Camping: Suburban Shore
Plug Research

Suburban Shore's an oddity on many counts. First of all, it's German Bossanova recorded in Washington DC. Secondly, it's a collaboration involving German singer Henning Fritzenwalder and Americans Stephen Gardner and Ben Bailes, better known as Chessie. On paper, it looks like a strange combination but the results are far from off-putting. After the initial disjunct of the German lyrics and Bossanova rhythms wears off, Fritzenwalder's smooth vocalizing and the imaginative musical concepts come forth. Gardner and Bailes strike a careful balance, as they expand upon the dance style with instrumental sweetening but never sacrifice the essence of it in doing so. A good example is the uptempo “Aufgeregt” (Agitated) whose twanging guitars maintain a constant buzz behind the vocals while horns blare out a robust, jazzy call. Some tracks, like the laid-back “Fotografie” and the samba “Treppenhaus,” are purer genre exercises, with Fritzenwalder's gentle singing the untainted focal point. “Schneesturm” (Snowstorm), on the other hand, is a curious marriage of disparate styles as its singing, acoustic guitar, and drums are repeatedly buried under surging waves of distorted noise. Probably the most unique piece is “Verbrechen” (Crime) which pairs raw guitar scrapings and fuzzy techno beats with acoustic guitars and Fritzenwalder's laconic delivery, but the album's most gorgeous moments arrive on “Mit Dir Mit Mir” (With Me With You) with its dreamy melodies, silken vocals, and shoegazer guitars. Such seemingly unnatural elements repeatedly cohere on Suburban Shore to provide music that's sensual, breezy, even at times magical. It also impresses for being a project seemingly free of irony; the musicians clearly sound like their love for the music is genuine. Consequently, what at first seems like a bizarre idea ends up sounding surprisingly natural.

April 2004