PREMIERE: Laura Carbone Captures the Magic of Live Music with “Tangerine Tree”

With the coronavirus limiting our ability to participate in large events like concerts, artists have had to innovate to continue bringing their fans the magic of live performances. Some have offered live-streamed concerts, while others have recorded covers of their quarantine comfort songs, and others still have performed at socially distanced venues. Meanwhile, Berlin-based alt-rock artist Laura Carbone came up with her own solution: to dig up footage from a past live performance that was near and dear to her heart and turn it into an album.

The performance in question is her 2019 show at Harmonie Bonn (in Bonn, Germany), which was broadcast on Rockpalast (Rock Palace), a German TV show that films and airs live rock performances. Carbone grew up watching Rockpalast, which has featured the likes of Radiohead, Sonic Youth, The Smashing Pumpkins, and David Bowie, so it was a dream come true for her to be counted among them.

“I grew up in Germany in a teeny tiny town where 500 people were living there, and I didn’t have much to stay in contact with the sonic world, but I knew Rockpalast,” she remembers. “I started dreaming about one day being able to play on this stage as well.” After obtaining Nirvana’s Nevermind, she became hooked on rock music and started playing the guitar, then began performing covers before releasing her first solo album, Sirens, in 2015.

She released another LP, Empty Sea, in 2018, and was planning to record a new one this spring when COVID hit. Because she was no longer able to go into the studio, the plans got cancelled. Then, Carbone got a call from her drummer Jeff Collier suggesting that they ask Westdeutscher Rundfunk, the TV station behind Rockpalast, if they could use the recording from the show. “I had so many moments when I could not think, when I was not positive toward the future, and receiving this call and idea was a no-brainer,” she recalls. “We were blessed in receiving this.”

Smack in the middle of the album, titled Laura Carbone – Live at Rockpalast, is “Tangerine Tree,” a warm, melodic song full of fantastical imagery about meeting up with someone in a dream. “Silver linings, fading rainbows/Come take my hand tonight/I’m your blackout at your sunrise,” Carbone sings against dreamy electric guitar.

LC · Laura Carbone – Tangerine Tree

“‘Tangerine Tree’ is a vivid dream inviting you to dive in and float in it for a while,” she says. “Like the comfort of familiar good feelings that keep on visiting you every now and then in your sleep. Temporary, falling for a moment, and letting go again.”

The influence of ’90s grunge is evident in Carbone’s vocal style and heavy instrumentals, but there’s also a positivity and beauty to her music that shines through in the live recordings. On “Swans,” another highlight from the album, she builds dark, almost gothic lyrics like “I’d give my blood plasma/Noise kills the silence silent” to an uplifting chorus with an enchanting melody: “It’s just a new phase/new phase of the moon.”

It was important for her to include the whole setlist on the album “to give the impression of being present at the show,” she says. “It’s so beautiful how we can feel when the band is warming up — I can hear it in my voice and how tense it was when we started — and I think it’s such a nice flow when the audience joins in and we start getting into the flow of the music.” 

Another feature of the album that captures the feeling of a live performance is the interludes — a highlight for Carbone is the improvised guitar interlude between “Lullaby” and “Tangerine Tree.” She recounts, “We had so much time that was given to us and not enough songs, and so we chose to go even more with the flow in between the songs.”

In addition to songs from Sirens and Empty Sea, the album includes an unexpected cover of Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).” The song starts off slow with dark guitar riffs, then escalates to passionate belting and erupts into haphazard yelling, drumming, and guitar.

Despite the wide range of subject matter covered in the songs, Carbone considers the overall theme of the album to be “bittersweetness and melancholia and a beauty that’s very often reflected through what surrounds us.”

Carbone, also a photographer, is keen on letting her fans in on her process — she currently shares her music in progress, essays, and photography on her Patreon, and in response to subscribers saying they appreciated learning what happens behind the scenes of her music, she started the podcast What It Takes to Create a Record, which contains insights from her band and production team, including the last album’s mixer Scott Von Ryper, guitarist for The Jesus & Mary Chain.

She hopes her latest album can offer some relaxation to listeners during a stressful time. “They should chill the fuck out for the whole set, close their eyes, and just lead themselves to wherever they need to be in this moment,” she says. “Maybe they need to time-travel back into a live music scene, or maybe they just have to be up in space or dive into water. I just hope they take their time and pause from what’s going on. If they put it on and a shower of blissful sound is streaming through them, that would be beautiful.”

Follow Laura Carbone on Facebook and Instagram for ongoing updates.

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