With acts like Bilderbuch, Wanda, Pauls Jets or Der Nino Aus Wien, German-language pop music from Austria has had an amazing run in recent years. As different as the bands and artists were – here the always exciting Future-Pop from Bilderbuch, there the Rock’n’Roll from Wanda, which always dances close to the cliché, here the life-beautiful true songs from Nino – one thing stood out: Overall it was at least what made it to the big stages, amazingly manly. Now, with Rahel and Resi Reiner, two of Austria’s most interesting newcomers have released their debut EPs at the same time, which is not only delightful, but also a kind of corrective.
Although: Newcomer is such a stupid word. Resi Reiner, for example, sounds as if she had always been there. That’s even a bit true, because she’s been an actress since she was six – for example, she took on the lead role in the children’s film “Karo und der Liebe Gott” when she was nine. Only she has never sung before 2021, or at least never published anything sung.
The strange, well-known feeling that the songs of their EP “Echestieren”, which was released last Friday, radiate, may be due to the fact that they have little or nothing showmanship. They never seem excited or even impetuous. It’s more like this: Resi Reiner sighs. In the song “Richtig Sommer”, for example, quoting the great Rudi Carell: “It’s going to be real summer again; I mean, a summer like it used to be? Where there are a few cool days in between, when it’s not that sub-Saharan hot.” We also hear a sound that is suitably dimmed and, with its vintage keyboard lines and its windblown background vocals, diffusely conjures up the past without being retro be.
You can understand this as the soundtrack to the summer of the century, maybe even as a commentary on climate change, but it is important to note that “Richtig Sommer” is not political. Resi Reiner doesn’t preach, you get the impression that she surrenders to the 41 degrees, the burning asphalt, the constant sauna feeling, because it wouldn’t do any good to resist it.
This mindset also runs through the other songs of the mini-album. In addition to hot days in the Vienna subway, it’s about mediocrity, which cuts across all areas of life from songwriting to dating (“Well, that’s okay”), vacations under difficult circumstances, but with a deaf pug (” I want to go to Italy”) and the back and forth of table tennis as a metaphor for love (“table tennis”).
These songs are, as the Brit would say, relatable. They tell of indefinite longings that go beyond categories such as age and gender. You shrug your shoulders tiredly, even when the world is dying: the 26-year-old Viennese shows herself to be a clever copywriter, sending out laconic descriptions of the moment and state of affairs, where you never know whether to laugh or cry now.
Your lines are always slogans that would look good on house walls or at least on Instagram tiles. This fits in with the way the artwork breaks down the songs to their essence: a parasol for “I want to Italy”. A ping pong racket for “table tennis”. An old-fashioned air conditioner with an attached lizard for “Lizard Animals”, all written by Friedemann Weise, songwriter, satirist and one of the authors of the “Today Show”.
Rahel also released her first song last year and her debut EP “Die Allerschönste Angst” last Friday. And: One of her songs also reports on the hottest time of the year. But “Hochsommer” does this in a completely different way than Resi Reiner’s summer song. “Midsummer comes before the fall,” says the chorus, later: “Everything is so easy, everything makes sense now, the perfect flash flood, you’re right in the middle.”
Of course, this arouses associations; however, these are short-lived: Rahel remains variable in her lyrics and – as the EP impressively shows – completely unpredictable. Sometimes they are very direct descriptions of their condition (“Tapp Tapp Tap”), sometimes it seems as if one were perceiving them and their thoughts through a pane of frosted glass. You have to make your own sense of what she’s saying.
One could still attribute a certain proximity to the NDW revival loop of the turn of the millennium to their first songs in particular. But even then, such statements had to be garnished with a big “but”. The new EP makes that clear again. In Rahel’s sound you may find traces of Mia. or Wir sind Helden, her voice also oscillates between ennui, melancholy and anger, she too seems to be constantly on the move in her songs, walking through the city, through the night and through the “wrong doors”, as she describes it herself in “Tapp Tapp Tapp”.
At the same time, she lays down a multitude of allusive musical tracks, virtuously linking threads that stretch from the knef to the neon babies, from French chanson to sixties twang to American soft rock and which certainly have nothing to do with what is usually subsumed under the term Austropop. The two best songs are called “Cherry” and “Honey”: They both flirt with a peculiar sound in which space sounds meet broken beats, in which you can find ambient textures as well as easy listening and prog keyboards.
If you scratch off the many layers of sound, they certainly tell stories; but, just through the frosted glass pane. “Cherry” seems to be more unsettlingly about toxic love, while “Honey” is about “the most beautiful fear”. Rahel’s album is the first major hit for a new record company: she releases via the Viennese DIY label Radio International, which is run as a collective.