Long interested in blurring the contours of rock and electronic sounds, Germany’s Morr Music label has, for a decade and a half, embraced a mixed sonic heritage: shoegaze-y references to Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, and ethereal washes of the 4AD label are the most obvious; other lineages emerge from indie rock, melodic pop, acoustic folk, and ‘60s psychedelia. Like a soft Linus blanket, Morr bands’ electronics serve as the warm, comforting backdrop for all of these musical styles: angular techno hums gently in the background, letting ambient notes shimmer and sparkle amidst these hazy atmospheres. It’s a rich, easy dreamscape to get lost in, and Morr’s artists fluently pick their way through texture and feeling.
A Number of Small Things: A Collection of Morr Music Singles From 2001–2007 shines with more indie-rock vibes than most electronica-infused compilations, distilling a mish-mash of genres down to the songwriting skills of some criminally overlooked artists. Electric President could easily be this compilation’s breakout find for the Morr newbie: “I’m Not the Lonely Son” throws down a brisk, funk-sliced rock anthem, poised for college-radio greatness. Other People’s Children composes two love letters to ’80s synth pop: “On a Clear Day” could be a lost track from new wave one-hitters The Ocean Blue, and “Suicide Common” nestles Jason Sweeney’s forlorn vocals tightly under ambient’s dreamy wool. Small Things celebrates the Morr approach, where artists bow to mood in order to shape these stirring pieces, which are less about sturdy electronic beats and more about how rock compositions can utilize electronic textures as instrumentation.
Some of Morr’s most compelling collections have been homages specifically to the ’90s shoegazer era. The essential 2002 double-CD Blue Skied An’ Clear offered Slowdive covers and other nods by electronic heavies such as Ulrich Schnauss; Small Things continues Morr’s love affair with the now-defunct Slowdive, with its ex-drummer Simon Scott teaming up with Isan’s Antony Ryan as Seavault, contributing some of Small Things’ most pop-centered pieces. Lush guitars and catchy melodies alight “The Mercy Seat,” and “I Could Be Happy” (a cover of ’80s band Altered Images) strums through luminescent beat spines with breathy vocals and long waves of melancholy regret.
Morr fans will appreciate the appearance of longtime faves like Lali Puna, who like fellow Morr vet Styrofoam, adds a touch of techno texture to this comp. “Nin-Comp-Pop” shows Puna’s penchant for juxtaposition, laying singer Valerie Trebeljahr’s ghostly cadences alongside Markus Asher’s coarse beats and bleeps. In homage to French composer Erik Satie, longtime Morr staple Isan drops a light synth rendition of Satie’s famous “Trois Gymnopédies,” making these clear, melodic tunes from the 1800s sound modern in this ensemble.
There’s a cinematic quality to Small Things that springs from these songs’ roomy capacity for carrying nostalgia and a general air of languidness. Like a film score, rhythm and pacing frames each of these cuts; what renders them so romantic is a shy, wistful quality. On “Saturday Night,” Masha Qrella’s vocals sound all the more fragile when catching over acoustic guitar notes and spare drum beats. When she croons, “Take me to those places/That I’ve never seen/It might make me/That person that I’ve never been,” you feel her prickly mix of defiance and longing. The Morr universe might be prettier than real life, but it’s ultimately a reclusive one–where music, steady and unhurried, becomes the friend you’ve always wanted.