Son Of The Velvet Rat celebrates the release of their new album "Solitary Company". The album will debut internationally on March 19h, 2021, released by Fluff & Gravy.
Son Of The Velvet Rat is the solo musical endeavor and masked identity of Georg Altziebler, shared with his wife, Heike Binder, who, having left their hometown of Graz, Austria, and the cloistered safety of the European continent for the endless highway of America, finally settled along the edge of California’s Mojave Desert in Joshua Tree in 2013.
Situated at the vanguard of euro folk noir, their songs build on the cabaret traditions of old world masters like Georges Brassens, Jacques Brel and Fabrizio De André, now fused with the dark old testament prophecy and Kabbalistic visions conjured by new world visionaries Townes Van Zandt, Leonard Cohen or Bob Dylan.
The result is like some exotic desert fruit, equal parts bruised pulp and scarified skin, set off against the crepuscular glow of the violet horizon or blood pooled on the desert floor, all delivered in what accidental fan Lucinda Williams calls Georg’s 'great sexy gravelly voice', leavened by Heike’s translucent harmonies, like roses circling a tattooed heart.
A faint sigh from the melodica before the band joins in. They’re playing a slow march, treading gingerly. Everything is sparse, piano, organ, guitar, drums, double bass, all adding up to the restrained suggestion of a potential wall of sound while playing as little as possible. A half minute in, the great Bob Furgo’s violin takes over with a tune that’s equally Irish folk and 'La Vie En Rose', instantly placing us in that American and European world he used to evoke on those old Leonard Cohen records. “I’m the paintbrush, not the painter”, Georg Altziebler sings softly, setting the tone for 10 song shaped stories that appear to tell themselves without effort. “I am just the singer, not the song, All I really did was sing along”, he deadpans. It’s a neat play on an old cliché, using the familiar as an elegant entrance to an original vision.
“I’m gonna take Avalon to Landers Brew”, Altziebler sings on “When The Lights Go Down”, name checking the road that leads to the bar where he and Heike have played many a show on a small semi circular stage. We might be in a film noir (“Wash the blood away from your fingernails, Get rid of the gun on Sunflower Trail”), or in the middle of a climate change induced apocalypse. For all of its local references, this is far too surreal to be a folk record. Rather, it inhabits “a secret parallel world behind the clouds”, in the words of “Beautiful Disarray”.
While their previous longplayer "Dorado" took them to the Culver City studio location of producer Joe Henry, the new album "Solitary Company" was recorded mainly in the very landscape referenced in the lyrics, inside a Red Barn at the end of a dirt track, a place filled with lovingly restored vintage amps, keyboards and recording gear by its owner and the album’s co-producer, Gar Robertson.
There’s a Ferris Wheel spinning underground, a couple gambling all their money at the roulette table on “11 & 9” (the date of Heike and Georg’s wedding anniversary), the midsummer night’s magic of “The Waterlily & The Dragonfly”, and a couple seen making love from the windows of New York City’s Carlton Arms Hotel in the album’s eerie title track. It all ends in the haunting “Remember Me”, the story of an old fisherman left behind by his family.
Not many records manage to take the listener to so many places with such subtle tones and gestures. At Son Of The Velvet Rat’s California gigs you’ll see eccentric desert dwellers mouthing their lyrics back at them.
They have become an integral part of the Joshua Tree music scene, which holds this mysteriously charismatic couple of Austrian immigrants in increasingly high regard. On the evidence of "Solitary Company", it’s easy to see why.