Robert Lippok/Barbara Morgenstern: Tesri

If an exotic flavour occasionally surfaces in Tesri (an Arab-rooted Turkish word meaning 'to accelerate'), a collaboration between Berlin-based electronic musicians Barbara Morgenstern and Robert Lippok (To Rococo Rot), perhaps it's attributable to their separate visits to Istanbul. Regardless, the presence of London-based Japanese singer Mieko Shimizo (aka Apache 61) on two songs virtually guarantees an exotic quality, though “Otuskimi” is almost too fleeting to make a significant impression, no matter how pleasant its arrangement of arcade synths and staccato piano patterns. The Suction-styled “Kaitusburi” fares better, especially when Shimizo's vocals mass into a choir that sounds vaguely Eastern European, like that of a Bulgarian choir.

However, the album's more fundamentally rooted in a commission the two undertook for Domino's Series 500 imprint, specifically 2002's 12-inch Seasons which includes a track for each season; two of them re-appear here, “Sommer,” a bouncy setting of piano, synths, and drum machines that's nicely accented by Morgenstern's sweet hums, and “Winter,” a peaceful setting whose soft beats are overlaid by sparse shadings of piano and acoustic guitar.

The musical friendship established by that initial collaboration continued, resulting in an album's worth of material by 2004, some of it impressive and some less so. The first group includes the sparkling electro-synth opener “Please Wake Me for Meals,” its forceful bass stabs interlaid amongst clicking funk beats and a metronomic guitar figure, and “Gammelpop,” which sets pretty, Sakamoto-flavoured piano melodies and acoustic guitars against a lush backing. In addition, vocalist Damon Aaron brings a soulful Telefon Tel Aviv feel to the bubbly synth-funk of “If the Day Remains Unspoken For” while “Ein Mächden Namens Stalin” provides a pretty if brief ambient interlude.

Less striking is “Ginza,” an interlude of little consequence, “White Wise Rabbit,” a melodically undistinguished setting of Rhodes and burbling synths, and “Ein Knoten aus Schwarz” which registers as more a mood piece than a composition. Tesri clearly shows Morgenstern and Lippok to be complementary partners, given that it's impossible to isolate one artist's contributions from the other's. Sonically, the album sounds fine but occasionally falters compositionally as some pieces fail to leave a lasting impression.

April 2005