For my own entertainment, I tried to make some kind of assumption about the contents of this CD by studying its jacket design. The sparse black-and-white aesthetics, combined with the enigmatic German name led me into the stereotypical assumption that I would be dealing with some kind of abstract, esoterically minimal German output in the vein of Haus Arafna or some such. The inside art was not as foreboding—some modern nocturnal cityscapes, a mysterious glass of absinthe, and a man with a telephone staring out of the shadows with a serious expression. All things I like. So far, so good!
I might have gotten too involved in my imagination because the contents turned out to be quite different from my assumptions. While I expected something experimental and inscrutable, what I found was actually very familiar and accessible: synthpop, new wave, lucidly sad German standards. Though released in 2015, the album sounds like it could have been made in the late 1980s or early 1990s (which, to me, is usually a good thing). The first track, “Streifzug,” which is also my favorite in both form and content, at least somewhat fits the expectations created by the imagery—an ode to the sterile anonymous beauty of a huge city (the refrain is “illuminated avenues […] shimmering over city neon lights,” sung in the endearing earnest accent German bands singing in English often have).
I thought a comparison to late Kraftwerk would be trite, but throughout listening, it became more and more apparent that it would be quite appropriate. I was both startled and reassured in my assessment when the lyrics in track three, “Nachtfahrt,” actually referenced the very associations the music had been giving me—“…Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Duran Duran…”
The vocals are almost a bit too innocuous. While this is refreshing in a way and makes me fondly reminisce of digging up obscure Neue Deutsche Welle treasures on some ancient file-sharing software, in the long run, it renders the record a bit repetitive. It doesn’t help that the delivery is often either uniformly rhyme-heavy/sing-songy or conversationally flat.
Having touched on the negatives, I can’t call this a bad album. It is quite fun to pick apart and bask in all the synthetic background nuances (especially the colder dissonant ones which balance out the otherwise treacly flow). Then again, I am one of those for whom any kind of German electronica arouses feelings of nostalgia. Some self-aware humor also seems to be present in the lyrics, working in the album’s overall favor.
The album is very pleasing to listen to but does not stimulate any particularly deep sentiments, which is quite fine because it wouldn’t be fun to have to deal with deep sentiments constantly. It would make the perfect background soundtrack to gazing out of a window towards a nighttime cityscape, dancing by yourself or in a group setting, making love, organizing your work station, fondly thinking of the ’90s, and any number of other activities.
Motion is a sweet although not particularly substantial morsel of clean, cold, classic, and very German nostalgic, vaguely dark electronica. Amongst the ocean of misanthropy, blackness, malaise, and nihilism that the “darker” genres often entail, it is admittedly refreshing to come upon a small island of innocent, almost upbeat synthpop with romantic and soft-spoken lyrics about driving at night through a neon-lit city, drinking absinthe, and feeling lonely in the night streets of a metropolis—but the refreshing quality is somewhat transient. The last track, “Fortschritt,” however, seems to make a departure and wander back into familiar dark territory. My broken German leads me to understand the lyrics to be about suicide—albeit delivered in the same cheerful, melodic voice to a danceable beat, making it even a little more sinister than if the delivery was as dreary as the subject. As a final bonus, at only five tracks, the album isn’t long enough to wear out its charm.