The German duo that is Stephanie Böhm and Micha Acher have been making music together for around 20 years now, but the periods between albums have widened after each release as both have been busy with other projects and family life. Böhm and Acher come from Weilheim in Bavaria, known for its creative indie scene which has produced artists such as The Notwist, Couch, Lali Puna and many others. When they’re not working together as Ms. John Soda, Böhm plays keyboard with Couch, and Acher is a key member of The Notwist, 13 & God, and Tied & Tickled Trio.
Their first release together came in the form of a self-titled album as Ogonjok in 1995, a record that has become nearly impossible to get your hands on. After a name change to Ms. John Soda they released No P. or D. in 2002, a melodic and accessible mix of electronica and guitars, with elements of ambient and glitch-pop (see “Go Check” and “By Twos”). The album earned the duo praise from critics and even saw them being compared to influential alternative pop band Stereolab. Four years later they released a follow-up in the form of 2006’s Notes and the Like, which despite containing some nice moments (see “Hands” and “No. One”) it was missing that spark which made No P. or D. such a fun listen. The addition of strings didn’t really work, and overall it felt less cohesive than its predecessor.
Since then Ms. John Soda had been pretty much on hiatus, but now after almost a decade Böhm and Acher are back with Loom and it’s a very welcome return. According to vocalist Böhm the title is about “weaving and combining a vast number of influences, ideas, instruments, melodies, rhythms, and layers to create a whole.” Loom certainly does that with the strings largely removed and more focus placed on the experimental electronic pop side of things, along with some guitar, piano and also horns thrown into the mix. Of the albums ten tracks, “Hero Whales” is a stand-out and was an obvious choice as the lead single with its dense layers and twee-pop sound. Then there’s the tense sounding “Millions” which pulses and glistens as it builds layer by layer. “Sirens” is another highlight featuring a running guitar line accompanied by a touch of piano. On a more down-tempo note there’s also the bubbling “Sodawaltz” or the beautifully sad piano-led closer “FallAway”.
Like with many good albums it takes a few listens to open up, but when it does it reveals itself to be a finely crafted and thoughtful piece of electronic pop. Although Loom doesn’t quite reach the heights of No P. or D., it is a more rounded and cohesive album than Notes and the Like. Here they get the balance just right between the upbeat and the melancholic. The duo like to experiment but always keep their sound accessible, giving listeners of both electronic pop and more introspective forms of electronic music something to enjoy. It’s hard to know when or even if they will return with another album at some point in the future, but with Loom they’ve given their fans a solid record and should also gain some new ones along the way.
Top Tracks: Hero Whales; Millions; Sirens; Sodawaltz; FallAway
Released: 02 October 2015
Label: Morr Music