Written by: Jen Dan
Photo Credit: Bernd Muschard.
The Brooklyn-based lo-fi folk/psychedelic rock duo Take Berlin, consisting of Yvonne and Jesse, has been warming hearts, drifting minds, and crafting tracks with international appeal since 2012.
Yvonne and Jesse’s nostalgic and spare instrumentation and intimate musings get a boost on their upcoming debut album Schoharie from a backing rhythm band that features members of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings and William Onyeabor’s Atomic Bomb! Band. Named after a creek that flows in the Catskill Mountains where the album was partly recorded (as well as Brooklyn), Schoharie marks a shift to the more psychedelic side of the duo’s analog, hazy folk sound.
Lead single “Motion” gets its premiere right here and it’s charmingly winsome and retro, shot through with a delicate beauty of the folk-influenced 60s. The song starts off with gently plucked acoustic guitar and Yvonne’s sweetly light, placid vocals. Bright bell-tone notes accent her engaging tone and she’s soon joined by Jesse on vocals for a delightful pairing. The subdued percussion, beat, and woodwind touches pick up as the song moves along, swaying with an easy-going attitude as Yvonne and Jesse both murmur wistfully on the sing-song chorus “Move with your mistakes, I know / Love in and out of control.”
Yvonne and Jesse actually first encountered each other at the Baltic Soul Festival by chance and shared their love of soul and hip-hop music. For creating Schoharie they used an Akai MPC sampler that’s used more for classic hip-hop than the stripped down folk style. Unconventional sonic choices have become a hallmark of Take Berlin and the grainy aural palette of Schoharie was modeled after Blowout Comb, the 1994 album by hip-hop luminaries Digable Planets.
Schoharie is set for release later this March.
Read on for more information about the duo below:
Stereo Embers talks to Take Berlin:
Stereo Embers Magazine: Are you guys always in “Motion”?
Yvonne: Yes, always.
SEM: How is it possible that busy individuals like yourselves write such soothing, centered music?
Jesse: The softer aspects of Take Berlin have functioned as a sort of panacea for our other more hectic musical lives. The new record isn’t as soothing though… Some other emotions seeped into the songs and production this time around.
SEM: Is there a special ritual to how you both go about writing and recording?
Yvonne: We always write and record together which, because of our travel schedules, doesn’t happen as much as we would like. That is the only ritual we keep probably, besides the fact that we write songs on guitar and Wurlitzer… No computers involved in the writing.
SEM: You shuttle between Brooklyn and Berlin quite a bit. Why is that?
Jesse: Yvonne is still working in Berlin and I play a lot in Brooklyn/NYC still.
SEM: How has each of these places influenced you personally and the music that you make?
Jesse: I honestly don’t think the music of TAKE BERLIN is influenced by either city in any significant way, but maybe someone else familiar with our music and either city would see the influence.
SEM: Is there an underlying theme to Schoharie?
Jesse: I would say escapism. Living in Brooklyn and with Yvonne growing up in Berlin, we’re part of these complex urban systems and social networks. How much can we really escape it and how much is an innate part of us now? Even when we vacate the hustle and spend some time in nature? We actually have a few songs where we explore how it would be living and experiencing the world from the perspective of animals…A little bear, a carrier pigeon, and a bluejay.
SEM: Is it true that you started a label just to release this LP?
Yvonne: I have been thinking about starting a record label for some time and it felt like the right moment to just do it. Jesse has nothing to do with the label, but he helped with getting the name for it… He stays as far as possible away from the business side of things… Ha!
SEM: In closing, can you tell us what the best way of listening to this record is?
Yvonne: It’s a bit all over the place emotionally, so maybe different songs/sequences will work at different times, actually.