The singer of avant-garde electro-punk outfit Brazilian Girls, Sabina Sciubba is a multi-lingual artist whose music transcends both space and time. Across no less than five different languages, her straight talking debut solo album Toujours is a compelling, intimate, narcotic dreamscape you might call The Parisienne Velvet Underground and Nico, with a surprising sense of humour.
"I photographed myself naked, sitting on a closet, like a French dresser," she laughs describing the DIY semi-animated video for the album's title-track. Paying homage to Pythonesque surrealism it sees Sciubba riding a donkey whilst playing a ukulele, wearing nothing but a smile. "The actual photos are ridiculous. My older son was looking at me like, 'oh no, she's lost it'."
Equally adept at casting opinion as well as writing songs, Sciubba is a modern day heroine, skilled in the art of elegant seduction. Cut from the same rebellious cloth as other uncompromising femme fatales Patti Smith or Madonna, whilst channelling the visual impact of Grace Jones and Bjork (one billowing outfit appeared to be a ventilation shaft, made of crepe), she is a fearless woman, whose passion for speaking her mind - in German, Italian, French, Spanish, and English - only enhances her sophisticated lo-fi pop music.
Born in Rome to German and Italian parents, raised in Munich and Nice, and discovered in Hamburg at age 19 by virtuoso guitarist Antonio Foricone before relocating to New York to lend her stunningly sultry vocals to Brazilian Girls (incidentally one girl - Sciubba - and no Brazilians), the new album was written on guitars in Paris and has found Sciubba reunited with Brazilian Girls producer Frederick Rubens.
Altogether Toujours is New York new-wave carousing with Serge Gainsbourg, an art-punk, Marlene Dietrich hypnotising the hobos in a Weimar Republic dive-bar. Casting a lingering sideways glance at contemporary life, opening track ‘Cinema' laments cultural decline, likening the fall of movies to "an old whore who has lost her charms" whilst it's easy to get lost in the meandering low-slung vocals and stripped back guitar of stoner melody ‘The Sun'. Elsewhere the brooding, gallows-funny ‘Fields Of Snow' is a love story set against austerity - a nod towards France's painful government cuts and an online world forcing a creative generation to give art for free.
"It's terrible," she despairs. "My circle of friends and I live in an upper scale neighbourhood - everybody is broke. And they don't admit it! I'm not starving but compared to five, eight years ago I definitely have much less money."
Therein lays the beauty of Toujours. Via the quirky cinematic style of Ennio Morricone and a classic voice mirroring Edith Piaf, regardless of language barriers, you always know what's implied: take her view on the internet - it is, she posits, a primal problem no-one could have foreseen; "The human reaction to movement and light is that you look at it," she notes. "The internet is the same: there's no way you can't look, it's so tempting. We should speak together, make music together, and learn instruments. My children, it's impossible to keep them away from YouTube. I was considering terrorism!"
Whilst Brazilian Girls was successful in shaking hips across American and European dance floors, Sciubba's solo project allows a moment to step back and truly appreciate the vocals of this unique and special artist. An old-school maverick spirit, Sciubba is a lifelong musical obsessive who, as a child, wanted "to marry Michael Jackson", before veering off into left-field jazz, Billie Holliday and global underground electro-pop. "I'm so extreme in my personality, I go very much all the way with what I like, until I overdose," she notes, rather tantalisingly.
Today she remains uncompromising, "too idealistic", maintaining her originality in the face of a traumatised, risk-averse music industry. For her, it's all about creative freedom - something she is set to unleash when she hits the road touring across Europe with a full band in tow throughout 2014.
released March 24, 2014
Sabina - vocals, guitars, organ
Frederik Rubens - electric bass, keyboard and mixing
Cbasa Palotai - electric guitar
Roch Havet - Fender rhodes
Clement Amirault - trombone
Valentin Meylan - trumpet
Albert Levsink - trumpet
Aaron Johnston - drums
Patrick Goraguer - drums
Produced and recorded by Frederik Rubens and Sabina at Akirira and Davout Studios.
Mastered by Ue Nastasi at Sterling Sound, New York.
All titles written and composed by Sabina, except T1 by Sabina and Frederik Rubens, T8 by Sabina and Barry Reynolds and T12 by Sabina, Csaba Palotai and Frederik Rubens.