Wednesday 6 March 2013

Conny Ochs - Black Happy (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 4/3/2013
Label : Exile On Mainstream
Black Happy, tracklisting:
1) Exile 2:36
2) No Sleep Tonight 3:10
3) Died In Your Arms 2:12
4) Faces In The Crowd 1:03
5) Stable Chaos 2:59
6) Trust In Love  2:43
7) Borderline 2:13
8) Phantom Pain 2:56
9) Lead - Out 2:30
10) Blues For My Baby 2:53 
11) Mouth 2:36
Conny Ochs hails from Germany and has been making music for over a decade now in various incarnations – with bands, unique projects and as a solo artist. While local punters endorse and worship his musical endeavours, and especially his first solo album Raw Love Songs which was released on Exile On Mainstream records back in March 2011, it was the collaboration with Scott “Wino” Weinrich on the 2012 album Heavy Kingdom that really put the Conny on the international map.

In 2013, Conny Ochs will follow up his debut solo release with a brand new album Black Happy. An album of earnest, melancholic songs where Conny bears his soul with raw emotion, combining his beguiling vocal and melodic guitar style. What is channeled into his music, tone and lyrics are indisputable personal truths, the kind that are deeply rooted in the blackened parts of the human soul. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad, sometimes nasty, sometimes nice, sometimes begging, sometimes proud, sometimes cheerful, sometimes bitter, sometimes lost, sometimes found. And with this, Conny Ochs reaches a stark authenticity that draws you in, makes you part of the music and deserves to be devoted.

The music on Black Happy ultimately draws upon a tradition and history of great acoustic craftsmanship created by some of America's finest songwriters (though not restricted to the American continent). Through that inspiration especially, Conny explores the realms of how your inner self can be sonically portrayed, once you are on your own and armed with only a guitar and your voice. Yes, this musical path is a well trodden one, but it isn't worn out yet and Conny walks the road in his own wholehearted way.

Just like the previous album Raw Love Songs and the Wino And Conny Ochs album Heavy Kingdom, Black Happy was again engineered, mixed and mastered by Thommy Krawallo in Berlin with analogue equipment. It will be released in March 2013 on Exile On Mainstream.
German singer/songwriter Conny Ochs serves up a sparse set of acoustic songs here. I first heard of him via his 2012 collaboration with Scott “Wino” Weinrich and am glad that I have checked out this solo record. The mood is rather bleak- the sound is not folk, not Americana, not blues; although there are elements of all of these genres within. There is not even a trace of a Teutonic “thresh meddle” type accent in earshot (as heard on Kreator and Destruction albums of any vintage).

There are electric instruments to be heard here- guitar, bass etc. Mostly, though, it is a vocal centric showing of emotive tales based around the personal rather than anything else. There are harmony vocals (a capella, no less, on Face In The Crowd) but this is not a West Coast type acoustic record. Some percussion even drives Trust In Love so aurally the record is not predictable at all. There is a melancholy nature to the album overall- similar to Tragic Kingdom with Wino. Standouts from the eleven tracks on offer here are hard to pick out- Phantom Pain was one for me, but the bar is set high throughout, so the album flows continuously rather than peaking and then climbing back down. Mouth finishes the album with only harmonica, tambourine and voice and a fine vocal performance from Ochs. If that sounds twee, it is not necessarily so.

If you are looking for a downbeat singer/songwriter record that doesn't ape the usual suspects (Dylan, Springsteen, Cave, Young, Waits) this album could well be for you and will make a welcome change of pace from listening to Deicide continually, as I have been doing of late. It wont change your life, but it may enrich it a little- so give it a try.

Words by : Richard Maw
As ever show your support  Thanks to Lauren @ Rarely Unable . Check the links for more info on the band. Record is available to buy now and DD at the usual places.