Sailing the Seven Seas
Sailing The Seven Seas Enough winging and whining about how Björk used to be so much more accessible than she is today, about Moloko breaking up, and that it's already been a quarter of a century since we could listen to Kate Bush laughing about herself (just listen to her "There Goes a Tenner" to shake up your memory)! In the Here and Now there's a duo that finally picks up where the brilliant deeds of intelligent electro-pop left off: SANAGI Norwegian singer Lene Toje (26) and half-Japanese electro-wizard Robin Sato (23) met in 2002 at the Liverpool Institute For Performing Arts, and quickly found out just what synergies they could develop together. So it happened that a whole series of songs emerged from their "cocoon" (that's what "Sanagi" means in Japanese) during their studies - songs which explore the terrain between Joni Mitchell and Richie Hawtin, with sassy sophistication. Thanks to a couple of club tours through Germany, they soon won over audiences outside Liverpool; in fact the resonance was so exhilarating that Lene and Robin chose Berlin as their future work place. Before packing their bags in the summer of 2005, they finished their debut album Mish Mash, which was also their final exam project at LIPA... Berlin label Traumton loved their multifaceted songs so much that they released them last fall. After that, Mish Mash was not only presented at Popkomm and Mediawave (the biggest East European festival for electronic music) but was enthusiastically received by the German music press and radio. Jazzthetik discovered "minimalist sound idylls, which could easily pass as chamber music, and "a gift for contagious inanity that was so sorely lacking in the trip-hop-duos of the past decade." Tip magazine thought the term "folktronic" was fitting: "Where Robin prefers sampling dripping water taps, Lene's vocal melodies have a definite folk song character." Now Sanagi have arrived in Berlin with their Sailing The Seven Seas in two ways: not only have the songs all been written in their new home town, but they were also recorded at Traumton label's very own studio. None other than Wolfgang Loos, producer of electro-pop trio Alphaville's huge hits ("Big In Japan"; "Forever Young") in the mid 80's, manned the mixer. Here Lene Toje's choruses soar up to a level that can easily hold it's own to the likes of ABBA's vocal harmonies, the very thing that heavily influenced her style (especially obvious on track 3: 'Sweetest Odour'). Robin's fondness of theatrical sound gimmicks, which really comes to light on "Knock Knock" and "Sanagi Lovesong", has reached a whole new level of genius. As on their first album. Sailing The Seven Seas begins with a wonderfully transparent ballad: "See-Through-Me" poetically describes how beautiful it can be to surrender unconditionally to the intoxication of being in love ("You're my favorite blue with some green in it") The following track "Liquid LeNe' has also brilliantly captured that blissful feeling of a fresh love that suddenly makes you so lithe and lively - and with the promise to stay together through love's psychoses, come what may, it flaunts another one of those little red herrings so typical of Sanagi. In "Sweetest Odour" Lene describes her first experiences in a typical East Berlin back courtyard apartment, and how hard it is to remove oneself from such a unique dwelling. It's followed by "Sleepwalking", which expresses the desire to get out of the rut of routine behavior and not stumble through life blindly, half-drugged. Lene and Robin have found an excellent antidote for this with "Sanagi Love Song": the list of various torture methods and ways of dying you can wish upon the great love (hate) of your life, rattled off so affably to a reggae rhythm, just makes you want to jump up and dance. Refined by Paul Brody's muted trumpet, this track reminds you of the electro-dub made popular in the 80's by bands like Scritti Politti ('Flesh & Blood'). The violent little fantasy "She's A Beautiful Man" - with Lene herself singing a bit of Fado in the middle - is also an invitation to dance. Just like the extremely funky "Knock Knock", that admits to becoming "curioser and curiouser" as a result. Once again Lene's gift for self-analysis fascinates, something that already stood out in Mish Mash on songs like "Rabbit Hole" and "Bang Bang". There's no lack of Lene's inventiveness in creating clever metaphors on Sailing The Seven Seas either. In "Thought-Spinner Tom", her own stirred up thoughts are personified by a little man (named Tom) who is responsible for all the lack of concentration, brooding and mood swings she experiences. No wonder this guy has been working nonstop for 26 years! But our storyteller couldn't imagine living without him either - even if Tom has ruined more than one romance with his overeagerness. In "What Do I Want?" Lene assertively, but gently rejects the demands of a selfish some one - in the knowledge that for certain people, being blunt is the only thing that shakes them out of their egomania. And "Sailor, me!" - quasi the title track of the album - is Lene's reaction to her horrified observation of how many women of her age are suddenly thrilled to jump into a relationship of commitment and family life without a second thought. Lene would rather declare herself a sailor in this swinging shanty, who would rather sail the seven seas before even wasting a single thought on such a lifestyle. No less humorous is the girly-rap-persiflage "You Know What I Hate?" with Lene reciting a hit parade of the things she hates the most. And this includes all kinds of (mostly male) crudeness which most people gladly overlook; Lene's detailed descriptions leave no doubt however, about her having had to bear tons of dull compliments and shake off hordes of graying admirers. But for the finale, Sanagi offer the peace pipe with their version of the Doo-Wop classic (made equally famous by both Elvis and The Platters) "Only You", with their torch song variation being both funny and touching at once. It's a quality that makes the whole album stand out. And thanks to Sanagi's congenial stage presence, (in the mean time the two of them even have some slick choreographies in petto), their live shows guarantee the best of pure entertainment.