Band of the Week: Von Südenfed

Music Features Von Sudenfed
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Hometown: Düsseldorf, Germany and Manchester, England
Fun Fact: Von Südenfed is named after the region where Jan St. Werner grew up, and it may also refer to a common decongestant.
Why It’s Worth Watching: The band is a union of three radically different but equally innovative artists, and such ambitious collaborations are few and far between.
For Fans Of: Mouse on Mars, LCD Soundsystem, Aphex Twin

At first, a collaboration between Mouse on Mars and Mark E. Smith seems almost counterintuitive.

A pioneering electronic duo that thrives on reinterpreting synthetic sounds could not possibly find any common ground with a man who has spent over thirty years insistently searching for authenticity.

But given a little thought, the missions of Jan St. Werner, Andi Toma, and The Fall’s legendary frontman start to seem quite similar. After all, both Mouse on Mars and Mark E. Smith have devoted their careers to relentless experimentation, and they’ve been driven by a persistent dissatisfaction with the mainstream.

As St. Werner describes it, Smith came to see a Mouse on Mars show and “was really enthusiastic after the concert. Then we just decided to do something, and it was really open.” The result was Von Südenfed’s debut album, Tromatic Reflexxions.

After Smith appeared on a version of Mouse on Mars’ “Wipe That Sound,” the three convened in a studio to create material for a full-length album. “We hadn’t prepared anything,” St. Werner says. “Mark came to the studio, and we made a session really from scratch. We took that session and cut it into pieces.”

For St. Werner, Mouse on Mars’ constant ambition serves “to keep the rawness and the immediacy and still have something that’s really produced.” That consistent paradox differs from Smith’s vision; St. Werner says that “for [Smith], the album is already too clean,” and had the notoriously cranky singer had his way, Von Südenfed would have released the original session, rather than its processed successor.

Still, what is most striking about Tromatic Reflexxions is the extent to which Smith’s vocal contributions, and his voice in general, both undermine and reinforce the tensions that St. Werner identifies. “[Smith’s] voice is so much like a sound that you find it really appealing without editing it in any form,” he says. “Mark is already singing processed, I think, if you know what I mean.” Indeed, Smith’s voice is as affected and immediate as the music of Mouse on Mars, and the contrasts are evident on the album.

In “Duckrog,” his voice is sampled, looped and manipulated until it’s barely a human expression at all, while in “The Rhinohead,” it adds a warmth and intimacy to St. Werner and Toma’s sometimes-cold soundscape. Ultimately, every track on Tromatic Reflexxions is a testament to invention and spontaneity. “I don’t really see myself as a musician in the sense of giving birth to a piece of music,” St. Werner says. “I just make things happen—I just help in realizing them.”

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