Chica and the Folder: Under the Balcony

Chica and the Folder (Ocean Club associate Paula Schopf and Sun Electric member Max Loderbauer) follows its 2003 Monika release 42 Mädchen with Under the Balcony, an eclectic potpourri that mixes traditional acoustic elements (vocals, guitars, kalimbas) with electronics (drum machines, synths) like it's the most natural thing in the world (mixer Tobias Freund also adds TR-808 to three songs). The material oozes rich, international flavour on both vocal and stylistic fronts with Schopf singing in English, German, and her native Spanish and with the duo touching multiple bases in the album's dozen songs.

Mixing together romantic synth washes, an “O Superman”-styled vocal pattern, an accenting yodel, and ambient field elements, the opening song, “Huerfanos,” immediately announces that the group plans on promoting an idiosyncratic sonic universe, a conviction the group reiterates with the equally eclectic closer “Fest Der Grillen” (which incorporates operatic vocals eerily similar to singing on Meredith Monk's Atlas ).Schopf drapes her heavily-accented voice over a bass-heavy, minimal electronic pop base in “Perfect Day (Sometimes),” but the mood shifts when a chorus chants the vocal melodies and horns appear, turning the tune into a Latin cha-cha. In “Angelus Novus,” Chilean poet Nicanor Parra's words are given a robotic vocodered treatment that matches the song's propulsive electro-techno groove. Elsewhere, one encounters funky electro (“Dancing Been”), gothic synth-pop (“Happy”), laid-back schaffel (“Souffle”), a romantic fusion of Spanish elements and electronic dance thrust (“All Inclusive”), and even a credible stab at hazy ambient soundscaping in “Monte Rosa” (though the three-minute visit is brief by genre standards). Perhaps the most successful piece is also one of the simplest: “Desde El Balcon,” and elegant electronic vocal ballad boosted by symphonic synth washes. Ultimately, though, Under the Balcony's most striking characteristic remains, as mentioned, the ease with which its traditional acoustic and electronic sounds are merged so seamlessly, a feat that extends to the marriage of folk song and electronic dance elements too.

November 2007