Bob Burnett: I have Ben Bailes of Chessie to thank for leading me to Contriva's 2006 release, Separate Chambers. Contriva is a Berlin-based group made up of Masha Qrella, Max Punktezahl, Rike Schuberty and Hannes Lehmann, who have known each other since their youthful school days where they became a band in 1997. After several 7" and 10" vinyl releases and a few previous albums, "Tell Me When" (2000) "8 Eyes"(2001) and "If You Had Stayed..." (2003), on Monika Enterprise (CD) /Lok Musik (LP) Separate Chambers introduces them to the like-mindedness of the Morr Music label with colleagues such as Tied and Tickled Trio, B. Fleischmann, Lali Puna and the American Analog Set. At this point I could describe how their low key, delicate pop-instrumental sound works well for me, or I could let them speak for themselves on myspace:
"Its just singer / songwriter music mostly without a singer. Our actual interest is to create pop music that makes a human voice unnecessary. It may be never 100% like that, but this is what keeps us trying... Even if there are no stories or statements, pictures can bloom in someones mind. From the very beginning, people tended to bring our music in the context of travelling."
I especially like the "singer/songwriter music mostly without a singer" line because they achieve the qualities of a singer's voice---melody, bridges, etc. but from the perspective of an instrumental ensemble. Granted, there are a few instances of Masha Qrella's subtle vocals on the album--and when they appear they work well within the framework of the songs and the overall feel of the album.
Separate Chambers is also a meandering, day-dreamy listen. As with the band's description of themselves I am reminded of taking trains across the countryside in Europe ---albeit not because this plays as a soundtrack for such a journey but Contriva ties into the feeling of the actual journey itself--the look and sense of a place very different from what I am used to and the curiosity that comes from the overall experience. Contriva brings to mind the feelings I got from listening to early '80s bands like Young Marble Giants and Durutti Column---granted the music doesn't sound like those bands; there's just something about their vibe that connects them together for me. As another sidebar, I am occasionally reminded of Andrew Coleman's Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt as well as the Chessie duo of Stephen Gardner and Ben Bailes.
Nevermind what I say, there are also a few cuts on their previously mentioned myspace site so you can get a sense of what I'm attempting to describe.
I just looked and discovered their Monika releases are on emusic. I'll use some of my downloads to check-out those releases as well as Masha Qrella's highly regarded solo work. Separate Chambers is on iTunes (where I found it after not finding it in local music store bins) and by the way, Morr Music has some excellent additional offerings from other groups on emusic too.