Wow, it's not too often I hear a new band that really knocks me on my ass. This band is very much a contemporary sounding group, with massively retro 80s sounds – killer slap bass; vintage synth sounds – brass, bells; disaffected, robotic sounding German-accented female vocals; damsel-in-distress shrieks and gasps; funky guitar lines dripping with chorus; vintage drum machines – this album has it all. Killer songs, killer production. What more could you ask for from a new band? Oh yeah, how about some incredible, wailing sax solos?
Except, wait a minute… Saâda Bonaire is not a new band! They were signed to EMI Electrola way the heck back in 1983, and this, their debut album, was originally recorded back then at Kraftwerk's recording studio. But some record label buffoons screwed up massively – the AR man handling the band had blew his wad 5 times over on Tina Turner's Private Dancer and then 3 times over again on Saâda Bonaire – as a result EMI decided to take him to task and so the project was thrown on the scrap heap, never to be released, dooming Saâda Bonaire to 30-some-odd years of obscurity. This sad fate was, in a way, maybe not so horrible a thing though – who knows, this band may well have sank like the Hindenburg back then, we'll never know. But the album sounds pitch perfect for the musical clime of today, hence the interest in a timely release courtesy of Captured Tracks.
The band, formed by DJ Ralph "von" Richtoven in 1982 in Bremen, Germany – a lesser known neighbour to Hamburg – Saâda Bonaire was designed to showcase vocalists Stefanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld. The album was produced by British reggae guitarist and producer Denis Bovell (Thompson Twins, Slits, Alpha Blondy, Bananarama, Fela Kuti, Orange Juice, Madness, Linton Kwesi Johnson, etc). You may remember Bovell from the BBC Reggae Britannia documentary, where he talks about the superb suburban dub-plates coming out of John Hasell's Barnes-based studio. Charlie Mariano (Gong, Stan Kenton, Charles Mingus) contributes some seriously sultry sax lines.
This album is stunning: sophisticated female vocals dripping with sexiness and style; amazing funky guitar lines; Asian/African influences; paranoid effects; awesome drum machine sounds and exotic percussion; echoes of disco; echoes of rap. Songs of longing, songs of sex, dystopian visions; it's hard to imagine how this album could be any better, or au courant.
It's so good – so branché – that I couldn't help but wonder if it was a scam – did this band actually ever exist? – cursory research suggest that they were in fact a real band and they did release one 7" on EMI back in the day.
Fans of Rainbow Arabia, Destroyer, Grimes, Sean Nicholas Savage, Adult, Glass Candy, goth, goth pop, Strawberry Switchblade, 80s vintage sounds, etc take note. This is an extraordinary album.