Merry Lines in the Sky
You know when you got your first Casio keyboard, and you had no idea how to play it? So you just mashed it with your childish palms in the hope of producing something that might loosely be called a rhythm? Well so did Berntholer, and this produced a series of singles and LPs between 1981 and 1985 which were cobbled together into this delightful collection in 2004.
Berntholer are primarily known for their 1983 single My Suitor, which carries the curse of a John Peel recommendation and sounds like a This Mortal Coil song, with echoey female vocals and atmospheric strings. ”He’s a flicker, he’s a glimmer” sings Albanian-born singer Drita Kotaji, with a heavily-accented discordancy that suits the general mood of the song pretty well.
Slightly strangely, the song continues for an extra four minutes, but it’s treated as an entirely separate song – Pardon Up Here. In my three years as a well-respected music critic, I can’t think of a similar example. Anyway, it doesn’t drag, whereas the other long songs on the record – The Curtain Long, A Distance – definitely do. If you can sit through this record in one sitting, you’re a bigger man than I am.
Much nicer is the cheesy jauntiness of Emotions and another single, You Grabbed Me By The Hand, which contains some nice male/female harmonies (think X) and some nice guitar. If they put a few more of these guitar-oriented tunes in, and stopped trying to sound like a cross between Public Image Ltd. and Jean-Michel Jarre, this compilation would have benefited enormously.
If you do make it through the dirges (tracks 6-12 are all over 4 minutes) you are rewarded with three lovely pieces. Simulation has some nice bass parts, and The Others’ early 80s synths are curiously satisfying. On Japanese Garden, they create a wonderfully lazy Caribbean feel, although the cheesiness factor never quite goes away. At least when Drita is whispering, you don’t tend to notice the horrible pronunciation – the butchering of the wonderful hook-filled chorus of Merry Lines in Skies springs to mind.
If you can get past these slight annoyances, there’s an interesting album to be discovered. And if you have any issues with the keyboard player, you should know that he won a Palme d’Or in the 90s, which is one more than you’ve won.