Ok, so this was a band I was pretty late to the game on. Another one that doesn’t really need my review as they are pretty established and known as an important part of the dark minimalist movement. Yet I keep listening to the record so feel it is important to scrawl out some thoughts on why I am loving this sound. “Let them be Alien” I believe is the 5th album for Lebanon Hanover so a well established band with a large following. However this is the first album I have heard so I am going to treat it like a fresh release. This album came as a recommendation from Karl Morton Dahl of Antipole (see previous review) so anytime a musician of his caliber calls out an album it is probably one worth taking notice of. I think what immediately drew me in to this album was the minimalist efficiency of the music. Not a note or phrase is wasted. The sound is very technical and precise. Not with a million notes, over laid tracks, layers upon layers. Instead with a brutal efficiency that lays bare the poetry of the lyrics and the skill of the musicians. The synths are driving. In so much post punk this is a responsibility left to the bass lines but Lebanon Hanover creates movement with these organic and driving synth lines, crisp electro-snares, and chanting vocal lines. As a songwriter myself who tends to lean on endless layers and parts to really hear such brilliant expression done with such simple stripped down parts is both baffling and memorizing. I suppose we are all entranced by what is difficult for ourselves. This band is the pinnacle of what seems so difficult for me. Perhaps that’s why I found it so captivating.
This album also was a traveler. When I say that I mean it is one of those amazing pieces of art that transport you to a place in the world and culture to give you a glimpse of another place without describing it. I feel the texture, the sounds, the smells, and culture of the German landscape when I hear this record. I am transported and immersed in the joy, beauty, pain, and strife of another place. It’s such a rare and immersive quality that can happen in art but is so difficult to achieve.
So I have to talk vocals as always. I was really impressed and torn on this. They do a call and answer male/female back and forth vocal style that feels like a conversation. I have always loved this dynamic in music. They have a true connection that creates a conversational effect. Larrisa’s husky smoke filled smoothness is a haunting and gorgeous beacon that draws your ear in on every song and captivates your attention. The Lyrics and thought provoking and daring. I truly found myself hard pressed to find a sound to compare it to. The foil of William was so unnerving and unsettling. It kept drawing me out of the music. Almost like a tongue and cheek over the top jest I couldn’t hold in the concept of the minimalism of the music. It took a lot of listening to not be jarred by this effect. I did find it though in the stark contrast between them. It gave these songs a power but one that was hard to follow. I can say it made me surprised it had the pop appeal this band celebrates but fills me with hope that our scene was ready to embrace art done on this level.
I had some standout tracks I felt really spoke to me:
Alien – Opening track is full of the minimalist feel that makes this album great. Sharp but simple guitar tracks which drive home the concept. William is doing these over the top drawn goth vocals which contrast so sharply the slow delicate vibe of the song. Larrisa does the opposite with a breathy and gentle warm tone. I’ll always remain alien. This song speaks of isolation and delivers the concept with effortless cool.
Gravity Sucks – Oh sweet slutty saxophone horns. The synth feel here matches that bracing medium tempo with a smoky jazz effected horn sound. Larrisa croons with delicate balance. Rising against an unbeatable force. One that relates and punishes. “what is there left between us”
Du Scrollst – Oh sweet clubbing dance beats, wash over me. Larrisa singing in a tight cadenced German and creating an almost trip hop sensation of smooth delivered lyrics. Dark cloths and fluid movements on the dance floor. A glorious burner.
Overall this album is known entity, one the scene tends to agree on in how it speaks to the listener. It’s easy to hear but a challenge to plum the depths of. I think this really speaks to the quality of the art. It’s a bold new step into the concept of doing more with less and I highly recommend taking this journey.
Band: Lebanon Hanover
Album: Let them be Alien
Label: Fabrica Records
Members: Larissa Iceglass, William Maybelline
Author: Ken Magerman from Sounds and Shadows