Let’s start factually. Son Of The Velvet Rat release Solitary Company on March 19th. George Altziebler – songwriter, vocalist, player of guitar, harmonica, melodica – and his wife Heike Binder – harmonies, player of accordion, organ, theremin, autoharp – left Austria in 2013 to move to California. I guess when you’ve been named ‘Best Austrian Singer/Songwriter ever’ and had the ‘Best Austrian Album of the Year’, any creative duo needs to find new challenges. Son Of The Velvet Rat are rather more than ‘any creative duo’.
Let’s begin to move from the factual. Their style has been described as folk-noir, building on the shoulders of Brel and Brassens; Altziebler has a vocal timbre that, depending who you ask, reminds of Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, late-Dylan, Tom Waits – dark, gravelly, commanding the melody and demanding you listen. On a personal note, my second ever review for folking.com, a little over four years ago, was their album Dorado. Despite a plethora of new music adding to a fairly extensive library of older music, I play Dorado quite often. Solitary Company feels as though it’s just as likely to stay at the top of the queue for my attention.
Let’s move further from the factual. Whatever the medium, creative art is about capturing some image, some quality, some thought and reflecting it through your own unique skill whether that be a painting, a novel or music. When you capture it well, the listener (or reader or viewer) knows that the work is uniquely that of a particular creative person, a particular creative voice. Four seconds into ‘Alicia’ the first track on Solitary Company, I knew I could only be listening to Son of the Velvet Rat. Forty-three minutes and ten tracks later, I was still there. Artistically, that’s no mean feat. It’s no surprise that I gather the Californian music scene holds them in increasingly high regard.
Let’s try and give a feeling of why. Allow me to give an image first (it’s that kind of album): if you dissect a flower you might know how it works, scientifically, but you no longer have a flower.
It wouldn’t work to review Solitary Company in any analytical way (I’ve deleted several of those). So, let me give you a flavour of the words and a link to a track.
This is from ‘The Only Child’:
“I came so far
For your broken tunes
Diamonds and tar
Birthmarks and scars
Is what they are.”
If you analyse that and, as it were, pin it wriggling to the wall, you lose it. The images land in that part of your mind which opens up new pathways and insights, only almost touchable. Similarly, ’11 & 9’ has a couple gambling all their money, laying by the levee, saving some for a meal and bottle of wine, but the lyric builds to something that plays with my mind’s ability to create many different backstories:
“Keeping the devil in limbo
Beyond the waterline
You make me a better man.”
And musically? You could be nowhere else but in the company of Son Of The Velvet Rat.
Have a listen below.
Artist’s website: https://www.sonofthevelvetrat.com
‘Beautiful Disarray’ – official video: