Berlin-based Neue Deutsche Welle revival artist Sofia Portanet has finally released her first full-length LP Freier Geist, a record that bears the name of her debut single released two years prior in 2008.
In the interim between both releases, Portanet has been making a name for herself, utilizing her multilingual singing talents and showmanship with music videos in English, French, and German, and crossing over the Altlantic for showcases at SXSW.
In fact, Portanet has become one of the most critically acclaimed newcomer artists from Germany with recognition as “Best newcomer for 2019” from Klaus Fiehe (1 Live), and “Germany’s next big popstar” from Lauren Laverne (BBC 6 Music).
To most, comparisons to artists such as theatrical new wave singers of the 80s such as Lene Lovich, Toya Wilcox, and Hazel O’Connor, are more than warranted, yet Freier Geist with pride draws upon influences from German music from the 70s and 80s with inspirations from Ingrid Caven, Hildegard Kneef, Ideal as well as other international legends such as Yma Sumac and David Bowie.
Freier Geist was written by Sofia Portant and her collaborating producer Steffen Kahles at their Berlin studio.
Listen to the record below, and watch the videos, and read a track by track commentary for Portanet herself.
Freier Geist / Free Ghost
“This song initiated the whole process of this record. It was originally written in German (“Freier Geist”) and starts with a poem a friend wrote for me. It’s those lines and the profound meaning they had for me that made me feel like singing and writing in German for the first time ever. I wanted to respond to that poem and wrote the rest of the lyrics. The song is about transience, the quest of love and self-definition….A ghost that doesn’t really exist. It appears and disappears. It’s not bound to earthly matters. It’s everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It’s free. Or maybe that’s why it’s not?”
Menschen und Mächte / I Trust
“This song talks about many things in a rather playful and abstract way. It’s about the beauty of the unknown, the beauty of darkness and of what is yet to come, the beauty of creating things. It’s also about dreams and reality, death and disillusion but also about personal growth and the power of every individual to shape ideas into new realities.”
Wanderratte / Wandering Rat
“This song is about longing, the urge to depart and breaking out of ordinary life, losing yourself in a foreign place, meanwhile discovering and rediscovering your own personality. The title of the song is a reference to the poem “Die Wanderratten” from German poet H. Heine, which states “There are two kinds of rats; the hungry and the fat. The fat ones stay content at home, the hungry ones though, they hungrily roam.”
“The lyrics from „Das Kind“ are based on a poem by modernist/mystical writer R.M Rilke that I found in one of his books called „Mädchen-Gestalten“. I mixed it up with excerpts from different poems of his. As a result „Das Kind“ ended up as a poetry collage. The story has something mystical and magical. It feels like a call from the adult world into the dreamy realm of childhood. It’s also about the power of music and its ability to have that particular imprint on us.”
Planet Mars / Planète Mars
“Planet Mars is a rather untypical heartbreak and goodbye song – it has a dramatic twist and plays with it in a humorous way. No matter how hard a heartbreak may be, it’s essential to keep up the humor!”
“The song “Art Deco” is a celebration of self-expression and power. It talks about objectification and machismo in relationships. The lyrics are quite ironic and contain a certain sense of revolt as they attempt to point out the ridiculousness and absurdity of macho perception and behavior.”
“I was in a bar in Berlin when I saw a sticker in a bathroom with a very short poem that deeply seized me. The poem was signed so I researched the name and finally met the author. We got along and I asked him to send me more of his poems. “Waage” was one of them. I loved the lyrics and could really identify myself with it, so I decided to make a song out of it.”
“Ringe is one of the most emotional songs on the record. Whilst the singing may have an element of fragility, the music culminates into a powerful explosion. The drums, the strings and the entire arrangement give the song a slight orchestral character. The lyrics are about transformation, transience, love and the search for a real home.”
“This song is a cover version of French singer Catherine Ribeiro’s homonymous song. To me, she’s one of the greatest French singers of all time. She had a band called Catherine Ribeiro + Alpes who formed in the seventies. Her voice is incredibly moving – both powerful and fragile at once…I was deeply touched when I first listened to the song, so I decided I’d like to make my own interpretation of it, creating wide guitar soundscapes and keeping the instrumentation very simple. The lyrics are very powerful and poetic and state the power of nature and each human being. I felt the character of this anthem was a nice way to close the album, too.”
Freier Geist is out now via Duchess Box Records.