STRANGE SOUVENIRS – Single Review: “Nothing2”

Strange Souvenirs is an electronic/alt-pop duo from Berlin, Germany comprised of brothers Thomas and Matthias Juhnke. In their own colorful words, they “blend influences from 80s new wave, 90s trip hop, post-millennial electronica & indie with science fiction soundtracks, video games and nuggets of nerd culture into a schizoid selection of danceable, delicate and disorienting songs.” Three months ago, I reviewed their enthralling single “Pixels”, and now they’re back with “Nothing2“, their sixth consecutive single release since their December 2019 debut of “Scrape”. The song is a dramatic tour de force, and one of their best yet.

Matthias wrote the lyrics for “Nothing2”, and the music was co-written by him and Thomas, along with their frequent collaborator Cameron James Laing, a talented Berlin-based producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist who also recorded, produced and mixed the track at The Famous Gold Watch Studios in Berlin. Thomas and Matthias programmed the synthesizers and Matthias sang lead vocals. Cameron played acoustic guitar, bass, piano, organ, mellotron, renegade triangle, and the orchestral string arrangement, Gidon Carmel played drums and percussion, Héloïse Lefebvre played violin and viola, Tim Hook played electric guitar and Heidi Heidelberg sang the glorious choir backing vocals. The track was mastered by Davide Ruffini at Wisseloord Studios Hilversum, Netherlands. The cover art “20/20 Eye” was created by Michelle Marie-Lou Nuerk.

The guys state “Nothing2” is “A jilted yet strangely joyful sprawl about feeling nothing at all and everything all at once. A five and a half minute emotional outburst full of misery & magic, gut-wrenching punches, beautiful bruises, abrupt endings & unexpected new beginnings.” Matthias elaborated to me that the lyrics were inspired by two unexpected and unrelated life events in the space of six months that left him at the edges of nothings, but the details are unsavoury and quite distressing, so he kept things intentionally vague. But from what I can discern, they seem to speak of a relationship that ended very badly, and just wanting to make a clean break from the past and move on.

The song opens on a somber note, with strummed acoustic guitar and droning keyboards, accompanied by Matthias’ rather melancholy vocals. Gradually, the music expands with horns and what sounds like mellotron into a more upbeat feel, though the melancholy undercurrent remains. Héloïse’s warbly strings add great texture and an eerie, disconcerting vibe to the proceedings. The song seems to end at 2:21, then abruptly starts back up with greater urgency, as more instruments and synths are added to the mix. Everything continues to build into a magnificent cinematic soundscape that calls to mind some of the mid-career songs by the Beatles. The dramatic music continues for the remainder of the song, conveying a strong sense of cathartic release from troubles of the past. It’s a phenomenal track.

There’s nothing to
Take back or undo
I thought you’d know by now
There’s no point in stalling
There’s no point in stalling

Would you please stop calling me

This is what it all amounts to
When the day is through
This is what it all amounts to
When the night’s through
Absolutely nothing
Absolutely nothing

Would you please stop calling me

There’s nothing to see
There’s nothing to say
There’s nowhere to be
So just go away

We couldn’t see the cracks in the surface
And the nothing seeping through
Watch the walls come down on the life you knew
Here comes the wrecking crew

This is what it all amounts to
When the day is through
This is what it all amounts to
When the night’s through
Absolutely nothing

Follow Strange Souvenirs:  Facebook / Instagram

Stream/purchase their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud / Apple Music / YouTube / Bandcamp

STRANGE SOUVENIRS – Single Review: “Pixels”

I love many of the names musicians choose for their artistic projects, and a particularly good one is Strange Souvenirs, the Berlin, Germany-based electronic/alt-pop duo comprised of brothers Thomas and Matthias Juhnke. In their own colorful words, they “blend influences from 80s new wave, 90s trip hop, post-millennial electronica & indie with science fiction soundtracks, video games and nuggets of nerd culture into a schizoid selection of danceable, delicate and disorienting songs.” Like some other artists I’ve written about, the two seem to prefer to remain anonymous, as I cannot find any photos of them anywhere. I’m guessing they want their great music to speak for itself, which it certainly does!

Strange Souvenirs released their debut single “Scrape” in December 2019, a fantastic otherworldly EDM track they call “a pummeling techno-infused micro-symphony of self-loathing.” They followed up with three more excellent singles in 2020, and are now back with their fifth offering “Pixels”, a captivating song that conveys a similar haunting moodiness of their previous single “The Way I Fell In”. All five singles will be included on their forthcoming album Spontaneous Mutation, due for release in July.

Like many of their songs, “Pixels” was co-written by Strange Souvenirs along with the help of their frequent collaborator Cameron James Laing, a talented producer, composer and multi-instrumentalist who also recorded, produced and mixed the track at The Famous Gold Watch Studios in Berlin. Thomas and Matthias played guitars, bass and sang lead vocals, Cameron played piano, mellotron and did the exquisite orchestral arrangement, as well as sang backing vocals, and Gidon Carmel played drums. The track was mastered by Davide Ruffini.

About the song’s meaning, they explain that “Pixels” “builds around the idea that we’re all pixels in an ever-changing cosmic mosaic, waiting to randomly attract or repel the other particles on our path as we spiral and drift through an equally beautiful and brutal universe. It’s about the shadows of regret lurking in the corners of our lives, inching forward, drifting back, inching forward, drifting back. On endless repeat.”

The song starts off slowly with a gentle drum beat and haunting piano riff, accompanied by airy synths and acoustic guitar notes, all of which set a rather somber tone. The guys’ vocals are equally gentle and understated, at first coming off as melancholy, but with glimmers of optimism that make them quite pleasing as they softly croon “Ghost in the room reaching out for you / A voice from the past you listen to / A shadow in the corner that knows / There’s a shadow in the corner that grows / Times stretches and slows / Doors open and close / Drifting alone…” The music gradually expands into a stirring atmospheric soundscape, highlighted by beautiful mellotron, lush orchestral strings and a fluttering trumpet that gives the song a wonderful jazzy feel at the end.

“Pixels” is a gorgeous, contemplative feast for the ears that transports us to a dreamy, faraway place. I’ve had it on repeat, and find myself enthralled with every listen.

Follow Strange Souvenirs:  FacebookInstagram

Stream/purchase their music:  SpotifySoundcloudApple MusicYouTube / Bandcamp

MAX KOFFLER – Single Review: “May I Ask”

Max Koffler is a talented indie singer/songwriter from Berlin, Germany who’s been making music since his teens. A year ago, he released his ambitious second album GAMES, which I reviewed in January. The album features 14 wonderful tracks drawing from an eclectic mix of music genres and styles, including alternative rock, pop, EDM, and jazz. One of those tracks is the deeply contemplative “May I Ask,” which Max will be releasing as a single on April 4th.

The song is short, lasting only one minute and 42 seconds, but powerfully moving. Feeling conflicted about love, at once afraid it will elude him, yet unsure as to whether he’s deserving of it, Max plaintively implores a loved one to let him know if she still has feelings for him. The music is spare, with only a simple piano riff backed by delicate synths, backing choir vocals and drumbeat. It’s beautiful.

I’m so young again who I’m still that little boy
who doesn’t want what he could get and distrusts his heavenly joy
And I am so afraid, wounded and disarmed
You decide if I shall live or starve from lovelessness
And so I say may I ask if you still want me the way you once promised
Well there’s something that I learned
Could you please help me to escape the cave that I’m in and that I am
Please don’t leave me unreturned
My fear has gone

Connect with Max:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream his music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Deezer
Purchase:  iTunes