Albertine Sarge’s new release is the Family of Things EP, her first full release since the 2021 album Sticky Fingers, an idiosyncratic debut that I thought seamlessly blended a great sense of fun with musical and lyrical sophistication.
On Family of Things, we have six more beautifully crafted tracks that form a loose odyssey which embraces life and love as well as encompassing unhealthy cravings, being in the moment and the Buddhist concept of selflessness. Albertine has also collaborated with an international cast on the EP including the UK’s Anna B Savage on ‘ETIHL’, Australian Kat Frankie and German flautist Lisa Baeyens on ‘Deep Well’, and New York’s queer poet Amanda Monti who provides a gloriously sensual ice cream shop encounter in the middle of ‘In A Minute’.
Albertine Sarges brings wit and wisdom to her music and on this EP we move from the sun creeping over the horizon on ‘Wake of a New Dawn’, to the joyous bounce in ‘Hold On’, a soaring chorus on ‘Bird’s Life’, the middle-eastern vibes of ‘ETIHL’, the yearning pulse of ‘In A Minute’ and the dreamlike suspension of time on ‘Deep Well’. As with Sticky Fingers, I was drawn to the enchanting mix of intelligence and fun that you also find in the music of artists that share a similar DNA like Tom Tom Club, Laurie Anderson and Kate Bush. This is music to put a smile on your face, a thought in your head and a spring in your soul.
Albertine Sarges has been kind enough to give Joyzine a track-by-track guide to Family of Things, and it’s a fascinating peak behind the curtain of the songs on this most brilliant EP:
‘Wake of a New Dawn‘
Sparrows are chirping, there’s a subtle rumble of the Hudson River and a golden sunrise – this is all taken from a Youtube Video I watched on full screen while writing the lyrics. Like a manifesto or a prayer, I try to recalibrate and set intentions at the beginning of the record: Put down your phone! Am I really hungry or do I feel empty inside? How can I transcend the discomforts of life and become who I want to be: a peaceful and mindful friend? But also don’t fall into the self-optimization trap!
A friend once said, “Remember, the world is your oyster“. As in to achieve, reach your goals! And ever since, I wanted to call her and remind her, “that the best slurp is love.“ I don’t know if that is even proper English, but I had to keep it because it sounds so lesbian and comes really surprising and goofy, which breaks up the self-seriousness of this song.
Like so many other of my songs this song is cheering for someone – this time it’s not the girls (The Girls) or embodied feminism (Free Today) but for people who struggle with unhealthy cravings. As we are living in a world that accelerates into unbearable contradictions and doom, many of us look for ways to stop the pain. For many its drugs, for others, its food, sex, work, you name it. I have been addicted to nicotine since I was 13. Nicotine is a slow killer and is still quite acceptable in Germany. As I write this, I smoke a cigarette. I tried to quit so many times that I stopped calling it “stopping“, I call it “pausing“. You may find this whimsical, as there are bigger problems in the world. But I can tell you, that the experience of not having free will when it comes to the consumption of something that destroys you, is devastating. It goes right on your self-respect reservoir. So, this song is for me, to continue the fight, and it is for everyone else, who is addicted. Everyone who is fighting an addiction is a hero to me, and I wish this to be heard loud and wide! So, the instrumentation of the record is minimalistic, the narration is key, and a power beat pushes us through the story.
In the music video (JZ: at the bottom of this post) I embody the big marketing lie of the Marlboro man. In my story he is fighting his addiction, caught in a human sized cigarette package.
Don’t know how you are feeling, but I am just deeply exhausted from our life under covid. Our brains aren’t made for living in uncertainty for such a long time, so an unprecedented worldwide health crisis is a lot to take.
When the spirits are low, I turn to soul music. I can’t deny my everlasting love for Curtis Mayfield, with his positivity and strive to “keep pushing on“. For Millie Jackson and her delicious pain that “hurts so good“. So here comes my personal take on soul music, straight out of the darkness of the Berlin winter 2021/22.
In the song I am trying to stir up a fiery groovy energy that fills me up with the power to move on while at the same time acknowledging the heaviness and pain of existence. The title bird’s life refers to the easiness and freedom that we associate with the life of a bird. In the middle part of the song I am asking for “a reason to keep pushing on” – this is a direct Curtis Mayfield reference – “to open up to light and the courage to fly”. This is like a mantra. In times of crisis we tend to get darker inside and to stick to the ground and become heavy weights of sorrow. I want to remind everyone that we can get inspired to more light and freedom with the power of words, community and… yes, bird watching is also a great means of self-help. I started bird watching in 2020, ever since it is a source of actual bliss that is always available to me.
‘ETIHL’ feat. Anna B Savage (Acronym for “Everything That I Have Learned”)
This song came to me in my sleep. I woke up, jumped to my table, and recorded the melody on my phone. Which ancient dream was this soundtrack to? The melody seems so old!
This one is supposed to flow like a yellow curtain in the autumn wind. Filled with nostalgia and hope. We gave it a bit of Manu Chao vibes with funny little noises in the background and we added a warm Hammond organ to it. Andrea Belfi (IT), an experimental percussionist that I really admire, played the Trimba on this song. Trimba is a special instrument that Moondog invented and played on many of his recordings. Inviting Anna B Savage (UK) has been so wholesome. I think we are connected through our striving for direct honesty and our love for nature. Also, she has an almost baroque attitude in the way she sings, so I had to think of her right away. Our voices are entangled beautifully.
Lyric wise the song is like a poetic equation of life: “For everything that I have learned“ (that’s the phrase that the Acronym title ETIHL refers to) ”there are another hundred waiting. For everything that I have earned there are another hundred fighting“. In the middle of life and loss stands someone with a bag full of childhood memories who tries to strive for acceptance and hope. But most of all they need to have the courage to ask for love: “Take me in and greet my arrival, yield what was sown on your terraces of hope“
‘In A Minute’ feat. Amanda Monti
Very close to the meditation subject, this song explores the importance to cherish the moment. To be in the moment without looking back or forward, to just hold each other “like it was easy“. Written like a love song, I had the climate disaster in mind when I came up with the lyrics. I feel like we are at the end of something, the end of a leisurely and paradisiacal time almost. We are looking back at it with grief. Now, time will not stop, here comes the future. Where do we get our motivation from? We still need to fall in love. So I asked the queer poet Amanda Monti (NYC) for some of her gorgeous poetic offerings. She describes this quick magic encounter at the ice cream shop. It couldn’t be more “Sticky Fingers“ than this text: referring to molten ice cream on her collar bones and fingertips, bringing together wafers and Marcel Proust, but also PayPal and the self-forgotten whispering of “yes, yes, yes“. It’s time and body bending, a dive into a small moment that spreads so much joy and sensual queer phantasy. It’s literally giving life!
‘Deep Well’ feat. Kat Frankie
This is the slowest and also the longest song I ever put out. I guess the message is: radical deceleration and contemplation. I am very proud of it because it is exactly what I would have listened to on repeat when I was a teenager. I hope for many people to put on their headphones in the metro and just lean back as the room opens up for extensive walks in their own minds. Or to slow dance through beautiful fields with their inner windows open.
I also want to bring attention to flautist Lisa Baeyens (DE) and her beautiful flute patches. By looping flute layers and putting reverb on them, she creates just the smoothest surface for us to paint on and provides a heavenly set up.
Kat Frankie (AUS) has an unmistakable mystique in her voice. I have toured with Kats band for many years, and I missed hearing our voices together. We have always enjoyed the play of my light and her dark voice; it sounds like the shadows dancing under a tree. It’s an honour to have her dark glowing presence in this song.
The lyrics are about meditation. The zen concept of emptiness refers to how we perceive things around us: The goal is to have a clear view: Nothing added, nothing taken away from the raw data of physical events around you. But emptiness is like a snake, you have to make sure to pick it up from the right side, or else it might bite you = You might lose yourself in ignorance and inner stiffness.
I am fascinated by this concept, as well as the Buddhist concept of selfless-ness. It’s no accident that my meditation song also sounds like a song to have sex to. I believe that the best kind of love is the one when you forget who and where you are, forget all expectations, just flow with the experience and be generous but also be trustful enough to receive.
Introduction by Paul F Cook