Album: Das Birthday Girl – Soft and Clear

Soft and Clear is Berlin-based Das Birthday’s Girl’s first album, an 8-track collection that wears its influences proudly whilst also showcasing an original and particular talent. Her music feels at home within a post-punk landscape, all shadowy countenance and synth-laden melodrama and there is a certain nocturnal quality here, in which strange, sometimes ghostly synthesisers weave across this intimate set of songs.

There is an undeniable sonic link to the early 80s in the songs’ almost gothic atmospheres, replete with reverb-heavy, echo-dusted vocals that possess an artful melancholia and reserved theatricality in their introspective imagery. The sound choices of the final production could have easily simply mirrored the exact textures of these songs’ influences, and that would have led to a perfectly elegant and satisfying suite of songs.

What takes it somewhere different and more special, are the little additional details: surprising fragments of mellotron warbling beautifully, sampled treated piano pushing in and out of prominence or the crying notes of lap steel which centre an at times detached ambience towards the very real and profoundly human. Not to mention the ethereal, Enya-esque beauty of Martha Theuma’s voice- a precise instrument in its own right.

At other moments, the songs reach full gloomy drama and more overt theatricality, notably in in the guitar patterns of There’s a World. On Whiskey Sour, things veer towards an almost Pet Shop Boys pop sensibility but these stylistic shifts don’t feel laboured or unnatural- this an album that in which the tracks converse with one another clearly. A particular highlight, to these ears, is the theramin-like sci-fi sirens and mournful lap steel on Image which show how skilled Das Birthday Girl is at crafting sweeping emotive gestures within a post-punk pop frame.

A beautiful collection of intimate songs that reward a repeated late-night listen.

Written by M. A. Welsh