“That Daydream Nation look in your eye” // Ryan Adams – 1989 (Album Review)

Ryan Adams has always had a fondness of covering songs that excited him in just the right way. Hardcore fans might remember how at the beginning of the ‘00s rumors abounded about him covering his former apartment neighbors The Strokes complete debut album Is This It, even though, only an occasional energetized rock version or a stripped-down acoustic live version of Last Nite would see the light of day. During the late Cardinals era, we saw him reimagine various Vampire Weekend songs. His cover of Wonderwall still is one of his most commerically successful released recordings. And most recently, Adams did not only referenced with tongue-in-cheekly to the early jokes about him and Bryan Adams by earnestly covering Run To You, early this year he also took the stage as „Natalie Sass“ as his own support act, covering various songs from Natalie Prass.

Adams usually doesn‘t just reinterpret songs with the help of his artistic and technical means, but his versions usually also capture the way a song hit him and how it somehow echoed something that really spoke to him. You can still feel a piece of the enthusiasm of him being a music fan proclaming excitedly: Damn yes! I found this gem! I know EXACTLY what this artist is talking about! I just could never have put the finger on it quite like this!, and the susequent step, Now, I want to make it mine!. After heavily teasing it for thorough the last few months via studio updates and video snippets, last monday Ryan Adams digitally released his version of Taylor Swifts last years omnipresent pop album 1989, a record that chronologically follows the story of a couple falling in love and breaking up (and dealing with it while being confronted with heavy press attention).

As someone who got popculturally socialised in the 90’s, I’ve had more than just my share of exposure to high gloss mainstream pop productions by Max Martin, one of the main contributors to Swifts 1989 (It’s Gonna Be Me, anymore?). Nevertheless, I never really got comfortable with Taylor Swift as a brand. Her image always seemed too – perfect? professional? business woman? calculating? plain? – in order to see her as someone artistically expressing an authentic feeling.

In consequence, it nagged me even more, that a number of songs from 1989, released almost exactly one year ago, hit quite a note with me – I do have a soft spot for pure, shimmery and professionally produced pop songs. And probably, this is Swifts actual recipe and achievement in general: To disarm elitist music nerds‘ reluctance to identify with the mass appeal of an universally acclamied pop record, and turn their mumbled guilty pleasure confession into unapologetic, hipster-compatible (even rebellious!) fandom. Therefore, it’s funny imagining all the Alt.-Country aficionados only familiar with Adams’ work and Swifts hit singles (including me) finding themselves in a loyality conflict, nervously switching between their two digital folders of 1989, anxiously checking whether their indie guy can actually win this battle.

Bad Blood, released as a teaser last Friday, was a disapponitment: Adams’ arrangement felt strangely plain, sterile and polished, comparable to his own Easy Tiger-era. The inherently repetitive (as in: monotonous), winched chorus melody really doesn’t help, either. Fortunately, this is not representative for the whole record – on the contrary.

Even though Adams stays inside of his repertoire comfort zone for the whole record (guitar-based singer-songwriter / Alternative Country / Indie pop/rock with a clear flirt for 80’s Punk/ Rock dramaturgy), he still comes up with a surprising variety of diverse re-arrangements for these songs:

Welcome To New York, whose original I appreciated for capturing so perfectly the open-minded excitement and antsy curiosity of a fresh start, is now transformed into a muscled wink to Springsteens cowboy stance with its string intro, deep vocals, bold guitar chords and a keyboard solo, resulting in a close tie in comparison.

Blank Space gets the stripped-to-the-bones-treatment, where only the fingerpicked guitar chord patterns and a few restrained string accents accompany Adams’ tender falsetto, and still the song doesn’t lose anything of it’s catchy grand air.

A palm-muted intro and subsequent roughened strummed chords turn Style into a punk-infused 80’s affair with Adams’ raspy, breathless vocals level out somewehere between defensive-cool hollering and desperate howling, not unsimilar to Jack Whites trademark nag. Funnily, Adams alters Swifts original lyrics you got that James Dean daydream look into Daydream Nation look, which arguably might be considered a sacrilege – to use an allusion to Sonic Youth in a Taylor Swift Cover –, but on the other hand it makes so much sense: Wouldn’t we, just as Ryan Adams, be quite attracted to someone with a Daydream Nation look in his/her eyes, whatever the hell that look would actually look like? In my books, the idea is definitely seductive.

And then there is All You Had To Do Was Stay. While the original is too busy with being another danceable uptempo track with a big uprising hookline, Ryans version takes the desesperation and anger of the title line very seriously, an effect especially achieved through the color of Ryans tense, wrought up voice: His intonation seems to be pleading and accusing at the same time, and the high vocals are just high enough to sound vulnerably shakey, but still firm enough to not yet have to disappear into his head voice, which gives the performance an extraordinary punch of urgency. Definitely the best and most moving song on the record.

Wildest Dreams resembles not without reason Love Is Hell’s track Anybody Wanna Take Me Home, as both songs pay a fanboy’s tribute to Johnny Marrs signature dangleing guitar work in The Smiths. This Love, probably a climax in the albums narrative, reinvigorates the desperate longing and inner demons of Adams’ Sylvia Plath with its hauntedly reverbed piano and falsetto vocals.

Interestingly, Stereogums recent Premature Evaluation of the record reflects on how Adams taking on Swifts songs might be interpreted as an artistic expression itself:

 We’re hearing a sad, lonely middle-aged man attempting to reckon, for maybe the first time, that he’s become a sad, lonely middle-aged man, and using the songs of Taylor Swift as a vehicle to do it. There’s something beautiful about that.

Whereas Stereogums way of putting it appears a bit plain to me, there’s a bit of truth in there: While the emotional subject of Swifts songs might be the reason why Adams could connect to them, his take reflects that the experience of love and loss (and the whole emotional rollercoaster within) might feel differently when made through not for the first time, but just another time. This might also be an explanation for the fact that album closer Clean, that was written by Swift and the amazing Imogen Heap, in Swifts version, much more is a relieved statement of redemption and rebirth, while Adams’ song, especially the vocals, still feels shadowed and exhausted. Thourough the record, Adams’ sound has a broader pallette of colors and adds a new depth, but also a fleshier sound to the former very light, very monotonous rhythm-orientated 90’s Boygroup sound design that predominates the original 1989.

Whereas releasing a cover album of one of the most successful records of last year certainly is a career move your manager would embrace, the whole project still feels convinceable to me. As both Adams and Swift share a certain sense of open-mindedness, of not letting outside classifications blur their judgement, the idea of Ryan wholeheartedly excited, playing around with these jams is an image that seems pretty much in character for him (if you need a reminder: he’s a pinball lunatic, obsessive cat content poster, enthusiastic comic nerd, and infamously performing in the same denim jacket with only the black t-shirt of some 80‘s hardcore / punk / metal band changing occasionally, etc.)

So, in many ways, this record at the same time is the confirmation and the falsification of the old rule: A good song is a good song is a good song. And still there’s so much power and variation in how to colour the central sentiment of a songwriters work. And at the end of the day, albeit age and sex differences, there still might be more similarities between an 20 year old girl and a 40 year old guy suffering from severe heartbreak.

Listen to a release day interview with Ryan Adams on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Show with Taylor Swift calling in here.

Ryan Adams – 1989 is out now digitally. A physical release is expected for later this year.


How To Warm Your Hands On The Glow Of A Vulcano // Sufjan Stevens Live @ Berlin Admiralspalast (16/9/15, Concert Review)

2015-09-18 Sufjan TourcollageIn my recent album review of Sufjan Stevens‘ Carrie & Lowell, I compared psychological theories of grief and bereavement with Stevens artistic way of dealing with the loss of his mother on his latest record. Last night I had the chance to see how he translated his new material onto the stage at his first show of a sold-out two-day residency at Berlins noble Admiralspalast.

The stage of Sufjan and his 5-piece-band was backed by five oblonged projection screens that resembled very much cathedral windows, and after the heavy reverb piano intro of Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou), Sufjan, only lit by a single spot, began the evening with an achingly beautiful solo acoustic rendition of Death With Dignity, while the screens depicted private super-8 home videos from his childhood fooling around. You had to remind yourself that even though it was a piece of privacy exposed in the context of a performance, the scenes it showed were apparently real material, almost like a slide show at a family reunion. From this moment on, the audience was spellbound.


(c) Selective Artists

If the record seemed like a diary of grief, the show felt more like an experiment on how to convert these feelings and their energy into something new. Many of the new songs had been reworked and re-arranged. The Only Thing, after starting off as the delicate and reduced acoustic reflection as it is on the record, transformed via a sudden crescendo of tempo, drumbeats and lights directly pointed into the audience into something that almost felt like a resurrection. Fourth Of July became a disconnected sound-collage, wherein the reverb-heavy piano ballad got interrupted various times by synthie blots and splotches, before being pushed by the drum beat into an overwhelming finale.

Whereas the first section exclusively relied on the reworked Carrie & Lowell material, the second half of the main set connected old and new material by a stronger emphasis of choreography and light installation. All Of Me Wants All Of You, one of my favourites both live and on the record, had gotten rid of his acoustic guitar core and now grooved in sync to the pulsating symboles approximating to and withdrawing from each other on the screens around, dressed in wafting synth noises and an elaborated percussion, before turning into a an absolutely stunning and seducing 80s ambient disco monster with Sufjan playing an aggressively roaring synth solo. Mindblowing!

(Video by Olive Toulouse)

Along to Vesuvius, the light screens turned into a strange combination of vases that were steadily filling up by water drops threateningly dripping down, a boiling vulcano and a rocketship silhouette set to a night starry metropolis skyline. Sufjan performed the song with sort of sign language with his arms and fingers, appearing defenceless and still dignified, that I found extremely touching. I can’t exactly put the finger on the why, but the way he did this sign language somehow illustrated a breakdown of communication and the intention of reconnecting, but also the nagging and threating quality of the expressed doubts and desires of the songs’ lyrics. In the end, Sufjan concluded the song by changing between singing and playing a recorder (which was met with confusion and amusement by the audience) with the repeated line: Why does it have to be so hard? (This is not the only moment that, from a technical point of view, appeared a bit messy: Here and there the coordination between Sufjan and his background vocalist, or his use of his head voice sounded quite a bit off, and sometimes the mostly synthie keyboard foundations of the songs felt a bit thin in order to hold together the ornamentation of the other instruments).

The main set was concluded by a quite demanding and challenging 13 min impro space opera electro experimental journey through Blue Bucket of Gold, that was a final proof that at different moments, this show managed to evoke a diversity of emotions: sadness, melancholy, boredom, tiredness, sensory overload, amazement… Sufjan returned for the encore with his trademark baseball cap, starting to present a selection of older fan favourite songs. The short, beautiful piano solo version of Come On Feel The Illinoise-Opener Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinoise and the sweet banjo picking of For The Widows in Paradise, For The Fatherless in Ypsilanti were greeted with enthusiasm by the audience, who still seemed a bit stunned and shocked after how the main set had ended. Finally, something more familiar (and something easier to digest…).

(Video by PaperSnowflake)

Generally speaking, it was astonishing how Sufjan succeded to create an intimate vibe for his show; in spite of the scale of the production, the result still felt sincerely personal. Even though a relatively stable setlist sequence, a venue of >3000, an elaborated light show concept, elements of conceptual performance choreography, and an extensive tour that has been going on almost non-stop since the record’s release half a year ago, what he evoked still was more soul than show, more emotion than entertainment.

At the end of the show, he spoke shortly about how these songs are „obsessed with mortality“, and how he feels that the process of sharing them, expressing them, results into turnings these feelings into something new, something else, in an almost cathartic, spiritual way. The people in the audience could only agree, as this effect had been palpable for everyone in the room. So whether read as dealing with mortality, or with noticing the things that grow out of the ashes, and taking them to go on: in any way the final Chicago is right, when it states with its beautiful modest anthem-like sublimity: All things go, all things go.

You can find the setlist below, with some video examples for the new arrangements from earlier dates of this year’s tour. Prepare to be blown away.

Berlin, Admiralspalast (1st night) // Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Support: Minda Tindle

Redford (For Yia-Yia & Pappou) (Wiltshire, End Of The Road Festival, 05/09/2015)
Death With Dignity (Wiltshire, End Of The Road Festival, 05/09/2015)
Should Have Known Better (Brighton, Dome, 04/09/2015)
Drawn To The Blood (Edinburgh, Playhouse 30/08/2015)
Eugene (Cleveland, 16/04/2015)
John My Beloved (Manchester, Apollo 31/08/2015)
The Only Thing (Edinburgh, Playhouse 30/08/15)
Fourth Of July (Paris, Grand Rex 08/09/15)
No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross (Houston, Jones Hall f. t. Performing Arts, 11/5/15)
Carrie & Lowell (Edinburgh, Playhouse 30/08/15)
The Owl And The Tangar (Austin, Bass Concert Hall 05/2015)
All Of Me Wants All Of You (Paris, Grand Rex 08/09/15)
Vesuvius (Paris, Grand Rex 08/09/15)
Blue Bucket Of Gold (Columbus, Palace Theatre 17/04/15)
Concerning The UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois (Dublin, The Helix 29/08/15 )
Heirloom (Dublin, The Helix, 29/08/15)
For The Widows in Paradise, For The Fatherless in Ypsilanti (Edinburgh, Playhouse 30/08/15)
Futile Devices (Manchester, Apollo 31/08/2015)
John Wayne Gacy, Jr. (Edinburgh, Playhouse 30/08/15 )
Chicago (Edinburgh, Playhouse, 30/08/2015)

Find some german reviews off the local press and some photos from the night here:

Listen to OK Lady, Roman GianArthur’s new EP of sensual Radiohead R’n’B covers

I’m a huge fan of Radiohead. And yeah, stating this by now is probably as revealing and innovative as saying „My lungs like fresh air“ or „a cup of coffee can be so revitalizing“, but well, nevermind, still it’s true. So this is a true nice little gem for the weekend.

As Stereogum points out, Roman GianArthur just released OK Lady, an EP of Radiohead covers transfered into a beautifully lush and funk-loaded R’n’b sound that evokes associations to the likes of Esperanza Spalding or Miguel.

Roman GianArthur is an artist on Wondaland, the label that was created by Janelle Monáe (who with Tightrope, imho, released one of the most catchy and vibrant singles of the recent New R’n’B revival, and who a few months ago got censored on US-national television when speaking out against police brutality and expessing her support for #BlackLivesMatter )

Radiohead themselves in various occasions have refered to In Rainbow as their sexy record (not in these exact words, because, you know, they’re Radiohead, but I’m too lazy to look up the exact quote now), and therefore the rearranging of All I Need and Nude (now called SEND:TON) in such a lush and sultry way doesn’t seem like a complete reinvention, but rather like pushing the concept that is already seeded in the songs even further.

Concerning the songs from the older catalogue of RH, especially the moment in High & Dry, where the painful realization of it’s the best thing that you ever ever had is followed by a pragmatical that’s you (as if it still needed any confirmation – ha!), before this Purple Rain’y guitar howl drowns everything, is just ace. No Surprises, featuring Monae, now in its new chilly and playful arrangement feels a lot more comforting than Thom Yorkes (equally genius!) overwrought intonation that made the song feel like a suicide letter. And to translate the originally over 6min long monster of Paranoid Android into a colorful funk rework with vocal samples, haunted choir harmonies and and a pretty vivid rhythm section can only result in something pretty chaotic and messy, but equally enjoyable.

You can stream and download the whole 6-song EP on GianArthurs official soundcloud profile.


The Resurrection of Berlin’s Lenin – well, his head.

Today, the head of the former Lenin monument placed in Berlin during the times of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) got unearthed in order to be presented in an exhibition of historic monuments in the west of Berlin.

(c) Ruptly TV

The head was just the upper part of a much larger monument of Lenin originally located at Lenin Plaza, now called Platz der Vereinten Nationen (Plaza of the United Nations), in Berlins district Friedrichshain. In 1991, the first Mayor of the reunited Berlin organized the disassembly of the statue, and the head with its over 3 tons of weight was buried in a forest in the outskirts of Berlin.

There has been a great deal of controversy over this step, as some people consider the era of the GDR as such a dark chapter of german history that they prefer to have every memory of it erased, in order to prevent nostalgic political feelings. Another group of people already critizised the original idea of disassembling the statue back in 1991 and consider it as a integral part of german history that should be remembered and discussed.

For some time, an official argument against unearthing the head was that city representants stated that nobody had any idea where the head exactly was located. This argument was refuted, when US-American film maker Rick Minnich joined the conversation. Minnich had recorded a satirical movie and, as part of its plot, not only had investigated the exact position, but even presented a scene where he himself uncovered parts of Lenins head.

(c) Rick Minnich

The last obstacle in the way was the finding, that a certain species of endangered lizards by now had populated the head, so that during every action taken, the protection of the lizards had to be warranted.

After all, the head did get unearthed today and by midday, it was presented at the location of its future exhibition at Citadel Spandau.

(c) Ruptly TV


Dota – Grenzen (a german song about borders and refugees)

2015-09-10 refugeeswelcomeDota Kerr is a singer-songwriter from Berlin of especially local popularity. She has been making her mixture of intimate acoustic guitar music with poetic everyday life observations revolving around big city life, lover’s grief, cultural and political themes with her trademark witty, intelligent wordplays. Formerly known as Kleingeldprinzessin (princess of small change) and gaining a loyal fanbase by busking, she also integrates elements of Bossa Nova and brasilian traditional music into her music

Dota is going to release a new record on January 15th of next year, and even though it is not yet ready for a proper promo cycle to begin, she released a video of a song of this record that deals with the concept of borders, in order to publish a statement about the current situation of refugees in Germany.

Check out the song in the video and a translation of some lyrics excerpts below. FInd the official german lyrics on Dotas Official Facebook Profile.

(Again we have the problem of translation. The main point of the song is that the german word for borders might stand for borders as well as for „limits“, so every time Dota sings „es gibt Grenzen“ she implies that everything mentioned before is caused by the existence of borders, but also that the circumstances already have crossed the line of the tolerable.)

Who is inside, who is outside?
I draw a line. You must not pass.
Air meets Air here
Ground meets ground
Skin meets the bullet.

There is frontex and push-backs
Fences, weapons, refugee defense conferences
Themediterrean sea becomes a mass grave
There are borders / limits

They lead to nationalism with its nutty consequences
You disfranchise people just because they came from somewhere
There are borders / limits (…)

I sign off, hand me a passport,
that states: „World inhabitant“
Just „world inhabitant“.
Please tell me where to go to for this
I sign off, I re-register
It can’t be so difficult
Just sign me up as world inhabitant.

Freud y los Estudios sobre la Histeria II – Cúales de sus modelos teóricos sobre la histeria aún son actuales?

2015-09-01 Histeria-Banner

La diagnosis de la histeria, a cual se dedicaba Freud en esta publicación, por varias razones hoy casi ya no existe. La ciencia psicológica, especialmente en las universidades, ya mayormente está ignorando a la teoría psicoanalítica por su preferencia de casí únicamente enfoques cognitivo-conductales. Elementos del concepto de la histeria han sido repartidos en varios elementos e integrados en otras conceptos de trastornos de los manuales diagnósticos de trastornos mentales (los más importantes sean la International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), publicado por la Organisación Mundal de la Salud, y el Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), publicado por la Asociación Estadounidense de Psiquatría).

La conversión de emociones y conflictos represados en manifestaciones corporales en el día de hoy pertenece a la categorías diagnósticas de

  • los trastornos somatomorfos (trastorno de somatización, hipocondría, trastorno dismórfico corporal, trastorno por dolor)
  • los trastornos disociativos (trastorno de conversión)

Otros elementos de la histeria, como la excitación, los flashbacks, y características de personalidad estan inlcuídos en las descripciónes de

  • los trastornos postraumáticos (trastorno de estrés postraumático) y
  • los trastornos de personalidad del Grupo B (trastorno límite de la personalidad/Borderline, trastorno histriónico de la personalidad, trastorno narcisista de la personalidad)
Freud (c)olafhajek

Sigmund Freud (c) Olaf Hajek (www.olafhajek.com)

Pacientes con este típo de problemas físicas frecuentamente vuelven a consultar a su médico de cabecera, como sus síntomas siguen aunque no se había podido identificar ninguna causa física de sus dolores. No obstante regresan a su médico, como las pacientes no están conscientes que tambien su estado emocional o mental puede influir so bienestar corporal. Muchas veces estas personas tienen un gran miedo de que su doctor les diga que su molestia no sea corporal, sino que nada más imaginado, una declaración que muchas veces les causa mucha verguenza y humillación y que les ofende mucho a paciente: No solo no me puede ayudar mi médico y siguen mis molestia, no, sino tambien dice el doctor que nada más me lo estoy imaginando!

Evidencia para conexiones entre experiencias emocionales y cambios físicos

Afortunadamente, la ciencia psicosomática ya tiene evidencia que las molestias no son imaginadas. Supuestamente ya no se puede distinguir muy claramente entre causas mentales y causas físicas para algun dolor corporal, como ya hay mucha evidencia que indica que nuestra mente y nuestro cuerpo están conectados en varias maneras muy complejas.

  • Si una persona está confrontada con una situación traumática, hoy sabemos que los niveles de la reaccion de estrés en su cuerpo causa que la memoria de esta situación está grabada de manera muy distincta que normalmente en su cerebro. Los aspectos emocionales y sensoriales (emociones, colores, ruidos, olor, toque) están grabados con una claridad excepcional al cerebro, mientras los detalles del contexto (cuando pasaba? En donde pasaba? Porque pasaba?) estan grabadas nada mas de manera muy imprecisa. Por eso, cuando recordado de la escena traumatica, la persona puede sentir las mismas percepciones físicas que tenía durante la situacion de antes, aunque ya pasaron meses o años y aunque no se recuerda muy bien que las percepciones que siente (por el recuerdo) pertenecen a la situación traumatica del origen. Asi que: El volumen del estrés en una situación influye como memorias están grabadas en el cerebro, y tambien influyen al cuerpo cuando nos recordamos (conscientemente o inconscientemente) de la situación.
  • Otra evidencia para la conexión entre la mente y el cuerpo enseña que psicoterápia efectivamente puede cambiar ciertas maneras de funcionar del cerebro. La terápia cambia muestras funcionales de neuronas en el celebro y se puede enseñar el cambio con tecnicas de imagenología como la tomografía de resonancia magnética (IRM) (Linden, 2006; Schauer, Elbert, Gotthard, et al., 2006). Entonces, ya no es ciencia ficción que lo que sentimos y pensamos tiene una manifestación correspondiente en nuestro cuerpo. En ambos sentidos, como consequencia de experiencias emocionales positivas (como en terápia) o negativas (como en situaciones traumaticas), nuestro estado de animo puede causar e influir percepciones reales en nuestro cuerpo.
  • Es muy interesante que otro área de investigación que tambien usa las tecnicas de IRM encontró primeras indicios que la manera en que nuestro cerebro procesa dolor físico tiene entrecruzamientos con la manera en que el celebro procesa el dolor emocional y el dolor social y emocional. En otras palabras, el procesamiento de caer al suelo o empujarse es muy similar al procesamiento del sentimiento de tristesa si otra persona nos rechaza (Eisenberger, Lieberman & Williams, 2003; Eisenberger & Lieberman, 2004, Eisenberger, 2012; Lieberman & Eisenberger, 2012). Los cientificos tambien observan que el hecho de que en varias idiomas describimos las penas de amor con una metáfora de un corazón quebrado puede aludir que aunque alguna emoción sea un sufrimiento emocional, tambien tiene alguna manifestación física. Entonces: Si el dolor físico y el dolor social y emocional están procesados de maneras similares en el cerebro, la presunción que las consequencias de las dos formas de sufrimiento podrían causar algúna manifestación corporal ya parece muy probable.

Entonces, si ya está explicado todo del fenómeno de la manifestación corporal por razones mentales por el cerebro – para que aún necesitamos Freud y sus ideas de emociones represados o el inconsciente?

La actualidad de las técnicas terapeuticas de los “Estudios sobre la histeria”

En mi opinion, la investigación cientifica por metodos neurobiologicos o la análisis psicodinámica no se excluyen ni se contradicen. Los resultados de la neurobiología aún nada más nos dan indicios, no pruebas, y aun no podemos concluir causalidades. No sabemos si el cambio de algúna estructural neural causa la percepción de alguna emoción o alguna sensación física, o si al reves alguna emoción causa los cambios cerebrales. Todos esos resultados aun son descripciones de acciones simultáneas, pero no nos dejan entender ni la secuencia ni la causalidad.

Además, como terapeuta no nos ayuda explicarles a los pacientes que sus síntomas surgen por alguna connexión en su cerebro. Un tratamiento asi no sirve ni para tener empatía com ellos, ni para curarles, porque no nos da ningúna posibilidad de intervenir. La investigación cientifica de la manera en que percepciones, emociones y funcciones corporales interactuan con mecanismos biológicos no nos capacita para entender mejor como le aparece al paciente su punto de vista de sí mismo o del mundo. Si alguien está represando alguna emoción, tal vez ya tenemos alguna idea del mecanismo de procesamiento en el cerebro, pero para curarle al paciente, necesitamos saber sus razones personales porque una emocion le parecia tan horrible, aterradora e inacceptable que en primer lugar la tenía que represar inconscientemente. Como terapeutas, necesitamos los dos lados de la historia: Como funciona, y como lo siente la persona?

Addicionalmente, fuí sorprendido durante la lectura de los Estudios sobre la histeria, que Freud de hecho propone técnicas terapeuticas que hasta el día de hoy son partes integrales de la practica de psicoterapia moderna, aunque sus observaciones ya llevan 12 años. En la terapia cognitiva-conductal para trastornos traumáticos, el concepto de confrontación (o exposicion) es un paradigma central. En la exposición imaginativa se le pide al paciente conmemorarse de exactamente todo lo que pasaba durante una situación traumática, para entender cúales aspectos le causaron temor, y para procesar el suceso. Es asombroso la manera en que ya Freud explicó el efecto terapeutico de una exposicion, ya en unas de las primeras obras de psicoterapia.

Hemos hallado, en efecto, y para sorpresa nuestra, al principio, que los distintos síntomas histéricos desaparecían inmediata y definitivamente en cuanto se conseguía despertar con toda claridad el recuerdo del proceso provocador, y con él el afecto concomitante, y describía el paciente con el mayor detalle posible dicho proceso, dando expresión verbal al afecto. El recuerdo desprovisto de afecto carece casi siempre de eficacia. El proceso psíquico primitivo ha de ser repetido lo más vivamente posible, retrotraído al status nascendi, y «expresado» después. En esta reproducción del proceso primitivo, y tratándose de fenómenos de excitación, aparecen éstos -convulsiones, neuralgias, alucinaciones, etc.- nuevamente con toda intensidad, para luego desaparecer de un modo definitivo.

S. Freud & J. Breuer – El mecanísmo psíquico de los fenómenos histéricos (comunicación preliminar), 1893.

Lo que expresa Freud en esas observaciones es exactamente lo mismo a que se refieren manuales terapeuticos cognitivo-conductales como la Prolonged Exposure de Edna Foa o la terapia cognitiva de Ehlers & Clark.

En conclusión, aunque los Estudios sobre la histeria por su edad no parecen a una investigación moderna médica, los primeros pasos de Freud a su expedición de acercarse al mundo extraño de la mente aún incluyen ideas muy modernas y útiles para entender y curar ciertas formas de trastornos mentales. Sus ideas no solo aún están elemenots existenciales en tratamientos modernos, pero las complementan con la actitud de siempre intentar de estar curioso y abierto a descubrir el sentido individual y autobiografico del sufrimiento del paciente.


  • Josef Breuer, Sigmund Freud (2011, 7. Ed.). Studien über Hysterie. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag: Frankfurt am Main (publicado por primera vez en 1895) (traducción espanola aquí).
  • Illustración Freud: (c) Olaf Hajek (http://olafhajek.com/)

El efecto de psicoterápia a cambios en circuitos celebrales:

  • Linden, D. (2006). How psychotherapy changes the brain – the contribution of functional neuroimaging. Molecular Psychiatry, 11, 528-538. (free online copy here )
  • Schauer, M., Elbert, T., Gotthard, S., Rockstroh, B., Odenwald, M., & Neuner, F. (2006). Wiedererfahrung durch Psychotherapie modifziert Geist und Gehirn [Imaginary Reliving in Psychotherapy Modifies Mind and Brain]. Verhaltenstherapie, 16, 96-103 (free copy of german article with english abstract here).

El procesamiento de dolor físico y dolor social y sus similaridades cerebrales:

  • Eisenberger, N., Lieberman, M., & Williams, K. (2003) Does rejection hurt? An fMRI Study of Social Exclusion. Science, 302, 290-292. (free copy here)
  • Eisenberger, N., & Lieberman, M. (2004). Why rejection hurts: a common neural alarm system for physical and social pain. TRENDS in cognitive sciences 8 (7), 294-300. (free copy here)
  • Eisenberger, N. (2012). Broken Hearts and Broken Bones: A Neural Perspective on the Similarities Between Social and Physical Pain. Current Directions in Psychological Sciences, 21 (1), 42-47. (free copy here)
  • Lieberman, M., & Eisenberger, N. (2012). A pain, by any other name (rejection, exclusion, ostracism) still hurts the same: The role of dorsal anterior cingulate cortex in social and physical pain. In: Cacioppo, J., Visser, P., & Pickett, C. (Eds). Social Neuroscience: People Thinking About People (pp. 167-188). Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Book. (free copy here ).

Where I was when it happened. // BOY – We Were Here (Album Review)

0_BOY_We Were Here_AlbumcoverBack in the late summer of 2011, when Boys break-through single Little Numbers was omnipresent, I was in the middle of studying for an exam in clinical psychology. I vividly remember escaping the university library for a break in the cafeteria, and I couldn’t wait to return to my headphones for that contagious hookline. When Valeska Steiner finally hit the passionate sigh of the line is there a cure for me at a-ha-halll, expressing her obsession with her fling, all I could think of was control groups, RCTs, „needs based intervention“ or „treatment as usual“. In my mind the state of having fallen in love and the vocabulary of treating mental illnesses had gotten mixed up (which makes sense, considering that all symptoms of falling in love could be expressed in clinical terminology, not indicating an illness, but a general change of state of mind. The expression of being „crazy in love“ is not necessarily just a metaphor). Anyway, the way the song conveyed the craving for the excitment of falling in love with its animatedly bouncing piano line, especially in contrast to my current studying routine, had something very tempting.

A lot of the short stories of Boy‘s 2011 debut album Mutual Friends revolve around a general vague vibe of anticipation, the situation of still standing on the threshold of entering a new, exciting and promising stage of life, but already impatiently waiting for the journey to begin. Drive Darling recapped the car ride, in which singer Valeska Steiner‘s mum took her from her hometown Zürich to Hamburg to start her musicial career. The Waitress tried to escape her monotonous it-pays-the-bills job by imagining scenarios of something happening. Even the romantic exhilaration of Little Numbers still stemmed from what could be, if the stranger she presently was only stalking, actually called her.
Since 2011, a lot has happened for the band: A gold certification, extensive touring through the USA and Japan after significant success in Germany/Austra/Switzerland, and various features of Little Numbers in movies, TV-shows and, most prominently, a TV ad for a leading german airline. So if Mutual Friends was capturing the essence of the feeling of anticipation „before“ – their second album We Were Here now recapitulates the „after“.

One of the recurrent themes of We Were Here is the intent to stay mindfully present in the storm of impressions happening around you, which probably can be led back to the experience of extensive touring. How do you stay receptive and interested if something extraordinary (visiting other countries, performing, meeting new people) suddenly becomes a regular, sometimes exhausting job routine?
In this sense, the repetition of the title-giving We Were Here in the songs chorus becomes a retrospective self-reassurance: It wasn’t all just an indistinguishable blur that passed us by in a rush. Everywhere we’ve been, we have been leaving traces. This mindful, probably buddhist inspired attitude reminds me of the opener of another very successful second album of a german band: Back in 2005, Wir sind Helden expressed their proposition of savoring every bit of the experience, not letting it slip through your fingers, in their song Wenn es passiert (roughly translated: A heartbeat just for me and the ones with me / Open your eyes, watch this / who hasn’t got any tears left for this / will become blind tomorrow / if you can’t love this, then what? (…) I never want to ask where I was).

BOY_2015_5_credit Debora Mittelstaedt(c) Debora Mittelstaedt

The back side to this is introduced in Hotel, where the sterile, impersonal comfort in hotel rooms cannot distract from the isolation of the people inhabiting: Different city, different hotel room, but the look of the room stay the same, as well as the feeling: a longing for a home instead of a house.

It’s just a stop along the way /
just a temporary place /
for nameless neighbors in the dark /
wall to wall but worlds apart /
a hotel room is a hotel room is a hotel room

Eventually, BOY even try to integrate the spirit of emotional discovery to their life coming home, not allowing the sudden decline of adrenaline turn into a coming-home-blues. Therefore, New York states that with the right mindset, it’s really not about the place (any street that I’m walking with you / anywhere with you could be new york (…) but i woke up all eyes and all ears, / when you whispered / (…) it’s all really happening here).

Another recurring, more personal motive is how to accompany a loved one through rough waters. Fear evokes associations to Angst (fear), a song by Fotos, the band of Boys current touring guitarist Deniz Erarslan, who Valeska Steiner sang background vocals for on their debut album before Boy had been formed. Both songs describe fear as being possesed by a demon crawling under your skin and invading every aspect of your personality and every area of your functional life as an individual (with every step i feel its weight / in my eyes you can see its face / in Angst) or as a romantic couple (in Fear).
Steiner sings from the perspective of the partner of someone with anxiety issues and illustrates the desperate attempts to help her loved one: the strong will to put up with the fight against this powerful invisible enemy, energised by her love (i’ll shield you ‘til it disappears, all my love against your fear). Eventually though, she also realizes her complete helplessness against the omnipotence of this condition. In a similar context, the character in Flames utters her resignation: „and i call your name / but i can’t get through (…) oh dear love, if only i could find / a way to ease your troubled mind“.

BOY_2015_1_credit Debora Mittelstaedt(c) Debora Mittelstaedt

In the album closer Into The Wild, we find the protagonist torn between the decision of accompanying a loved person into the unknown and missing the comfort of home, or staying home and gloryfing the missed love. Realizing (and accepting) that there is no solution to the dilemma between the travel bug and the wish for a secure and comfortable home, the album ends decisively indecisive on an ambiguous note (so when the music is over / will i finally have my answer?).
Funily enough, the chorus of the song uses a very common chord progression that is also prominently used in U2’s With Or Without You, which in a way makes even sense considering the content. When I returned from a long time abroad, my mother noticed pictures of friends from another country on my wall and said: Well, over there you had fotos up from people here, now it’s the other way round. So it never actually feels right, or complete: There is always something missing.

Boy have often been accused by critics of being too accessible, of making music everybody could agree on, of being too tame and simple-hearted. And again on this record, it is pretty easy to find arguments for this: We Were here is very traditional acoustic singer-songwriter record, with maybe some new traces of the currently trendy 80’s power pop synth lines here and there. But: In a recent review, Pitchfork  defined a good mainstream pop record as capturing emotions everybody can relate to with so much individual personality that they actually can become universal representations of a certain feeling. And in this sense, Boy succeed to create pop music that represents a certain sense of simplicity, a non-judging curiosity and excitment, conveying enough character in order to still be interesting.

Boy‘s melancholy of longing or being stuck in between the attraction of new experiences and the longing for security never turns into negativity, as at the end of the day it’s an expression of richness and content: There’s just still so much to be seen and felt in this world.


  • Promotional photographs of Boy: Copyright Debora Mittelstaedt.
  • Fotos – Angst. From Porzellan – Snowwhite, 2010.
  • Wir sind Helden – Wenn es passiert. From Von hier an blind – Reklamation Records, Labels, 2005.