Michel Ackermann & Band
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Michel Ackermann & Band

Berlin, Berlin, Germany | SELF

Berlin, Berlin, Germany | SELF
Band Pop Singer/Songwriter


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The rich interplay that is had during the introduction to “Kite”” is something that touches me, while the vocals that enter into the equation are unique, to say the least. This results in a track that is special; with a number of distinct genres and shifts in sound, what results here is something that listeners will not soon forget. It is perhaps the inclusion of the strings during the track that strike me as the most ground-shaking; with a dominant approach that looks back to the seventies; Ackermann’s tremendous skill ensures that current fans will be able to appreciate what is laid down during this track.

“Back On The Road” is a track that has a very complex opening arrangement; listeners will have their attention brought to the track with this interesting piano line. These listeners are kept then through a strong current that continually presses the track forward, even when the piano meanders off for the space of a few seconds. The track again defies easily genre convention, but gets into a hellacious groove that will have listeners firmly in Ackermann’s camp by the end of the track. “Our Love” is another great track, as much for how much it varies from the rest of the tracks on the EP s for the fun feelings that it exudes throughout the track’s full run time.

Wherethere may be hints of a Dave Matthews, the inclusion of a funky bass line here gives the track much more soul than Matthews could ever wish for. The “Kite” EP may only run over the course of four tracks, but the confidence and ability shown here by Ackermann cannot be replicated anywhere else. I have a feeling that he will be the next big thing; go to Ackermann’s site and find out a way to get this EP, and be on the ground floor for what should be the next big thing in music. With nary a flaw to be had, this may just be the best EP that I have heard so far this year.

Top Track: Kite

Rating: 8.7/10

Michael Ackermann – Kite / 2009 MUOB Production / www.myspace.com/michelackermann - neufutur.com


I was getting pretty damned tired of reviewing EPs..….until this little gem turned up, a lush and beautiful 4-cut gem by a guy who utilizes vaguely Donovan-ish encantation with some Roger Voudoris, Chris DeBurgh, Michael Tomlinson, and other overtones laid atop. Michel Ackermann's voice is pretty distinctive, though, and I think it's his native German tongue that lends that enunciation of English the enchanting slur it possesses. I haven't heard anyone run words together like this since the estimable Leitch. It's somewhat mystic.

However, he's not merely an enticing singer but a very good writer and arranger as well. Kite presents itself as a highly tailored effort inspissating Sade with all the gents I mentioned a moment ago, then walks them through an updated MOR mode leavening the rurality of rustic byways with metropolitan lights. The band Double kinda went down this road briefly (their charting The Captain of Her Heart is a classic) before suffocating in sweetsy chart BS, but Michel Ackermann doesn't make that mistake, keeping an earthy vitality alive amid the strings and mellifluity.

If Kite was issued as an experiment in market acceptability, then the venture was a mistake, but of the nicest kind. What's needed is the full release now. Every cut here captures the ear, and I'd place Ackermann in with Feargal Sharkey and other slightly-out-of-skew singers whose nuances and home base are themselves enough to provoke interest, let alone the rest of the very generous musicianship involved.
- Mark S. Tucker

"Michel Ackermann, Cole Porter's Blues"

Berlin-based singer/songwriter/pianist is back with his first full-length album release of Cole Porter’s Blues. Coming off his 2009 EP, Kite, Ackermann decides to delve deeper into his musical & artistic side. Kite was piano-driven music that included elements of jazz, pop & classical to go along with a peaceful/tranquil setting. The title of “Power Pop” was inventively coined for all the songs on the four-track EP. Michel kept the jazzy sensations and relaxing atmosphere but now the emphasis is not so much on the piano but rather on Michel’s vocal style & lyrics and just the music itself.
The Berlin musician had some help vocally from London/Tel Aviv-based lyricist Paul Robert Thomas. Unlike the previous recording, Cole Porter’s Blues displays Michel Ackermann in a new light. I had stated in a review of Kite that Ackermann’s voice just didn’t seem to match up with the overall sound due to his thick German accent perhaps. I stand corrected as I speak to you now because this album has Michel singing in a convincingly confident fashion. I am no longer “scratching my head” when I hear Ackermann’s vocals because now everything just sounds right. Whatever it is; IT works and Michel & Thomas worked IT out tremendously! All 12 installments on this project speak for themselves.
Right away when the record spins, you pick up on a Dave Matthews vibe that hangs on tightly throughout all the tracks. Michel sings in a ‘smoky’ kind of way, in which his voice & delivery display a mysterious charm. Just as the Great Smoky Mountains have a certain mystique & wonder, Michel too also exhibits an alluring sense of mystery. And just like a classic jazz club would have been filled with smoke, Michel Ackermann NOW saturates the room with new & fresh jazzy, upbeat numbers.
One can also experience a calming effect throughout Cole Porter’s Blues thanks in part to the way Michel expresses himself both vocally & musically. Lyrically & emotionally, Ackermann has reached a deeper level of understanding between he, his music and his audience. The singer/songwriter is still hittin’ those keys in style here, but instead he now adds extra layers of substance. A new artist is born in the making of this record and it’s so refreshing to hear that Michel Ackermann has figured out the right formula. Add in catchy rhythms and stellar instrumentation and you have yourself one finely composed piece of work. Job well done on coming back strong with this new album and for returning as the new & improved Michel Ackermann. For more on this artist and his new work, Cole Porter’s Blues, SKOPE out www.michelackermann.de. - scopemag.com, Jimmy Rae


Our old friend Classic songwriter/composer Michel Ackermann is back and he's even more so adapted to mainstream rock and melodies. But beyond the basics of Ackermann's approach and transition sits a unique branding of raspy Lounge Rock with a kick of that extra Moxy most artists don't quite have. And no marketing scheme will assist in achieving such character.
Sort of like the uncomfortability you get when you listen to Bob Dylan seep out his lyrics, sometimes you wince, but sometimes, pure amazement the holds. This raspy energy also reminds me a bit more like Dave Matthews Band this time around, ie; the bridge on "How Long". Cole Porter's Blues is an awesome ballet of rhythmic knots and progression. Perhaps a bit too fast for the normal lounge crowd, I enjoy the heck out of this live. I couldn't say the same for DMB..."Drunk On The Moon" begins like a Deftones Death-tro, of course the rest of the song is a bit ruckus, but with its multi-layered vocals.
More down to earth, hotel lobby sound is tracks like "Absolutely no-one to blame" and "Bye, Bye, Bye" for its tasty brass. Track nine, "To Save Us All" reminds my tapping foot of another IOTY (Indie Of The Year) alum, Katey Laurel. These two should really get together. Piano backbone opens a wide path of adjoining drums and guitars. Having not ever read of, but heard the name Cole Porter several times, wikipedia.org says "He was noted for his sophisticated, bawdy lyrics, clever rhymes and complex forms." It all makes sense now. - musicemissions.com, Brian Rutherford

"Life Music And Everything"


Berlin-based piano man MICHEL ACKERMANN has got a song for you. In a musical age where the romance is gone, ACKERMANN proudly presents his debut EP ‘KITE’. If his STING-influenced brand of jazz pop observations of love and life seem a bit seasoned, they are. ACKERMANN grew up with the classics an I don’t mean THE DOORS, JIMI HENDRIX and LED ZEPPELIN but rather MOZART, SCHUBERT and BEETHOVEN. Given his ear for classical music and his rigorous classical training, the chap would’ve been a shoe-in for any orchestra until a mysterious jazz piano player presented himself and rocked ACKERMANN’s world – as much as jazz can rock. “I heard a strange pianist, looking like a robber, who played jazz chords and that was a revelation for me.” admits ACKERMANN “In Germany's boondocks, where I lived in the early eighties, Jazz was still something weird. It was not part of any music lessons at school and there were no radio stations playing this music. How could I know it? And it struck me like a bolt of lightning when those kind of harmonies and phrasings came to my ears.”

ROCKWIRED conducted it’s first ever e-mail interview with MICHEL ACKERMANN. Here is how it went.

KITE is a wonderful EP! Now that it is out there for people to hear, how do you feel about the finished product?
Thank you! I am proud of these 4 songs, because I know some parts of the music are really good, better than I dared to dream when I started. This is only a first step of a journey. I had no idea that it would be such an adventure. I opened up a new universe for my own musicianship and that is the most important thing. I had gone through years without a feeling of what I wanted to express in music or what kind of music really attracted me. So, this EP gives me a feeling like, “Wow! There's something which gives me a sense of where I belong as a musician.”

Is the release of KITE a hint of a LP looming on the horizon?
Definitely. KITE was originally outlined to be a full CD, but I eventually decided to publish the EP as a first step. I even recorded ten songs, but I was not satisfied with three of them. Furthermore I was a little bit too optimistic concerning two other tunes. I had believed I could use lyrics by a famous artist, writing new music on these lyrics and then ask if I would be allowed to publish them. But no matter how often I would ask or write letters to the music publishing house, they wouldn't give me no answer.

Growing up, what kind of music spoke to you?
Mostly classical music. My father had hundreds of LPs with MOZART, BEETHOVEN, and BACH. He used to listen to them every evening, so classical music was my lullaby. I am not sure if it always led me to good dreams, because I was kind of scared by some sounds, especially Beethoven's symphonies. I often felt bothered and I still get an uneasy feeling when the timpani sounds or trumpets crashed in my ears. So this impact has a certain ambivalence. Nevertheless I am thankful for it.

Is your family musical as well? There are some professional musicians among my grandparents' generation. A cousin of my grandma was a famous pianist in post-war Germany. His name is EDUARD ERDMANN and he has been a remarkable composer as well. But my parents just mentioned him, nothing more. I don't know why. Later, when I was a student at the conservatory I played a SCHUBERT SONATA for my professor. And she said..." you play this piece like EDUARD ERDMANN. Do you know him?" I said "Yes, he's a relative of mine, but I never heard him playing." She was stunned as was I and my status at the conservatory had been saved.

What artists made an impression on you in the beginning?
I think I was captured by THE POLICE and STING. The way he used his voice impressed me. He screamed more then he sung but nevertheless he was really singing. It was a beautiful experience for my ears, but there were other experiences, too. I heard a strange pianist, looking like a robber, who played jazz chords and that was a revelation for me. In Germany's boondocks, where I lived in the early eighties, Jazz was still something weird. It was not part of any music lessons at school and there were no radio stations playing this music. How could I know it? And it struck me like a bolt of lightning when those kind of harmonies and phrasings came to my ears.

Talk about receiving piano lessons from VIRGINIA ZIMBERLIN.
I realize more and more that she is the one who saved my musical connection to classics. She didn’t approach music as a prima donna. She produced sounds instead of distracting her listeners by turning her playing into a virtuosic 'circus'. She showed tremendous poise when she was performing. Moreover she was a fabulous character, too...... A few years ago, I got the news that she is in the GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS, because she performed at the age of ten at the CARNEGIE HALL.

At what point did songwriting begin for you?
I had founded my first band at the age of fourteen and we needed songs.
Talk about studying composition with WOLFGANG RIHM.
One of my music teachers at school had given me the advice to listen to WOLFGANG RIHM's orchestra pieces and I did. They were fascinating. Like punk for orchestra, really anarchic. It was clear from now on that I had to meet this man and I wanted to be his student and that was how it came about. Casually, I saw him at the railway station. One could not overlook him, as he is very tall and burly and he has a big head and he looks like Beethoven. And I was thin (back then) and tall and I have a big head too and so I walked across the huge station concourse straight in his direction, very quickly for I didn't want to give myself a chance to change my mind and to let my shyness get the best of me. I stopped very close before him to have the surprise on my side but then, of course, I only stuttered something about a composition I urgently had to show him. But he smiled like a friendly Buddha and agreed to accept the piece via mail. So that was the beginning of a long intense relationship. Studying composition with him was a big adventure. He is one of this dwindling species of universal geniuses with a huge knowledge in all kinds of arts and literature. So it was not only about music, but very often about painters or about poets, when we talked. We ate and drank a lot. He's a Buddha who simply loves to live very well.

What disenchanted you about pursuing classical music.
I had given my musical and emotional self completely to the music that I was doing at the time which was highly abstract. I lost the ground under my feet and walked on a small path between euphoric happiness and black moods, so I had to use an emergency break to save my soul!... So that was the true turning point to get back to writing 'simpler' songs about 'simpler' things. Nothing is simple, of course!?

Describe what it was like breaking away from classical music and playing pop and jazz songs in bars?
I had to do 'normal' things, to get myself down to earth. Today I could ask “Hey what's normal in this crazy life?” But at this point of my development it seemed to be the right thing to make music just to create a background atmosphere. You won't find anything in the music business which would be a stronger contrast to being an avant garde music composer. So that was what I was looking for. The contrast had to be as strong as possible.

What inspires you to write a song?
There is something about existential loneliness that I find compelling. There is some basic feeling of being alone as a human being, which is not a negative, but then again the hope that it could be different, at least in music. And it is a search for quietness and self-reflection. I am inspired by almost everything...regarding to human interactions.

Explain the creative process? How does a song get written for you?
The 'KITE' EP had two different approaches. There were songs that were composed by finding a good melody, then looking for a groove, then trying to imagine how the whole song could sound. Here, the lyrics were not so important - actually I regarded it as a kind of challenge to have some trivial love 'discount' lyrics, which wouldn't be able to distract me from the music. The other group, they had strong lyrics and I used the text to be inspired and to let the sound of the words make the music which turned out to be much more difficult. One challenge is that I am not a native speaker of English and because of that, I work with a wonderful lyricist from England named PAUL THOMAS. He gave me a few song lyrics to choose from and it is a lot of fun to work with these lyrics. In both cases there is one crucial point: the song should be good, even if it is played only on a piano or using a guitar without any fabulous sound bites or whatever.

Tell me your thoughts on the song KITE.
I was intending to write a good pop ballad. Something very romantic...being the lonely piano player in a bar singing this song about this old human dream of learning to fly.

I love the movement of this song. It is a movement-driven song by a simple repeated piano-pattern. It is a mad song because being on the road mostly means: being away from yourself, while trying to find yourself.

Being sad about my own personal biography is also a basic theme in my life.

There is this feeling about love which shifts between loud laughter and angry cynicism.

Who all did you work with in putting this EP together?
I worked with a wonderful bass player named MAIK ANTRACK. He is a young man who is a very curious and at the same time, an easygoing character who is always trying to give his best to a project. The drums were played by SABINE ZLOTOS, an extraordinary musician, too, with a highly present and powerful way of using the sticks. I would like to mention the soundman, ANDREAS OCKERT, who is a fantastic saxophone player, too. His acute ears helped, to record this music in record time!

What sort of sounds and textures would you like to incorporate into your music in the future?
I think the musical structure will use a less classical arrangement and incorporate more complex sounds on synthesizers. I have done this on the song 'OUT OF NOWHERE' which is online in a demo-version and can be listened to on reverbnation.com... But again for me the crucial point is, that this sound bites shouldn’t replace an interesting harmonics or melodic structures.

From the time that you first played the piano up until now, what has been the biggest surprise for you?
How you can change your whole personality by changing your attitude in making music. Music can be a true and magic remedy. If you learn to really let music get deep into yourself, you will be changed completely. That is what I experienced. It took me years to change myself, due to the fact that I am a stubborn person. I am proud of that and I hope I will always be able to continue to change myself. Personal transformation never ends. To come more close to the piano-playing itself: I am surprised that nowadays I am really able to bring classic and jazz articulations into something new. It is not a fusion, by the way. Fusions put two things together and very often both are weaker than before so let's call it a productive exchange of polarities instead.

What would you like a person to come away with after they've listened to your music?
I just hope they become inspired to be creative themselves or just feel a little bit better about music and life and everything.
- Brian Lush


'Out of Nowhere', Single
'Kite', EP, 2009
'Cole Porter's Blues', Album 2010




Taking a powerful step forward in his stylistic development, Michel Ackermann builds passionately upon the momentum of his 2009 critically acclaimed introductory EP Kite with his cleverly titled first full album release Cole Porter’s Blues. While Kite featured primarily piano driven songs in an eclectic 80’s style of songwriting, the new tracks are more playful and relaxed and feature stronger narrative themes thanks to Ackermann’s exciting new collaborations with London/Tel Aviv based lyricist Paul Robert Thomas. The emotional impulse of the words, being sad and hopeless yet also joyful and humorous, inspired the multi-talented Berlin based singer/songwriter to create shifting emotional colours through the music, giving rise to a somehow compelling ambiguity.
Influenced by a wide range of artists from Joe Henry and Van Morrison to Randy Newman and David Gray, the emotionally compelling, high flying Kite was the culmination of a deep musical biography of a professional pianist who, as he says, “started to sing one day and tried to work out his own specific style in writing pop songs.” On Cole Porter’s Blues, Ackermann enjoys the new adventure of finding a different style image for almost every song. Beyond embracing his chameleonic musical nature, he also takes a bold step forward in his unique way of vocalizing—in a singing/talking style that provides a kind of musical therapy for him. While the project’s title might make people think it’s a tribute album, Ackermann calls the legendary songwriter’s music simply another trace in the album among a labyrinth of traces.
The critical raves Ackermann received for Kite will no doubt continue now that he’s stepping out and delving into a deeper emotional and musical place. Acoustic Music Exchange wrote of Kite: “Michel’s voice is pretty distinctive, and I think it’s his native German tongue that lends that enunciation of English to enchanting slur it possesses. I haven’t heard anyone run words together like this since the estimable Leitch. It’s somewhat mystic.” One writer on the neufutur website made a favorable comparison to a pop legend: “Where there may be hints of Dave Matthews, the inclusion of a funky bassline gives the track much more soul that Matthews could ever wish for.”
Michel Ackermann’s powerful transformation from being a top flight piano teacher to becoming a dynamic, emerging singer/songwriter began one night with a dream. The multi-talented performer was gigging heavily at clubs in his native Berlin, pondering a way for his deeper musical expressions to take flight when he dreamed he was performing on a stage in Cologne City in front of a large audience. Captured by the feeling that he was “grasped slightly on the cheek by a ghost,” he has the sense that something had happened to dislodge his true life—and he soon began writing and recording the songs that developed into Kite.
A few notes on key tracks from Cole Porter’s Blues…Ackermann likes madness and his sympathy looks for outsiders, losers and freaks – everyone who is tough enough to bring all the lunacy of life to its surface. The title track tells us about madness which is a bad friend of wanted normality, represented by those who define what normal is. Someone like him often suffers from “abstract” pains – like getting into crazy and strange blues. “How Long” conveys the idea of a narrator who is not complaining, but who is telling the listener intrepidly about the enduring possibility of letting yourself be saved by a beloved person. One of Ackermann’s favorites is “Sailing Through The Storm,” whose lyrics inspired the image of a symphony in his inner ear. There’s a hero in this song but no social hero fighting against the power of evil. It’s just a man who knows that the few basic things he would need for his heart and soul are hard enough to achieve. And they make his life boat shudder.