Donna Regina: More
Karaoke Kalk

Though More is the tenth release from Donna Regina, the Cologne-based duo of Regina and Gunther Janssen, the forty-three-minute recording certainly sounds anything but tired or played-out. The group traffics in an appealing form of ethereal folk-electro-pop balladry that exudes a ‘60s-flavoured breeziness and subtle air of buoyancy and elation. Interestingly, many of the standouts feature acoustic and relatively unadorned arrangements, like “Shape My Day,” the Beatlesque (and too-short) “Good Morning Day,” “To Be Around,” and the predictably lovely closer “Dream On.” Subtle instrumental touches elevate the material too: the group spikes the syncopated, piano-led shuffle “Cry Baby” with a guitar's cry, adds vibes' sparkle to the title song, and the unusual sound of a tremolo organ to “Dream On.” The songs' hypnotic impact derives from the loop-based essence of the songs and, of course, Regina Janssen's trademark silken, breathy voice. If there's a downside to the group's sound, it's that the duo sometimes pushes that loop dimension to the limit of tolerability and that Regina 's emotive range is constrained by a delivery that can sometimes seem robotic.

Is More at the level of Late, the best of the past few years' Donna Regina releases? Not quite, though it's a more than credible outing. With the exception of “She's My Friend,” which mixes things up by injecting the Donna Regina sound with handclaps and a funky swing, and the nine-minute “Heart Oh Heart,” which adds a slightly spacey electronic dimension, More largely hews closely to the group's established sound, so anyone coming to the album hoping for a radical broadening of the group's sound or a re-invention may be disappointed.

January 2008