Blaudzun has named his new album (released on March 7th, 2014) Promises Of No Man’s Land. The Indie-Rock singer surprised friends, fans and followers when he unexpectedly announced the release of his new album and club shows in a YouTube video in early December. The responses where amazing and the first shows were sold out within days. More than two years since his internationally acclaimed Heavy Flowers (which is set to reach the Gold status in the Netherlands), his fourth album has been released by V2 Benelux and Glitterhouse Records again.
A lot of songs and compositions on Promises Of No Man’s Land originated during a long period of touring with his band. Whenever Blaudzun wasn’t on stage he used his time to write and to hone the melodies. “I worked out the bulk of the songs in Barcelona, Southern France and Berlin, but I waited until I was in the studio to finish them. I wanted to keep my options open as long as possible, to keep feeling like I could still mess around.”
In June 2013 Indie-Rock singer Johannes Sigmond, Blaudzun’s real name, started recording his new album. Everyone who was involved in one way or another was bound to secrecy. “I wanted to keep it quiet. No blabbing in the pub or tweeting about it,” Blaudzun says. “I didn’t want to have to answer questions from friends, followers or journalists such as ‘How are things going with your album?’ or ‘When can we hear some new songs?’. Even some of the musicians involved didn’t know what I was doing.
That’s how I recorded my debut album in 2007 and I wanted it to be like that again. It’s like when you’re making a good stew: taking the lid off the pot every five minutes to take a whiff won’t do the flavour any good.”
Promises Of No Man’s Land shows a more dynamic sound than before. Apart from Blaudzun’s remarkable and characteristic voice the sound is determined more and more by orotund drums, electric guitars and analogue synths. “I’ve been looking for a more vitriolic and edgy sound. Angry instead of fragile. That’s what the songs asked for. I see them as modern war cries; the songs you sing either before or after a battle, whether you win or not.”
Blaudzun spent a lot of time in a studio in Utrecht with recording- and sound engineer Martijn Groeneveld. Musicians would come by separately now and then. Most of them, including his brother Jakob, have shared the stage with him. They never stayed longer than a few days. But like on his previous albums, Sigmond played a lot of the instruments himself. He played synth, bass guitar and this time he even handled the drums. “Not on all of the tracks, though. My drumming is too limited for that. But they’re one of my favourite instruments. I can never keep my hands off them.”
Sigmond spent more than ever time on his lyrics, which were written much later than the music. “That was new to me. I always work with syllables and sounds as I try to come up with words. It’s a kind of gibberish, like speaking in tongues. Phrases and rhymes emerge from these melodic fragments in an organic way. I used to continue that process until phrases and stories arose, but with the songs on the new album I wanted to hold on to wordless melodies as long as possible. I was able to arrange songs differently because I could keep reason and content separate from the musical process for a long time. I’m more and more aware that words can destroy the music, that’s why I took my time to come up with the right lyrics. And although this may sound strange, it doesn’t mean my lyrics have become more important than before.”
Blaudzun doesn’t like to talk much about those lyrics: “Promises Of No Man’s Land is not a concept album with just one theme, it’s more like a pulled apart triptych in which people who are on the run, loneliness and deceit play an important role. Let the music speak for itself first. The picture on the album cover ties into this. You don’t need any other explanation ahead of time.”
The remarkable picture Sigmond is talking about is by Czech photographer and artist Jan Saudek. In the 1970’s Saudek worked as a factory worker in Prague during the Soviet domination. He had to work from his cellar because his photographs often linked erotica to themes such as political corruption, violence and innocence, and it was important to avoid the attention of the secret police. “I’m a fan of his early work, especially. The photo on the cover was taken in 1978 and it works well with the atmosphere I had in mind for the album,” according to Blaudzun.