Dreams are not reality, of course not. But without dreams the world would look different. Because every thought can lead to an action and every new action creates a new reality. So in a way, it is the small things that produce great outcomes. Or, as Monocular put it, “Tiny is the new tall | Close your eyes and see it all”.
Most of the tracks for the second album “Pine Trees” were conceived of in the South of Sweden, in a village of 20 houses between Lund and Ystad. Henning Mankell’s “Wallander” mystery novels are also set in this rural area, where crystal clear light falls from the sky and the air always tastes slightly salty. Singer Nic Koray and her husband, guitarist and keyboarder Jan Koray, spend many months each year here in their country house.
It’s an escape from the dull haze of Dortmund, Germany, where the ruins of the industrial age are crumbling wearily. There the dream of a better, freer life inevitably collides with reality. In the rural atmosphere of Southern Sweden, however, the couple writes songs with melody lines that oscillate between electro influences and potential pop hits. When the tracks are arranged together with bassist David Senf and drummer Sven Kosakowski, they also develop an overwhelming, rocking splendour: balancing between very soft passages, where every detail counts, and a dramatic guitar-driven wall of sound. The critics call this shoegaze and discover a kinship to acts like Blonde Redhead. Unjustly so, because Monocular really are unique and just sound like themselves.
Their debut “Somewhere On The Line” had been recorded by Nic and Jan as a duo in 2009. The music sounded more electronic then and it was compared to bands like Portishead and Lamb. German music magazine Zillo wrote excitedly: “Somewhere On The Line” is the best debut in the extended triphop genre since Goldfrapp’s legendary “Felt Mountain”.
“Pine Trees” is dedicated to late writer Yaman Koray. Nic had visited her father, who lived on a sailing boat in Turkey, often before his death. The album therefore starts with the title track and its affectionate lyrics: “How I wish to travel back in time | when you were still alive”. But the singer’s grief turns into the knowledge that everything that was will always stay – in memory. A deep longing and a great loss is expressed here, but even so the song has something consoling about it.
“There aren’t many female singers in Germany whose voices kill me like Nic Koray’s does. And there are even fewer who I grant to have the rare talent to formulate songs that are as universal and at the same time personal in the most intimate way”, singer/songwriter Tom Liwa recently raved, and rightfully so.
But it is not just this extraordinary voice that makes Monocular special. It is also Jan’s exquisite compositions and the refined interaction of the band. “This Is Real” is driven by a complex breakbeat, around which acoustic guitars dance to cold electronic sounds. The vocals levitate like a relaxed taiji cloud over the nervous rhythms. Hectic rush and calmness cancel each other out – the perfect balance. The video to the song combines images of natural disasters with a surreal apocalyptic mood – Do we really want to continue waiting until it is too late?
Like on the debut, Jan wrote all of the music and the lyrics were contributed by Nic, who obviously inherited her father’s talent. The album, which sounds outstanding for an independent prodution, was recorded in Jan’s 47 Recording Studio in Dortmund. The mastering was done by Robert Hadley at The Mastering Lab in California.
“Zoo Report” is probably the darkest piece on the record: “I can’t get out | You can’t get in” are the opening lines, accompanied by cutting guitars and pushing bass lines. “In a way, it’s about the world as a zoo”, says Nic Koray, ”with self-installed cages, in which every human is being isolated. Made of social pressure, cowardice and fears that rob the inmates of their freedom to follow their own paths and personalities and instead makes them become an observer as well as observed in this bizarre zoo. Of course, in using that image, the song also hints at the things we do to animals and the environment.”
The final song is the majestic instrumental “Home”, whose walls of guitars are evocative of Mogwai’s drone rock. The melancholy that is heard throughout the album gets an emphatic, almost rebellious twist: What would a “Home” be like, Monocular seem to ask, without the freedom to create or even leave it behind? A prison, or a zoo.
Between Sweden and Dortmund the quartet produced an album in “Pine Trees” that you do not hear every day: It is sensuous, powerful and smart.
And once again, a dream has become reality.
Monocular – „Pine Trees“ (June 08, 2012)
Melancholic shoegaze-pop that English music magazines would have written into the charts ages ago. But Monocular stem from the Ruhr Area, so they have to fight harder than the colleagues from London. Very quaffable, full of melodies and with a fantastic singer. (Rolling Stone 06/2012)
In between all of the different publications nowadays you will hardly find yourself caught up in moments of warm und fuzzy bliss. A gorgeous and moving album that especially lives on its unique singer and her congenial voice. "Pine Trees" performs magnificently and it will continue to do so for many years to come. (14 of 15 points) (Legacy 06/2012)
Monocular – „Somewhere On The Line“ (April 23, 2009)
It is indeed amazing, how mature and perfected this debut turned out. ... "Somewhere On The Line" is the best debut in the extended trip hop genre since Goldfrapp's legendary "Felt Mountain". (Zillo 03/09)
Sound: 9 of 10; Music: 9 of 10
With the 13 songs of their debut, duo Jan and Nic Koray pick up the thread that Goldfrapp lost and that Portishead deliberately cut. From its opener "Water Shape" until the final track "Splinters", "Somewhere On The Line" gives off pure melancholy. (Keys 06/09)
Monocular’s sound is akin to Bjork as a mildly schizophrenic lounge singer on Alphaville. The German electro duo, comprised of Jan and Nic Koray, tempers Trip Hop into soothing soundscapes and morphs ambient noise into morbidly mellow synth pop... Their 13-track debut, Somewhere on the Line, is the most exciting thing to happen the genre since the Sugarcubes reunited... okay, that’s a lie... since Portishead reunited. (High Voltage Magazine)