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A Magazine for Sheffield
Live / stage review

Barbara Morgenstern, 28 November, DINA

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Slowly but surely, DINA is becoming the go-to venue in Sheffield for leftfield music, a haven for audiences who crave something more than the four-chord guitar-driven fodder that's on tap across the city.

Barbara Morgenstern is no exception. Over from Berlin promoting her 10th(!) studio album, her style of piano blended with drum beats and synth pads defies easy definition. Accompanied by saxophonist Christian Biegai, who is armed with his own arsenal of pedals and electronic mastery, she crafts music that might be enormous or sparse. Her songs flit effortlessly between English and German and never end up where you expect.

[Morgenstern] wears her learning lightly

Unschuld und Verwüstung ('Innocence and Devastation') is a sequence of philosophical musings, both personal and political. In 'Live Fast, Die Young', Morgenstern worries about artistic passion when you're too old to honour that mantra, while in 'Karriereleiter' ('Career Ladder') she's grappling with the deceptive spectre of capitalism. Derrida and Marx are just some of the names in the album notes on her website. Clearly, this is the record of a keen and inquisitive intellect.

She wears her learning lightly though. Onstage, she's a charming and funny presence, striking up an easy rapport, visibly in her element as she performs and a joy to watch. There's a playfulness in her lyrics that lends all the more power to her songs, because she doesn't take herself too seriously. An inexorable curiosity for sounds and ideas takes centre stage.

Support comes from 'dub-influenced electronic' duo Earth Is Flat, playing with classical pianist Melissa Morris. The effect is somewhere between Nils Frahm and Shostakovich with a techno undercurrent. It's an ambitious and at times quite astounding set. I leave the venue with my mind buzzing, excited by these new discoveries. I only hope Morgenstern's prolificacy will bring her back very soon with an eleventh album.

Sarah Sharp

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