Happiness in Obscurity
Ms. John Soda’s Loom, the first release from this German two-piece band in almost a decade, is a bit of a confusing record. After their 2002 debut came out to general acclaim, making at least one important top 50 list, Soda’s follow-up album a few years later was received a bit more coolly. And then, for a long time, silence. The pop side-project of musicians Stefanie Böhm and Micha Archer may have seemed to run out of gas and fall to the wayside, as musical side-projects often do. And yet here we are, a child’s life later, with a new collection of 10 songs under an almost forgotten name, and – well, put simply, it’s really good.
The mixed gender indie-electronic duo has become almost a genre in itself over the past several years, a kind of forward thinking techno twee-pop, possibly evolving over many years from the folk scene – but leave that to the historians. Loom follows this path, but not in any newcomer-ish way. Their sound feels a lot like Icelandic glitchy folk band múm, with maybe a tinge of Swedish dark pop duo The Knife, but Ms. John Soda is not simply picking up on the trail of these influences. It’s easy to forget, but once upon a time, these groups were all contemporaries.
In a way, Loom is a comeback record, but it doesn’t feel like one. It’s subtle without being boring, low-key without being a downer, just a generally enjoyable, mellow pop record. They picked up where they left off, and didn’t miss a beat. Other bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Vaselines have recently pulled a similar move, putting out new music after years of silence to the delight of their niche fans, but largely overlooked by the mainstream. As it seems to be intentionally unspectacular, Loom will definitely fly under most radars. It opens on an odd harmony of melodica and organ with “In My Arms,” and ends abruptly with “Fall Away,” never making any kind of brash climax or bold statement. Böhm’s vocals throughout the album are understated, but not whispery, and mesh perfectly with the soft, occasionally melancholy melodies of these nicely crafted three-to-four minute pop songs.
A sleeper album if there ever was one, Loom has come out of nowhere and will likely return to nowhere – not because it isn’t a wonderful piece of music, but because it doesn’t seek approval. There are surely a handful of longtime fans who have been eagerly awaiting this release, and they’re sure to be pleased by it, but Ms. John Soda doesn’t attempt to reach beyond that orbit. They do what they do best, and they do it really well, and really, what more could anyone want?