Maybe Sonar Kollektiv got a lucky punch, or maybe it’s just a logical consequence that Munich based Niko Schabel and his Radio Citizen project now release their new album on the label that represents exactly the same sound Schabel has been preaching for years. The fist two LPs (“Berlin Serengeti” and “Hope And Despair”) came out on the San Francisco imprint Ubiquity Recordings after Quantic heard Radio Citizen’s music and pinned a promo CD on Ubiquity’s A&R department.
Five years after the excursion to San Francisco Schabel now returns with his combo to the haven of his hometown. “The Night & The City” is an album tailor-made for Sonar Kollektiv: A melange of genres which deploys live instruments on an equal footing with samples and herewith becomes a highly explosive mixture of latin percussion, funk, poppy dub, moody, folky soul, Afrobeat, ethno-jazz, Bossa Nova, Hiphop und blaxploitation soundtracks.
Schabel is a so-called musician’s musician who can play anything from woodwinds to keyboards and percussions, as well as of course the MPC sampler by Akai like hardly anyone else. On top of that he apprehends expertly how to work with all kind of different musicians and how to form out of many influences, individual pieces and styles of genres a coherent entity bigger than its separate parts.
To start off this thirteen stations encompassing tour of “The Night & The City” we get the slightly sombre “Shores” with jazz singer extraordinaire (Afro-Danish) Natalie Greffel and dummer Matthias Gmelin. Niko Schabel himself controls the MPC, plays piano and supplies the percussion. It gets even more sinister thereupon with the instrumental “Clouds” with the backing by Antonis Anissegos at the piano. The whole album drifts somewhere between melancholia and wistfulness. On “Radio Days” Natalie Greffel bemoans devoutly: “search around for higher ground, before I drown in the waves that been pulling me down”. This sounds as if Portishead and Tricky spent a day together at the stormy Atlantic coast. Since “Rise” is somehow about the sea as well, but also about finally stopping to mope and “freedom will come your way”. The album actually embraces the typical Bristolian sound without evoking triphop or bigbeat at any point. Niko Schabel and his co-musicians are much too much devoted to Jazz to go along that path and with tracks like “Trip”, “Sleep” or “Schatten” they provide the perfect soundtrack to an imaginary big city thriller. The significant difference from other musically flawless and stylistically confident combos that do their own thing called Jazz is Radio Citizen’s unparalleled use of samples. On “Phone” it is a vinyl crackle and numerous strange sounds Schabel constructs a round-the-twist wall of sound of, on top of which Greffel’s lyrics slide cherubically. The singer with her beautifully heartwarming voice is virtually ubiquitous on “The Night & The City”. Only on “Near And Far” she briefly leaves the microphone to Abiodun Oyewole (founding member of the first Hip Hop band ever: The Lost Poets) while supporting the mesmerizing beat with a triangle.
This is definitely not your common feelgood album which you can let warble off-handedly in the background. Only if you want to create voluntary an atmosphere that is claustrophobic as well as menacing and compelling in the same way. Music for after midnight. Music for city neurotics with lots of groove.
RADIO CITIZEN – THE NIGHT & THE CITY