Videotraum’s Debut Ebbe // Flut Is A Dark, Romantic Soundtrack To Hamburg’s Eerie Beauty
On their first album, the German duo takes listeners on a journey of love, contrast, and emotional synth-scapes.
Ebbe // Flut is the first LP from Hamburg-based coldwave duo Videotraum, comprised of vocalist Jo and producer Misael, who together craft lusciously dark synth backdrops and addictive melodies. The LP comes in the wake of their first EP Schatten, gaining the attention of Young & Cold Records who will be releasing the new record on CD and Vinyl later this year.
The first track, “Equinox”, starts off with gritty, rich, and full-bodied synth pads that hint at an album that promises to be dark and immersive. The track later opens up, becoming lighter as vocals take centre stage. The muddling of emotion is a hallmark of the album – it is dark, yet also irresistibly melodic. Coldwave influences are expertly interlaced with post-punk style riffs and arrangements, resulting in the creation of a real sense of romance. This goes beyond just love and relationships. And, whilst Ebbe // Flut is not intended as a concept album, ultimately the LP sums up the romance of life’s interconnections and changing moods. In fact, its title, translating to “ebb//flow” in English, perfectly describes the tension and release it has in every way.
The themes that contributed to Ebbe // Flut are very much based on the surroundings it was created. Hamburg has a deep history surrounding it, something that is easy to inject personal melancholia into, whether as an artist or as the listener of this album. What Videotraum have done is selected the best of these fleeting moments of feeling that arise in any inspiring place, and brought them to life. As a result, what they have created is a snapshot of feeling from the city’s beating heart.
Standout tracks include the third song, “Schwarze Herzen”, which is easily one of the darkest, most tense melodies on the LP but also one of the catchiest – as well as track five, “Du und Ich”. The latter is released as a single and features a science fiction-like synth riff and a creative drum beat with German language lyrics that capture the mood of the small moments in a relationship. Overall, whilst many bands experiment with combining genres like post-punk and coldwave, what Videotraum has done is used one to complement the other. Whether intentional or not, the 8-track LP is full of little details like the addition of small synth lines in just the right places they are needed. For example, amongst an otherwise stripped-back drum beat, expertly balancing tension and emotion for the listener.
Apart from this, the ability to see beauty in the melancholy of the city that inspired them has a zen-like quality to it. Similar to the yin-yang sign where there is a little bit of one thing within its opposite and vice versa, demonstrating the interconnection between contrasts is a musical motif that has developed since their last release, Schatten. Whilst glamour and romance are present, it is exciting to see how with Ebbe // Flut, their music embraces darkness but experiments with distinctive bright sounds and melodies that add an accessible quality without straying into the realm of pop – or destroying the nonlinear, moody atmosphere that they have worked to create.
As the LP wears on, the tracks experiment more with major sounds and uplifting synths so that ultimately the entire eight tracks are given the resolution of a story. This comes to a head in the final track, “Ebbe”, which offers rousing moments of hope in its under-two-minute melody, showing just how versatile the group’s synth work is too. And this narrative is also present in the split reference to the album’s title between “Ebbe” and its sister track “Flut”, the upbeat yet chilling number that takes you to the pulsing, coldwave midst of Hamburg’s club scene.
Nowhere though, is the band’s knack for contrast and grey areas more prevalent than in the video for “Du Und Ich”, contrasted with its classic coldwave melody and lyrics with a simple description of a universally relatable moment of love that is refreshingly sweet and pure. Visuals of vignettes flash by and you’d be forgiven if you had only listened to the melody that the subject matter was much more sombre. Nevertheless, it perfectly manages to sum up the qualities that make life and love dreamlike and mysterious. In this way, it’s perfect for Videotraum’s signature combination of genres – and showing how darkness and beauty can coexist alongside each other, blending softly at the edges.
Many bands have played with contrast. Ultimately where Ebbe // Flut stands out is in how Misael and Jo appreciate the small details within their inspiration. Like the moody, moonlit streets of Hamburg, they transform the ordinary into something greater, setting it to a dramatic and emotional soundtrack that repeats in your head long after you’ve stopped listening.
The digital version of Ebbe // Flut is out now on all streaming platforms before it will be released on CD and Vinyl via Young & Cold Records in September this year.
Featured Image by Domelka