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Here two people have certainly found each other, no question. Producer Thies Mynther (keyboarder for Stella and Superpunk) and singer Dirk von Lowtzow (known through his band Tocotronic) celebrate their eerie congeniality with phantom/ghost. In front of us lies “To Damascus”, their second album after “phantom/ghost” (2001), and we better start at the end there where nothing is written. “Nothing Is Written”, this electronic softrock-miniopera is a warning to us – even if it comes much too late: on the way to Damascus there are no direction signs, no written instructions which tell us where to go. Instead we get into a contorted labyrinth of hallucinated cross references and surprising associations. The virtual footnote machine, which doesn’t belong here in written form, would lose itself in a ceaseless room of illusions. But “Nothing Is Written” (Justus Köhncke helped to produce this track) could also mean that the ever popular thrashing vocals so popular today are missing. So, no electro clash, just a little Soft Cell debauchery. Von Lowtzow and Mynther are also much too thin-skinned for erect, upright 80s gestures. Not for nothing two songs render homage to the oversensitive Dandy Yves Saint Laurent, who declared himself, that he was already born with a nervous breakdown. At von Lowtzow´s shy “Ach!” in “Born with a Nervous Breakdown” one gets the imprint of a hand that’s been pressed to the forehead far too often … Life´s a mess…..
Because of comparable light-shy tension the Marquis de Myther and the Dark Prince von Lowtzow take refuge in a nocturnal mysterium and work themselves up into opioid rites of self-decomposition. Not only the wonderful pre-psychedelic “Laudanum” deals with coils of dissociation. “To Damascus” is also literally an anti-enlightenment record in which secrets and glamorous rumours count more than hard, cold facts. When von Lowtzow sings“Secret”, it literally resounds out of “My Secret Europe”.
The voice of reason is knocked off in to the wind and even the stuttering groove seems to whisper something of the black romance to us. More about the rhythm: producer Mynther has artfully synchronized the electronic, sometimes elegant banging, sometimes affectionate skipping beat and provided it with fine nuances and deviances so that he could make the most of von Lowtzow´s voice. Rarely has von Lowtzow been able to make use of his voice in such an eclectic way – claustrophobically pressed, then again sometimes wallowing and open, his voice alters itself throughout the 9 tracks of the album. The sing-english seems weirdly theatrical, soft and over pronounced. Because of their venturous dramatisation, the daring multi-layered vocals and the occasional cello accompaniments the arrangements become bittersweet mini-musicals. A certain Pulp- and Scott Walker-Fixation paves its way without taking the upper hand. The songs – all composed together by Mynther and von Lowtzow – are far too ambiguous and lush to be reduced on a single formula.
Everything needs to be there in excess! Also the catchiness doesn’t get a raw deal: “My Secret Europe”, “Saint Lawrence”or “Born with a nervous Breakdown” are real pop songs and “Sticky Paws” could become a real hit. Myther and von Lowtzow have obviously nothing against exorbitant party-amusement; phantom/ghost do not linger, as the name might suggest, in mouldly castle vaults but rather prefer sweaty discotheques. Their performances on the stages of this world often turn into Glitter-Events. Regardless of all this, tuning in to “To Damascus” will provide the listener with an understanding , but one from afar. That’s good because a pop-realism, which tells us how our life is, troubles us every day already anyway. With “To Damascus”, pop quits the crippled ground of facts und flies into worlds not yet seen today. And their inhabitants smile gloomily.