There was a time in Germany, from 1918 to 1933, where Berlin shone as the crown jewel of European culture and intellect. Art, music, theater, philosophy, and science all flourished during this period, from Dada to Futurism in the new art of motion pictures to New Objectivity to the rise of our understanding of quantum mechanics. It was an era of decadence and the modern age, cabaret and Bauhaus, zeppelins and cocktails, and burlesque.
It was called Weimar, after the German republic that had been established, and was a time of unprecedented social freedom, a brief hedonistic interlude between the horrors of World War I and the atrocities to come.
Amour Obscur magically, magnificently reflects this forgotten time and place with their musical artistry, and it’s simply amazing.
The band formed in 2009 around the nucleus of Dee Dee Vega (vocals) and Matt Dallow (accordion) and has evolved over the years into a dynamic, raucous sideshow with a multitude of influences. This is definitely a band that you can’t categorize or label.
I had an idea of what to expect from this band; I’m not unfamiliar with music that claims inspiration from sources such as burlesque and cabaret, with Romani- and circus-inspired instrumentation.
What I wasn’t expecting was a band that was so good that the music grabbed me by the hand and dragged me onto the dance floor for the ride of my life.
For the most part, the songs on the album are fast-paced, high-energy anthems to wine, women and whiskey. The music slows down for numbers like The Band Drinks For Free (the main reason most people join bands, to be honest) and Berlin, Your Dance Partner Is Death (title from a Weimar era poem). Berlin also evokes a jazzy Big Band feel, with heavy klezmer and Romani influences.
Dee Dee Vega’s voice is powerful, almost symphonic in nature, and it weaves through the music and anchors it. Listening to the music is different from seeing it performed, but you can still get a sense of her theatricality and dark energy from the songs. The musicianship is top notch, the production values are high, and the album flows easily.
It was impossible to pick out my favorites, because I found myself loving all of the songs, which is rare. Usually there’s one or two songs on an album that doesn’t click, but not this time. I also have to point out that Amour Obscur has a cover of Soft Cell’s Tainted Love and it’s absolutely stunning.
After listening to Berlin, Your Dance Partner Is Death (on repeat, for a while), I came away with two hard facts. One is that this is simply an amazing band, creating unique and enjoyable music. And two, I desperately want to see this band live. I’m pretty sure that the album only captures a fraction of the verve and exhilaration of their live performance.
My overall recommendation: buy the album, follow them on your social media of choice, catch them live, and buy them a drink. After all, the band drinks for free!
Standout tracks: all of them
12 tracks, 37:00
Berlin, Your Dance Partner Is Death! dropped October 18, 2014 and is available on iTunes, Amazon.com, and CD Baby.
The full band consists of Dee Dee Vega (Vocals), Matt Dallow (Accordion), Yoni Benshlomo (Upright Bass), Jeremy Kroger (Drums, Percussion), Julian Evans (Trumpet), Sebastian Isler (Trombone), and Jeff Paris (Trumpet).