It’s only a picture. It features a young woman in front of some trees performing an expressionist dance-like figure, wearing tight summer clothes. Or perhaps she’s doing a yoga pose. The sun is setting in the background. Or perhaps it’s rising. Not that any of this really matters. The picture isn’t meant to describe anything but to convey an emotion: a relaxed, harmonious, deeply cheerful emotion. Just like the music you hear as soon as you click on the image. Below the picture is a seven-digit number: the picture had clocked up more than three million YouTube hits before the song which accompanies it was officially released at the end of July 2012. It’s called “Sonnentanz” and sounds like an anthem for Berlin’s legendary Bar 25 with its labyrinthine rooms, playful accessories and unlimited optimism. The song was recorded by the Austrian electro duo, Klangkarussell – which happens to have nothing whatsoever to do with that still-picture video. The song had already featured on the music platform Soundcloud before being discovered by a blogger who went on to enthuse to his five-thousand followers with equally good taste about the superbness of this light-footed sunshine track. This in turn kicked off a whole wave of reblogs and classic word-of-mouth recommendations which Klangkarussell could only watch in amazement. When a German fan uploaded the song on YouTube in combination with said picture in February 2012, there was no going back. The number of clicks exploded and the band found itself in ever-increasing demand. Before long, they found the time to compose new tracks, such as the warm “Eistee aus der Dose” (Ice Tea in a Can) and the haunting “Sternenkinder” (Star Children), only in train compartments and on planes. Their erstwhile hobby had turned into a full-time job. A key moment happened during a show in Munich, three days prior to the release of their single “Sonnentanz”. The band were playing at the Theaterfabrik, a venue which usually features current no. 1 acts such as fun. and icons like Simple Minds. “It was our first major indoor gig,” remembers Adrian Held, one half of Klangkarussell. “When we arrived in the afternoon for the soundcheck, we found ourselves wondering how on earth we were going to fill this huge venue. In the evening people were queuing up and the place was bursting at the seams.” Didn’t they find this kind of fast success intimidating? “No,” laughs Adrian, “it’s all a little surreal at the moment – like a dream that you don’t wake up from – but it’s also simply wicked!” His colleague Tobias Rieser agrees. The two 23-year-olds usually agree, which is why their songwriting is so relaxed.
Held and Rieser met at school in Salzburg in 1999, where they soon earned themselves a reputation as scallywags. Music already played a major role in their lives, seeing that both were practically born to it. As a child Adrian – son of a sound studio owner, grandson of a composer and an opera singer – played drums and piano, Tobias – son of an accordion teacher – learned to play the trombone and dulcimer. At the age of 12, Adrian, who was into hip-hop at the time, started to construct his first beats, using Cubase music software. Two years later, at an age when most of his classmates were still firmly in the grip of the radio charts, he already programmed drum’n’bass tracks, because “production technology just flashed me.” He went on to study Sound Technology and mingled with Salzburg’s electro scene – an ideal training ground, he reckons: “Salzburg is a pretty small city, there are no permanent clubs, only events at various venues. It doesn’t take long to get to know the people on the scene, so I was in a position to organize parties at the age of 16, which wouldn’t have been possible in a city like Vienna with its established structures.” Following those formative years, he went on to move to Vienna after all, feeling the “big wide world” beckon and subsequently losing touch with Tobias.
Years went by until the second chapter of their friendship began via Facebook. They made a dinner date in their old hometown of Salzburg and discovered that they had developed in pretty much the same musical direction. “It was like a karmic encounter,” says Adrian with a smirk. It soon became obvious that they would work together in future. As a result, Tobias also relocated to Vienna, and before long they had written their first joint song: “Netzwerk”, which led to comparisons with electro titans such Paul Kalkbrenner on the Internet. “That’s a compliment,” says Adrian, “but I see very few similarities. The hype may be a connection, but musically I see us in a totally different place.” He adds that he feels much closer to soul legends such as Otis Redding. “We love soul music,” explains Adrian, “After all, we want our music to transport emotions. We don’t have much use for monotonous minimal techno. It may be interesting to include this kind of genre into a DJ set to create an arc of suspense, but that’s not our cup of tea for a whole night. We don’t see ourselves as part of the techno scene. We want to bring back the soul; to us, movement is important, and melodies. We’re simply into pop harmonies … and yes, we do like Falco, after all, we’re Austrians.”
The music industry first took note of the band in Germany. Oliver Koletzki, house music producer and DJ from Berlin, released the “Sonnentanz” EP on his “Stil vor Talent” label at the end of July 2012. The original song plus three remix versions (by Koletzki himself, Kellerkind and Phonique) are available through the Beatport online store, which specialises in electronic music. A few weeks before, when Tobias and Adrian were busy working on tracks in Adrian’s flat in Vienna, they had received an e-mail from Universal Music. The Berlin-headquartered industry leader wanted to get to know the two. The next day they caught a flight to the German capital. Following a showcase concert, they signed with Universal and “Sonnentanz” was released through all digital platforms. Klangkarussell’s debut album has been scheduled to be launched in March 2013. It will substantiate a career which – as naturally as it may have happened – is still inconceivable to the band: “For a long time, we weren’t really sure where our place in life would be. Do I need that there, do I like it here? Shouldn’t I go in another direction altogether? But to be honest, music has always been our passion.” Tobias adds: “Everybody is striving for fulfilment, being able to do what they enjoy. That this enjoyment has become our profession is simply amazing!” And it seems a foregone conclusion that Klangkarussell and their soul-caressing sound will be among the favourites in the open-air dance venues and clubs next year.