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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Phono Noir

By Bruce Miller
Published June 6, 2008

The Objects Don't Need Us
Sub Rosa

For his second long player, Berlin-based Matthias Grübel (a.k.a. Phonº Noir) inches across the line that separates melancholy pop songwriting and electronica. Using laptop-generated beats beneath his own sparse guitar playing, he creates not so much an album as he does a self-sustaining, almost solipsistic world. And while the music here is far from depressing, one does get the sense that wherever Grübel was when he recorded this, the windows were definitely closed. The track “Gullholmen,” for example, builds subtly in intensity, with lyrics about “smoke clearing” and being able to “move from here,” while wherever “here” is gets personified by a plaintive violin solo. Then, after an uncomfortably long silence, there’s a fractured toy piano—a mood of abject sorrow rendered on what might otherwise be the world’s happiest instrument. There’s a similarity here to Telefon Tel Aviv or even Mum, but neither band seems so introspective, so totally dedicated to the song as Grübel does.