Mau, Melanie & Schnella, Martin - Crowdless Sessions,
This double disc DVD/CD set is the second release from the guys in 2020, taken primarily from two different sessions, neither of which had an audience, so hence the title. The first of these is from January 2019 when they recorded some originals in a TV Studio, and the second is from 18 months later, directly after the first COVID lockdown and was recorded at the Abbey Bursfelde. Both of these have electric bass, while the guitar is acoustic, and performed with a full band. They also made the decision to include a 26-minute-long medley of the latest Flaming Row album, ‘The Pure Shine’, even though Marek Arnold and Niklas Kahl were not involved with these sets.
Only one song is duplicated across the two sessions of the DVD, and there are songs on the CD which are not on the DVD, and it was this which I played first. The line-up on the latest set is the same as on the ‘Through The Decades’ album, while Fabian Gödecke is the drummer on the older set, and Matthias Ruck is only involved with the more recent one. I have long been a fan of Melanie’s vocals and Martin’s arrangements, both on their full-blown progressive numbers and also on the acoustic cover albums they have been releasing, and this combines both of those elements really nicely. Flaming Row rightly have been gaining a great deal of praise for ‘The Pure Shine’, but Marek’s keyboards and saxophones are always key elements of any of his songs (for a great example, check out The Artwork Project and “Stay”, which features Marek, Melanie and Martin plus many guests including Gary Chandler – sheer brilliance), so to hear it stripped back like this is fascinating. The percussion provides a much more important element, but it is the acoustic guitar alongside melodic bass and the wonderful vocals of Melanie, Martin and Matthias which really make this “shine”.
I would have more than happy with the 77 minutes of the CD, but to have video as well is something special. Good camerawork lets the viewer really enjoy the sessions, both of high quality, and I enjoyed them both immensely. But there are also some bonus features to be enjoyed, with six official music videos, as well as an interview. It was the interview I went to first and was initially intrigued that it was being conducted in German. Obviously the band are German, but all their vocals are in English and I would have expected it to have been conducted in that language for a wider audience, but at least there were subtitles. However, after just a few minutes it was apparent there was a great deal more being said in German than was being provided in English, and it very much felt that non-German speakers were only getting part of the conversation, and I could not bring myself to watch it all the way through. But to be fair that is just a minor niggle, and this is a lovely set with some nice photos in the booklet as well.
This is a great introduction to the wonderful world of Melanie Mau & Martin Schnella for those yet to come across them. This is available on Bandcamp, so try it out there and then buy the physical set.