Masha Qrella Speak Low: Loewe and Weill in Exile

The influence of musical theatre on indie rock has never been as evident as in recent years, both subtly (Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors) and more overtly (Idle Tigers, Parenthetical Girls). Commissioned to present an evening of NY/Berlin culture crossover by Berlin's House of World Cultures, Masha Qrella looked to the Broadway contributions of fellow Berliners Kurt Weill and Frederick Loewe. While tracks like "September Song," "I'm a Stranger Here Myself" and "Saga of Jenny" aren't exactly new to being covered, Qrella makes every effort to downplay the pomp in favour of the pop. The results have the breezy but slightly downcast countenance of vintage Low or Damon & Naomi. Along with co-guitarist Rike Schuberty, she presents wide-open spaces that could house either '60s/'70s pop or even Jobim-esque bossanova. The keyboard work of Michael Mühlhaus provides just enough reference to the wellspring to keep the source in mind. Most of all, Qrella's tone manages to capture both the hope and loneliness at the heart of the songs. It's Broadway the slightly easier way. (Morr)