Saada Bonaire - Saada Bonaire - 2x LP Vinyl

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Artist, Album, Batch, Format,


Saada Bonaire
12" Vinyl


2019 repress of the 2018 reissue - In 1984, one of EMI’s A&R men—notorious for going over budget on recordings—went well over schedule with singles from two of his artists. One was Tina Turner, on her way to 80s multi-platinum success with “Private Dancer”, which the company was willing to forgive. But the other act, Saâda Bonaire, which featured two model-esque non-singers Stefanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld, had their lone single released, only to be immediately dropped from the label, never to be heard from again.

As this unexpected reissue from Captured Tracks (released under their new Fantasy Memory subsidiary) reveals though, Saâda Bonaire was the concoction of Ralph “Von” Richtoven, a Bremen club DJ who fancied himself a Svengali, never mind that his vision for the group included upwards of 20 musicians at any one time who didn’t speak the same language—much less played the same musical scale—backing up his non-musical fiancée, Stefanie Lange and her friend, both women clad in Bedouin wear. For a group that had one single, this reissue unearths an entire album’s worth of material, produced by dubmaster Dennis Bovell in Kraftwerk’s Cologne studios. As the aforementioned names might attest, it makes for a curious early 80s mutant sound.

When Richtoven first conceived of the group, he had a local German reggae band he managed enter a studio to cover both J.J. Cale’s “Ride Me High” and James Brown’s “It’s a Man World” (unfortunately these covers were left off this reissue). He then set about overdubbing some Kurdish folk musicians he met via a Turkish Communist community center, adding his fiancée and her friend last. Trainwreck though it might scan, the results were intriguing to say the least, convincing EMI to let them record some more.

Enter that none-hit wonder, “You Could Be More As You Are”, which remains a curious beast: rubbery reggae bass, growling gong hits, synth stabs and jerky rhythms from hand drum and drum machine, featuring an assortment of whistles, saxophones, Turkish saz, and ney flute, all of it topped by the icy monotones of Lange and Hossfeld, who recall their memories of a German friend who sold her body for money at a young age, hit every club every night, and died too soon. It was idiosyncratic in their native Germany in the age of Neu Deautsche Welle groups, yet somehow became a club hit in Greece, and soon after became a holy grail for Balearic DJs around the world, where it fetches upwards of $170 a copy online.

It’s unfortunate that the album never saw the light of day back in the early 80s, as Saâda Bonaire had plenty of kindred spirits from that era. Over the percolating congas, pliant basslines, upstroked guitar, and saz licks of “More Women”, they sound a bit like Tom Tom Club. The snappy and spare “Heart Over Head” finds a middle ground between the Flying Lizards’ cover of “Money” and Soft Cell’s take on “Tainted Love”. The synth bass on “Invitation” emulates Imagination’s dancefloor smash “Just An Illusion”, though it’s shot through with ney flute and a vocal delivered as if Lange and Hossfeld were instead auditioning for that notorious Calvin Klein Obsession commercial.

The presence of Bovell, the Barbados-born, yet London-based dub producer who produced Linton Kwesi Johnson’s iconic 70s reggae albums as well as post-punk classics like the Slits’ Cut and the Pop Group’s Y, helps tie together what should have been a total mess. It’s easy to hear post-punk’s DNA here and from the vantage point of 30 years, one can imagine how Saâda Bonaire might have been an influence on the icy minimal wave sound, the talk-sing grooves of Peaking Lights, not to mention the vocals of Glass Candy’s Ida No. In another dimension, maybe Saâda Bonaire’s multi-culti dancepunk tracks would have influenced someone like M.I.A., or else their gender-bending lyrics could have been behind the Knife’s Shaking the Habitual. Alas, this rescued album can only show that Saâda Bonaire could have been more than they were.
A1You Could Be More As You Are5:57
A3Little Sister4:31
B1More Women5:13
B2I Am So Curious5:21
B3Second Face4:02
C1Heart Over Head4:37
C2Shut The Door5:15
C3The Facts5:11
C4Give Me A Call2:57
D1Wake Up City4:11
D3Your Touch3:46

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