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Saâda Bonaire

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Album Review

Captured Tracks' reissue series moved away from shoegaze (re)discoveries and into more rarefied territory with this retrospective of Saâda Bonaire, a German group that only released one single before EMI pulled its financial and promotional support. But what a single it was: "You Could Be More as You Are" and its B-side, "Invitation," were tantalizing calling cards for the group's unique mix of aloof female vocals and moody disco augmented with dub, African, and Middle Eastern elements (Ralph "von" Richtoven, the DJ who conceived Saâda Bonaire, was a friend to many Turkish musicians who had immigrated to Bremen). Produced by dub wizard Dennis Bovell at Kraftwerk's studio, the single seemed so, well, singular that it seemed as if there couldn't be more music like it, but this collection shows that the project's unreleased material was just as strong as the songs that saw the light of day. Recorded between 1982 and 1985, the tension between the era's typical sounds — glassy keyboards, stiff drum patterns, and slinky, busy basslines — and oud, saz, and hand drums gives these songs a still-potent mystique. This clash between timely and timeless plays out in fascinating ways: "I Am So Curious" elongates an oud melody to sound like a blaring saxophone before returning to a more traditional burst of intricate notes, while "Heart Over Head" is surprisingly playful, suggesting the naughty pop Goldfrapp perfected several decades later. As intriguing as Saâda Bonaire's combinations of old and new were, the moods they created were even more striking. Stephanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld's world-weary performances are magnetic in their simplicity, adding to the project's overall feeling of otherness. They're glamorous but isolated observers, sometimes seeking contact ("More Women") but more often than not shunning it (even looking in the bathroom mirror is too much for them on "The Facts"). While latter-day groups like Chromatics touched on this kind of dreamy, melancholy dance music, their scope isn't as broad as what Saâda Bonaire attempted. Even during their own time, their approach was more unusual than most of the world/pop music fusions that followed later in the '80s. The quality of Saâda Bonaire's music and its packaging (which includes enlightening interviews with "von" Richtoven, Lange, and Bovell) makes it a truly exciting reissue.


Genre: Dance

Years Active: '80s

A one-of-a-kind mix of disco, dub, African, and Middle Eastern music, Saâda Bonaire was the brainchild of Bremen DJ Ralph "von" Richtoven. He formed the project in 1982 with vocalists Stephanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld and musicians he discovered at a local immigration center. The group recorded its debut single, "You Could Be More as You Are," with producer Dennis Bovell -- famous for his work with Matumbi, Pop Group, and the Slits -- at Kraftwerk's Cologne studio. As it happened, Saâda Bonaire's...
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Saâda Bonaire, Saâda Bonaire
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