Fräulein – Mary demo (self-released)

Fräulein – Mary demo (self-released)

Bristol alt-rock duo Fräulein release a second demo to Bandcamp giving another exciting glimpse of their heavy grunge-influenced sound.

Artist: Fräulein
Track: Mary (demo)
Label: self-released
Released: 31 July 2020
Find it: Bandcamp

‘My whole life / I Was born to drag behind’, laments Joni Samuels of Bristol duo Fräulein on Drag Behind, their first demo track released to Bandcamp in June (with proceeds going to Black Lives Matter).

With a ’90s slacker-rock sound, woozy slides, and warm rounded repeating riffs, and big vocal reflecting lyrically on being reduced by self-comparison even the rough nature of the recording grabbed attention and excited for more. And now more has come with the release of a second demo, Mary.

The track on first listen may not seem to go very far – there is little complexity of time or trickery, yet it isn’t all-out in-your-face brashness either. The circling phrases – both lyrical and melodic – aren’t quite hypnotic but neither do they fall to feeling overly repetitive in any negative sense. This track is subtle, it’s a storm on the horizon, a gathering force which of itself harks back to the best of ’90s grunge and as a part of a picture we can’t yet fully see elicits intrigue for what comes next.

But with only guitar, vocals and drums the sound – and yes, this is a home-recorded demo although it loses nothing by being so – is well balanced and gives plenty of space giving a subtle nod toward quiet-loud-quiet structures without being clichéd. Steady of pace, it’s the percussion offsetting the beat, the tumbling fills expertly placed (by Karsten van der Tol) which provides the perfect framework on which to set a build of voice. For this is a cantillation of grunge, with the repeating and ever more emotional mantra of the ‘Mary said…’ lyric in the chorus, the song oozes with the frustration of having agency taken from you and being shaped by external forces expressed by the Virgin Mary.

Reduction of self is already emerging as a theme with the band then. The reduction of self through comparing to others on Drag Behind, the reduction of agency and womanhood to vessel in Mary, and even the name of Fräulein – the now little used German equivalent to ‘Miss’ but translating as ‘little woman’ and denoting how worth was for so long linked to marital status. The brooding guitar, the tension held in the rhythm, the captivating vocals: these demos show Fräulein are quietly but defiantly becoming one of the most deft alt-rock bands around.

They say, however, the demos are something fun to do while they can’t go out and gig. That’s as maybe, but I strongly hope they are also laying down the foundation for an EP or album to bring their sound to those beyond their local scene and build some of these songs into more final forms.

Find Fräulein: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp

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Sarah Lay

Sarah Lay is editor of Popoptica.
A long-standing music journalist she's also co-founder of independent record label Reckless Yes, an author of novels, and when not messing around with words and music, a digital strategist.
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