar Kollektiv) moves things forward with more concentration of the bands soul jazz elements. While tracks like "Plastic Bags & Magazines," "Mon coeur" still hold the electronic flavour its the soulful tracks like "Quiet Boy" and "Sweet Child" that really stuck with me. Micatone seemed to be growing on both the lyrical and musical side. While still projecting ambient, trip hop foundation songs like "I'm Leaving Anyway" and "Sit Beside Me" are crafty love songs that will have you intoxicated and wanting more.

Nomad Songs (Sonar Kollektiv) is that something more you might be looking for. Nomad Songs is more lyrically focused and the instrumentation is also placed more squarely on live/acoustic. The electronics are still there but a little more in the background. There's also an element of diversity in theme going on. "Trouble Boy" takes on a more reggae feel while "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" is definitely in the Jamiroquai/BNH camp as far as the vibe is concerned. "Out Of The Game and "You've Taken All" really highlight Bassenge's vocals and the band crafty lounge feel.

Micatone may bring reminders of some previous acid jazz standard-barrers but believe me, this band is getting better with each album. For anyone interested there is a compilation called Best Of Three (Sonar Kollektiv) which covers some of the more important tracks from each of there albums. It is available online so I would definitely check them out. I great discovery for me and it also shows that there are still good record stores out there with great knowledgeable people that are willing to turn you on to something. Big ups to Atlanta!



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