If opening track Geisterschiff suggests a return to the dark elegance and noir-ish film vibe of Elephant, as soon as Papiermond kicks in you realise that this isn’t going to be just a new journey through previous sonic pastures. Yes, those rich elements are still there, the classic, and at times, classical vocal deliveries reminiscent of the opulence and style of the Weimar era, but now something mercurial, strange and almost otherworldly has entered the mix.
Papiermond in particular is intense and claustrophobic, a mix of the familiar, the exploratory and the inexplicable. Plaintive guitar strokes are consumed by the sounds of alien radio interference and fairy tale monsters before Le-Thanh’s late night, jazz diva voice emerges from the chaos and this acts as the perfect template of what is to follow.
The album wanders between worlds, one very real and recognisable, driven by the hushed, smoky vocals and the minimal instrumentation that forms a fragile musical net behind and one made of strange, brooding and often horrific sounds. Even in the sweetest moments there is an unresolved tension, a dam about to break, a wave of street noise bleeding in from other places, the sound of transport systems and radio interference, primordial whispers and the sound of the universe pulsing away.
It is this balance of wandering across this boundary that creates the wonderful struggle that give this album its strange beauty, this collision of the known and the unknown, the real and the fantastic, the calm and the catastrophic.
Anyone coming from Elephant to this will find themselves presented with much that is familiar but equally much that isn’t. If that album suggested elegant rooms and cool, opulent settings, Staub resets the scene to one of dark corners and desperate places, of streets filled with danger and desire, of the barriers between dimensions being stretched so thin that the sounds of those alien worlds spills through and of the crackling and groaning of the universe itself. That’s a long way to travel in the name of music!