Album Review: Sebastian Sturm - Echoes
by Gardy Stein
Just like an echo, sometimes you have to go back to where you started in order to unfold your full potential. For his new release Echoes, that's exactly what German-Indonesian artist Sebastian Sturm did: having worked with Martin Pauen for his first two albums This Change Is Nice (2006) and One Moment In Peace (2008), Sturm revived this link and returned to the former's Rubin Studio. Almost five years in the making, the result of this collaboration is out now, presenting 14 songs of extraordinary analogue beauty to the world, songs that will take you back to the golden days of the '60s and '70s soulful Rocksteady-era.
The replete sonic experience owes its mesmerizing force to the skills of musicians such as Dr. Ring Ding and Cathi Groth (brass), Diedel Klöver, Ras Meyer, Aurelian Falconnet and Alex Kabisch (bass), Tom Benecke, Shadi Heinrich and Philip Breidenbach (guitar), Guido Craveiro and Jonas Lorenz (piano and hammond) as well as Hene Marheineke, Tim Schwarzpaul and Martin Pauen himself on drums. Not to forget Frank Dellé und Jahcoustix, who did the grand backing harmonies!
A full package, that is, which captures your attention from the sweet guitar line of Shine On, a grooving opener that speaks of the longing for good moments to last forever, to the short but intense Where Have You Gone, a song that was recorded at the artist's home with reverbed vocals that match the title of the album.
Echoes, the actual title track, processes in a very personal manner the singer's separation from his wife some years ago. "There's no such cruel noise as silence... those echoes in my mind must finally go quiet." Actually, love and relationships are the recurring subject of the release. While What Do You Do ponders the feeling of loneliness, for instance, the light-hearted Dancing In The Rain celebrates a new-found togetherness.
Interesting in so many aspects (instrumentation, vocals, chord progression...), Soulmates is an ode to those rare people that feel like we've known "since the day I was born", the overall gloomy feel of which is lightened by the fantastic transposition in 2:40. Quite to the contrary, If We Were Lovers has an upful, Oldschool-Ska vibe that invites dance- and sing-along, as does the swingy Every Road.
What a drum-roll to start a song with! Catch Me dives into the Rocksteady mood again and is a prime example of what makes this album so special: live instrumentation, heart-felt vocals, well-written lyrics and a perfect mixing and mastering (kudos to Martin Pauen, André Meyer and Guido Craveiro!).
Only Don´t Burn Bridges, the evocative Hold The Powers ("we need love and peace to fight this global disease") and the Marley-esque Rockstone, which ends in a wonderful Dub-excursion, touch on more global subjects. Oh, and in case The Man In Me and (Wish I could) Hideaway ring a bell, both are covers - the former by Bob Dylan, the latter by Creedence Clearwater Revival. Both work astonishingly well in Reggae, which is due mostly to Sturm's unique vocals that translate painfully honest emotion so well - you just know he's been there, felt that.
Echoes is a vibrant, deeply engaging album that, once discovered, won't stop playing on your system. Regale yourself with some classic foundation sounds that will make you feel as if you've entered a time-machine, throwing you back half a century to the recording rooms of the big Jamaican studios.
Footnote: While writing this review, I learned that the term "echo" originates in Greek mythology, and for those who are interested, here's the story: Echo was a female Oread (mountain nymph) who had a beautiful voice and was recruited by Zeus to entertain his wife, goddess Hera, so she wouldn't notice him indulging in amorous adventures. When Hera found out that she was cheated, she became so angry that she took Echo's voice away, condemning her to only being able to repeat the last words spoken to her. Echo thus couldn't tell Narcissus that she was in love with him, and as he turned away from her, she retreated to a cave in the hills and stopped eating until only her voice was left...
Sebastian Sturm - Echoes
DIGITAL RELEASE [Rubin Rockers]
Release date: 03/11/2021
01. Shine On
02. What Do You Do
04. Hold The Powers
05. (Wish I could) Hideaway
06. The Man In Me
07. Dancing In the Rain
08. If We Were Lovers
09. Catch Me
12. Every Road
13. Don´t Burn Bridges
14. Where Have You Gone