When fans of new music think of Germany, sounds of strange experimental or heavy techno might flood one’s brain. In fact there is plenty of great rock coming out of Germany’s new music scene, and Cologne’s The Society Islands is an excellent example. The Society Islands has just released a new album called The Big Sleep about a month ago, and it has all the indie rock bases covered and then some.
The Society Islands is one of a few projects exploring a new musical format, which is to say it only has one permanent member. Boris Rogowski came up with this one-man band concept and has done most of the heavy lifting on the project, including writing music and lyrics, producing and playing most of the instruments on the album. He does have some help, however, in the form of female vocalists, saxophone and trumpet players and some of the percussion. For performances, Rogowski clearly cannot play all of the instruments himself, so it will be interesting to see who he chooses and how the diverse sound he produces on the album will play live. The Society Islands will do an album release performance on November 14 in Cologne, so audiences will soon find out who may be playing with this one-man band.
It is difficult to pin down one style to new music of The Society Islands, as each track on The Big Sleep seems to have a very different style, flow and cadence than the one before it. This adds to the feeling that The Society Islands is more than just a one-man show. Whatever Rogoswki’s intentions with this album, he is certainly eclectic. This does not mean, however, that the album lacks consistency or cohesiveness.
Rogowski’s voice, which sounds a bit like Elvis Costello, albeit with a different timbre and a fresh new musical twist, is one element which ties the album together, but he uses his vocals differently in each track, however. It should be said that the entire album is in English, without a hint of German accent. The album opens with Square 1, a track which is also quite like Costello in its composition, but the guitars sound somewhat similar to Phoenix.
The very next track on the album, From My Mouth Into Yours, is a saucy duet which contains a sweet 60s-style tango beat, a backing orchestra and more Santana-like guitars. The album then moves from post-punk with In the Water to ambient, psychedelic tones in Blood Tide. Then Rogowski moves on to more rocking tunes like Sunday which sounds influenced by Paul Westerberg in both tune and guitars. The album ends with the surprisingly pop…And the Silly Things, a hopeful love song. It is quite a journey through the different facets of indie music.
Lyrically, Rogowski hopes to take listeners on a journey as well. Just as surprising as his variety of sound is his songwriting prowess from a lyrical standpoint. The subject matter is, as he says, “a meditation on impossibilities…” and “the endless creative power of discontent.” With his lyrics Rogowski manages to weave some very philosophical ideas into an alum which sounds quite indie pop, so there is an interesting contrast for fans to examine if they so choose.
Though many influences from 90s and current indie are clearly present, The Big Sleep is unique in its range of techniques, styles and new musical arrangements which have not yet been seen in indie pop. Certainly the subject matter of the lyrics on the album is also new and novel. The Society Islands is just getting started in the new music world, but has already covered a lot of ground in The Big Sleep, and it seems Rogowski has more tricks up his sleeve as the project moves forward. The album has been posted on SoundCloud and can be purchased on BandCamp, the links for which are listed below.
Review by Layla Klamt