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Sound of Smoke — Tales
(Tonzonen TON098, 2022, CD / LP / DL)

by Jon Davis, Published 2022-07-06

Tales Cover art

When “Witch Boogie” starts, you might think you’ve accidentally picked up an early-70s ZZ Top record. It’s got that Texas boogie sound from before the days of drum machines. But then Isabelle Bapté starts singing, with her subtle, bluesy tone, and you know it’s something else. The guitar drops out for a bit, leaving the bass to handle the riff for a time until they build it back up again. They finish off the tune by kicking into a faster tempo, for a variation of the classic “rave-up” ending made famous by The Yardbirds. Guitarist Jens Stöver has his blues technique down, and can do it clean or dirty. He’s often multiple-tracked for a fuller sound, but there’s no doubt he could bring it in a live setting without backup. The rhythm section of Florian Kiefer (bass) and Johannes Braunstein (drums) lean more towards 60s looseness than 80s click-track tightness, furthering the sweet retro feel. In addition to her strong singing, Bapté contributes the occasional keyboard part, and even the occasional synthesizer touch doesn’t really change the feel. Boogie-blues isn’t the only style in their repertoire, either. “Indian Summer” brings in a more psychedelic sound, maybe not quite raga-rock, but with a definite flavor of “Tomorrow Never Knows,” with the droning handled by a synthesizer. “Soft Soaper” and “Dreamin’” notch up the fuzz for a grungy sound, and “Human Salvation” is a droning one-chord jam that maintains interest over more than ten minutes (though I could do without the spoken voice part). Certainly it is Isabell Bapté’s voice that will make the most lasting impression, much like Elin Larsson of Blues Pills, not at all buying into the current trend of delicate, breathy singers from all around the world. Bapté has the power while maintaining a fairly clear tone, not at all gritty in the Janis Joplin school, and is also very effective in the quieter, more subtle sections. Tales is a thoroughly enjoyable album that melds past and present into something that’s a lot of fun to listen to.

Filed under: New releases, 2022 releases

Related artist(s): Sound of Smoke

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