Author: Karsten Hein
Category: Audiophile Music
Tag: Singer Songwriter
Well, we could ask the same question. — So, who is Alin Coen? Having shied away from public media for some years now, due to the increasingly deafening presence of irrelevant nonsense, Alin’s 10-year presence in the German public eye had simply escaped me. After all, Germany is a small country that is comfortably perched at the centre of a large and bitchy neighbourhood. A community of national pride in which local talents usually remain strictly local phenomenons. We are still far from the cosmopolitain Europe that would create legends to rival those from across the pond. And, sadly, I have a frightful feeling that this outlook will not be any different for Alin Coen and her band. What a shame, because they have so much going for themselves.
Alin was born in Hamburg in 1982 and was raised bi-lingual in German and Spanish. Having spent some time in Scandinavia, she speaks proper English as well. Similar to many German musicians she holds a full university degree, a backdoor to a decent job that will always be open to her, just in case her music career should become too much of a challenge. Bummer. This structured approach to life is arguably one of the reasons why true and lasting passion for music is rare to be found in this country, with the world’s megastars to be found in places where artists are willing to bleed and more often than not need to overcome hardship to follow their passions.
“Wer bist Du?” was written at a time when Alin and her university friends and band members re-decided to take up music rather than follow a career in environmental science. Who are you, who am I? Who cares? — All we can say for certain is that Alin’s debut album was released under her own “Pflanz einen Baum” label in August 2010. Apparently, the German weekly ‘Stern’ even had the album listed as highlight of the week. A later album of hers “Nah” was given the same honour by the radio station MDR Kultur. But how much good is a week of support in today’s competitive world? The trouble with the German nine-to-five media is that they neither ‘think big’ nor do they think very far. Pushing a young star up the billboards is not something we might expect from such stuffy and well-situated institutions. Here, too, are people unwilling to bleed for their passion.
“Wer bist Du?” is a straight forward singer-songwriter album lending elements of Indie Pop mixed with Folk. Voice and instrumentation are soothing and calm enough for nighttime listening, an important factor for audiophiles waiting for the city to fall asleep and for the power grid to calm down. Although the lyrics are not the first thing to strike the listener’s attention when listening to the album, Alin’s choice of words does merit the description ‘poetic’. Personally, I prefer her English language songs, because I find her voice and intonation more instantly believable than her German singing voice (with slight Spanish accent?). However, this could well be a mirror of my own scepticism towards German language songs. Having listened to the album a few times, I hardly notice the language changing anymore, and the German has become more familiar. All of her songs appear to be genuine and hand-made and, as such, are well above the usual Pop and radio standard.
Here is an album that has the potential to grow with your audiophile HiFi-system. When Sabina first brought it along for our evening sessions together, our main system consisting of Martin Logan electrostatic speakers still sounded somewhat thin and unbalanced. Consequently, “Wer bist Du?” also sounded a bit light, with too much emphasis on upper voice and lower bass. I was not aware of this at the time and thought this was simply how the album sounded. With each improvement to our system, the music became richer and tonally more accurate. Having completed our most recent updates, most obviously those to our cables, “Wer bist Du?” now has a pleasant fullness and warmth to the voice, as well as a wonderful mid-bass punch. I did not know I like this sort of thing, but it seems I do.
While both our systems now play the album well, I especially enjoy listening to it on our Halfer XL280 amp and Tannoy XT8F combo, on which the music now has a wonderfully organic flow that resembles my short experience with Harbeth speakers, a lush sound of earth and wood that really impressed me. Both the album and our system have become a soothing whole. And finally: Would I recommend this album to English audiophiles? Yes, I think you will enjoy it, for its ability to caress and surprise. Even the German songs paired with Alin’s voice are reassuring and melodic enough to appeal to international listeners.
Feel free to share your experience with “Wer bist Du?” in the comments below.