Kevin Cook

Singer Sophie Hunger releases critically praised album Halluzinationen

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Sophie Hunger has released her critically-praised new album ‘Halluzinationen’, out now via Caroline International. Featuring 6Music playlisted single ‘Alpha Venom’, the album is produced by Speedy Wunderground’s Dan Carey (Kae Tempest, Fontaines DC). Recorded at Abbey Road Studios, ‘Halluzinationen’ is Berlin-based, Swiss singer, multi-instrumentalist and film composer Hunger’s seventh studio album. Stream now on all platforms from here.

Her second collaboration with Carey, for ‘Halluzinationen’ Sophie decamped from his Speedy Wunderground studios (where the pair cut 2018’s ‘Molecules’) to Abbey Road’s Studio 2. The album was captured there in continuous live takes, recorded just six times over the course of two days – an approach Hunger identifies as ‘Full risk’. ‘Halluzinationen’ is suffused with the nervous energy of its creation, and the tension is right there on the Krautrock-ing ‘Alpha Venom’, with whip-crack jolts from electronics programmed by Carey (also a member of the studio band heard across the album).

Sophie’s un-showy but barbed guitar work populates the spiralling outro to the album’s squelchy title track, one of a handful of songs on which Sophie sings in German. Following five albums whose lyrics spanned French, Swiss-German and English – multilingualism the product of a childhood spent shuttling between various parts of Europe – ‘Molecules’ marked Hunger’s first entirely English album. Whilst ‘Halluzinationen’ is a partial return to her roots, none of her customary intensity is lost in the translation.

Largely written in Hunger’s apartment using the equipment to hand in her kitchen-come-studio, ’Halluzinationen’ has a fevered quality throughout, shaped in part by Berlin’s nocturnal world, which has coloured Hunger’s art since relocating from San Francisco following the release of ‘Supermoon’, her debut for Caroline International. One of Hunger’s most emotionally resonant tracks yet, ‘Maria Magdalena’ was written for a sex worker who frequents the Oranienplatz square where she lives. Sophie notes; “I often long for her but never dare to call. This song is my way of actually calling her”. Magdalena’s presence also inhabits album-opener ‘Liquid Air’, inspired by an illegal oyster bar which used to run out of the basement of Hunger’s apartment building, which both Sophie & Magdalena used to frequent; “You could only enter if you passed an alcohol test indicating a blood alcohol level of more than 0.2 percent. I used to go there during the weeks in which I wrote Halluzinationen.”

Elsewhere, the album draws from eclectic source material including complex forms of mirages (‘Bad Medication’), the artwork of David Shrigley (‘Everything Is Good’) and Switzerland’s allegorical female national figure, Helvetia (‘Finde Mich’). It’s all drawn together with the sparing, articulate ease you might expect from a whip smart artist who has moonlighted alongside her musical career for several years now writing fictional columns for leading German newspapers Die Zeit and Der Spiegel. 

Hunger’s six solo albums to date have accrued over a quarter of a million sales, drawing her comparisons to Sharon Van Etten and PJ Harvey, with fans as wide-ranging as Lauren Laverne, Steven Wilson (on whose UK Top 3 album she appears) and unlikely enough, footballing legend Eric Cantona (a long-standing fan, who guested on ‘Supermoon’). Sophie made her debut at Glastonbury in 2010 as the first Swiss artist to ever play the festival (selling out 1,000 capacity venues with ease on the continent), and 2016 saw Hunger also make her first outing in film scoring, with her soundtrack for Oscar & Golden Globe-nominated Ma Vie de Courgette earning her a Cesar nomination to boot.

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