The Subhuman - Planet Buddha

This record is aimed squarely at “Girls”, what with its whispered confidences and wine-bottle-by-the-sofa moralising.

(Shaky Maracas)

Subhuman, aka Stefan Breuer out of Lost Bear has made this record, and, with it hot off the press as it were – stuck it in my hands and said give it a listen. So I did. Now, Lost Bear have an Emo side to them that I can’t really empathise with, despite being a popular and fine act in many other respects, but the various solo projects around this band (on their Shaky Maracas label) are pretty great, experimental and brave in their eclectic, messy nature. So with this new LP from Breuer, which has a veritable smorgasbord of styles and attitudes, some of which make you want to commit an act of violence on an inanimate object (yes, Don’t Push Me Away, I’m thinking of you here) whereas others show his considerable ability to write a catchy song to great effect. And if you stick with it the LP blossoms out into some weird late 60s psych folk pop record that’s very good indeed.

Breuer’s voice has an easy, carefree soulful lilt to it, rare in Holland, it’s a cheeky voice, one that plays a set of roles, and he cleverly allows his “interesting guy at the party” act to smoulder away through the record. This record is aimed squarely at “Girls”, what with its whispered confidences and wine-bottle-by-the-sofa moralising. All the instrumentation, soft guitars, strings, goofy keys, a touch of a brass thickening out the chorus now and again serve to strengthen this conceit. Schizophrenia is a great opener too, a slow languorous song that puts everyone at ease: it’s almost a nursery rhyme, and has something of Van Dyck Parks at his most laid back. After this we get Don’t Push Me Away, a lofi Craig David bedroom soliloquy which is beyond cheesy or ironic but sort of works in that “Jesus, Breuer, you can’t do that, wait, you are” kind of way. Just as you settle uneasily in this warm and womb-like fug we get a German rap. I admit this is a tipping point for me. Let’s leave this scene before anything untoward happens.

Luckily we get an instant panacea with the rest of the LP. Holy Mountains, Unsound and Sultry Moon are by contrast great tracks that use his clever knack of balancing the right sounds in a very precise way over a very accessible song. The quality of quietness in these tracks has got a touch of mid 70’s Eno about it, the sort of love song off Another Green World or Before and After Science. His finest song on here, Unicorns, is an all too short woozy reminiscence that has a great sixties feel to it, Breuer comes over like a shagged out Syd or a bedroom-bound Justin Hayward. It’s beautiful. A lot of the songs are short, Syd-like glimpses into the lonely soul boy psyche: the minimal Cinnamon, Forest and River of Song are good examples. It’s eccentric stuff at times too: All My Plants juggles a distinct Harry Merry vibe with some trippy keys…

So, the instructions are simple: find some psychic armoury to protect yourself from Don’t Push Me Away and you will find it’s a pretty fine record, all told.