Track By Track: Radio Citizen – The Night & The City
While some people might prefer a day in the countryside, others – including the rather talented Radio Citizen – have a penchant for something a little more exciting and vibrant. With the new album The Night & The City having just hit our ears and filled our lives with all sorts of sounds – particularly some lovely latin rhythms and moody atmospheres – we asked Radio Citizen and his incredibly talented female vocalist Natalie Greffel to talk us through the album one track at a time.
Listen in as you're guided through The Night & The City;
COLOUR: Dark sea green, rainy gray.
INSPIRATION: Cycling downhill at night, soundsystem culture, the sea seen from the beach near Regina Maris, the major seventh intervall, diving
COLOUR/S: I guess the colours vary here. Constant change of colours and impressions.
INSPIRATION: The title of the song was the inspiration. Trying to find a meaning with the word "shores” which could reflect my state of mind at the time.
SETTING: It came over two episodes. 1) Sitting in my room with my with then-lover/relationship-maybe-don't know. Trying to figure out what to do with myself. 2) talking with my friend Menda about the 1 episode who co-wrote the song with me. Setting for listening: Where ever you feel like you can find the pace and calmness to listen to both the music and the lyrics.
COLOUR: Turquoise, blinking, glittering colours.
INSPIRATION: Combining free jazz, African field recording and club beats.
INSTRUMENTS: On piano is Antonis Anissegos, a master both in improvised and in classical music.
COLOUR: Dark red
INSPIRATION: Street noises, trains passing by, shooting photos at night on Alexanderplatz, the strings in the movie soundtrack "In The Mood For Love"
INSTRUMENTS: The electronic kick drum and hihat was recorded 1999 in my first studio with a Roland 808 drum computer borrowed from Zombie Nation. I guess you could write the story of this record by describing what is now built at the sites where it was recorded, in this case there's a modern office center housing a major business consultancy.
INSPIRATION: The plot of the movie Radio Days by Woody Allen.
SETTING: I was in my room looking out at the window where I usually sit when I write something. Setting for listening: Biking, running, moving, dancing… not standing still.
COLOUR: Brown and beige, earthy.
INSPIRATION: Cheap drum computer sounds, joy, freedom and calmness.
INSTRUMENTS: Natalie brought me a balaphone when she travelled to Mozambique. It had just the right tuning for this song! And the horn section is Teresa Gruber (trombone), Wolfi Schlick (flute) and me (bass clarinet), we play together a lot in the Express Brass Band. Check out our latest record "We Have Come".
COLOUR: Lilac, blue, green
INSPIRATION: Lost in dub, little Sir Echo, rivers, backyards and dark alleys at night.
INSTRUMENTS: Audio engineers can be divided in two groups: The ones who say they can add colour, excitement and effects later on if they wish so and the other group that just tries to get it from the very beginning.
I'm more of the second school, so we recorded the flute with a mic into an analog echo box into a guitar amp with lots of spring reverb and put another mic before the amp. But then I added even more echo later…. The great Wolfi Schlick on flute!
SEASON: Late spring
INSPIRATION: Alice in Wonderland, the track "Moth" by Burial/Fourtet, the early dawn after going out, playing with Krautrock/ethno jazz band Embryo in many different times, rhythms and measures.
INSTRUMENTS: Balaphone and flute are recorded in my Electric Arcadia studio in Munich. This studio still exists!
The electronic sounds that rise later in the background are made with laptop and double bass by Klaus Janek, an excellent improviser who plays a lot for the dance scene in Berlin.
COLOUR: Dark green
INSPIRATION: This is my favourite song from the album! As I said in another interview, I'm not really nostalgic for analog sounds, it is more that I like to have contrasts. Which in this song are heavy crackles, a modern clear voice, digital glitches, an '80s drum computer, cut-up samples. One interesting thing about our time is that you can have all that in coexistence, analog and digital.
COLOUR/S: Blue… dark Season: autumn/winter night and rainy
INSPIRATION: Letting go… hopefully
SETTING: I was on vacation in Barcelona sitting in a big park.
SETTING FOR LISTENING: Biking home alone or home alone maybe… Alone!
COLOUR: Night blue, the blue of the so-called "blue hour"
INSPIRATION: The song is based on an track dating back to 2001 called "Berlin Serengeti" which the first Radio Citizen album was named after, without featuring this track. Long time ago Berlin Serengeti has been a petting zoo in the outskirts of Berlin.
INSTRUMENTS: All drum sounds (except the triangle played by Natalie, of course) were created with a Roland 101, coming from a liquidation of a techno label. The label chef bought drum machines and synthesisers for all his thirty best friends, but the output was not accordingly…. The piano is an old Winkelmann upright concert piano built in 1906.
SETTING: It was recorded in my flat in Berlin, you can hear the noise coming in through the open window.
COLOUR: Very dark with distant lights, searchlights
INSPIRATION: The omnipresent straight bassdrum in Berlin. Which bores me rhytmically, but, as it is everywhere trickling away in the background, you get used to it and finally stop to notice it at all. Apart from that: wide open skies, King Tubby, the damper mode of the aforemetioned piano.
COLOUR/S: Sark blue with flickering lights (much like the album cover)
SEASON: Mid-/late summer
INSPIRATION: The view from the balcony in my childhood apartment, watching the landscape on the other of the lake through my binoculars. Making up stories about what lies on the other side.
SETTING: In my room.
LISTENING: Sunset I think.
Near And Far
COLOUR: Gold and silver
INSPIRATION: Abiodun Oyewole, singer here and member of the Last Poets; in the very beginning of this track the basic inspiration was the depressive mood of the first morning of the new year, when all rockets are shot and all booze is drunk, but that was a long time ago.
INSTRUMENTS: The strings are "aus der Dose", as you would say in german, coming out of a tin. For the next album I would love to work with real strings again, it´s so much better.
COLOUR: Dark brown, tungsten light yellow, red, orange and green traffic lights.
SEASON: Early autumn
INSPIRATION: This is kind of a homage to DJ Shadow´s song "Organ Donor". Matthias Gmelin plays the acoustic drums, confidently changing between the four and three beat measure.
SETTING: The drums were recorded in the Hermann Linng rehearsel room in Munich which feels like the last Gallic village in a gentrified city. And home to a lot of nice bands: Los Poppos, Karl Hector And The Malcouns, Express Brass Band, Les Gitanes Blondes, and asylum to many more.
COLOUR: Very dark blue, little white stars,
SEASON: Spring as in Le Sacre du printemps.
INSPIRATION: The two girls singing on an old field recording. Those two are real stars to me.
INSTRUMENTS: I´m collecting small percussion, and I got the metallic shaker appearing in the end from my parents. It has an ear-splitting volume, so at this point a big praise to the microphone that could capture it, a Neumann Gefell which once belonged to the Berlin Tierpark and that has been renovated by the mic gurus Grosser and Thiersch.
COLOUR: Pitch black
SEASON: Deep winter
INSPIRATION: The bassline was much older than the rest, I recorded it for a movie "Dancing with myself".
Wolfi Schlick plays the lovely flute and did an excited and exciting fast solo, later I cut most of it out and put even more echo on it so it is rather relaxed.
SETTING: The atmosphere noise is recorded in front of our old rehearsel room in Moabit, Berlin. It was an old brewery, you could slip in through a small side door, follow an art deco staircase and land in the old brewing room which was about 25m x 15m and 7m high. Later the brewing room has been converted to a large disco, but still only the aluminium dancefloor in the middle was left of it. Following a small staircase, you got to the old office of the disco and this was our rehearsel room. Sadly it is going to be a shopping mall, the big room was spectacular.
The Night & The City is out now via Sonar Kollektiv.