A killer collaboration, and appealing in large part because of how easeful it feels, like two old friends kicking around ideas. Blixa Bargeld is working here with an Italian composer who floats between worlds, and their combination brings them into a small space filled out a few times by the Balanescu Quartet. What they end up doing is backing up Bargeld playing miniaturist, making observations in English, German, and Italian. “I recall the black days between zenith and nadir,” Bargeld sings on “Still Smiling.” “Is there a pattern anywhere? I recall the black days, the blackest one it’s not the last one but it’s there.” “Alone With The Moon” feels a bit like a Germanic Tom Waits in control. Very German, laughing into the void.
Outside of Einstürzende Neubauten, Blixa Bargeld’s most fruitful recent collaboration has been with Italian film composer and musician Teho Teardo. Still Smiling was their first collaboration, and it’s one of Bargeld’s most endlessly rewarding albums outside of the Neubauten orbit – he and Teardo work together beautifully, with the latter’s capacity for drama, subtlety and counterpoint working as a fantastic foil to Bargeld’s rich, sensuous voice. Bargeld sings in three languages – English, German and Italian – admitting great flexibility to the way he approaches the sonority of singing, the very material of the voice; he seems to slide, beautifully, between the sweeping and sliding strings that form the core of the album’s music. The title track, pensive and stealthy, is perhaps the highlight, though “Axolotl” comes close, its deep black strings resonating out like galaxies forming in front of your eyes.
– Jon Dale