When two kindred spirits meet, their combination often results in more than just its sum. NEVE NAIVE is such a coincidence. Producer/multi-instrumentalist Stefan “Merse” Ulrich and singer/songwriter Neve aka Alexa Voss have joined forces to come up with one of the most astonishing debuts of this year.
“The Inner Peace Of Cat And Bird” is a precious songbook of tales about relationships, communication, affection, heritage and – at its core – the finding of ones own inner peace. Alexa Voss – the Neve in NEVE NAIVE – is a renowed singer (as a solo artist called Miss Flint, as a member of reggae outfit Jahcoustix and the Outsideplayers and as a background singer for several acts like Laith Ladeen, Culcha Candela and Flomega) and now also shines as a gifted lyricist. With Stefan “Merse” Ulrich she found the perfect partner to illustrate her very personal and honest soul bearing. Ulrich is widely kown for his trombone playing in the Jazzanova live band or with The Ruffcats.
One could wonder what the title of the album, “The Inner Peace Of Cat And Bird“, refers to. Can it really be as savage as the tiger and the eagle which appear in the drawing by Wolfgang Nocke for the cover design? Or is it just a metaphor for the ongoing duality between male and female, or any two partners caught up in the rapture of a relationship?
The whispered intro sets the mood straight for a set that should be enjoyed in its entirety and in chronical order. The opening track of this conceptual album, “30 Years” has Neve declaring: “I am reborn, it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day… everything is possible cause of all the things I know.” This might sound naive on the first listen. But isn’t exactly that the state you´re in, when you feel so invincible? Neve continues: “30 years, but I refuse to be mature.”
The plot enfolds furthermore with “How I Learned To Fly” with its harsh piano and brass stabs. The off shot single “Dancer” takes the listener to a club packed with a lovey dovey crowd and adds a bit more electronica to the mix. The album is a terrific balancing act throughout between warm, soulful acoustics and futuristic, crooked electronical sounds. The two ballads , “Anti-Realist” and “Maybes” take Neve to her first self reflective doubts. Might she be not like all the other girls? Melodies start to darken but still keep spirits high. “Hands” is a wonderful and endearing plea for communication or the indictment of the lack of it. “Average Tragedy” has an almost anthem-like vibe to it, the theme tune for those moments when you’re finding out that love is slipping away but also knowing that time will heal all wounds. The joyful guitar playing and Neve’s outstanding vocal delivery are the perfect cure for every broken heart out there.
The only track that doesn’t stick to the storyline seamlessly is “Small Town Kids“. Neve dwells about her upbringing in nowhere land: “Small town boys, small town girls breaking free to make some noise, running away to see the world!” The jaunty trombone and the vivacious drums make it one of the stand out tunes of the album. Whereas “Goodnight My Friend” is a sexy and morbid lullaby that closes affairs in a conciliable way. The outro is a reprise of “Inner Peace” and shows – with a nod to Laurie Anderson – Neve´s avantgardism.
If it helps, references can be made towards the artsy dancepop by Little Dragon or the jazz-tinged soul of label mates Micatone. But then, NEVE NAIVE has its very own and unique voice and distinctive sound that actually compares to none.