Fräulein at The St. Moritz Club, 22/2/23 – review by Tony Rounce, photo by Keira Anee

More than 3 years have passed since ARXX’s formidable drummer Clara Townsend and I stood at the back of Bristol’s Crofters Rights pub on a cold February night, mutually swooning to the sound of a locally-based duo who were opening a three-band bill that ARXX were topping. We were impressed by the intricate time signatures that their drummer was laying down, and no less beguiled by the compelling presence of their frontsperson’s ability to be both ferocious and tender – seemingly at will – as she held our attention for every second of their 20 minute set.

This was my first encounter with Fräulein. It has not been my last.

Since that night in Bristol, I have seen them more than two dozen times, a figure that would undoubtedly be much higher were it not for that pesky pandemic. I have seen them grow in confidence as their fan base and reputation have expanded. Few things give me more pleasure than to see the way that these two lovely people’s career is escalating on its inevitable upward trajectory. They don’t necessarily need me to be there to cheer them on anymore – but, of course, I always will be.

I was ‘there’ on another cold February night, earlier this week, to see Fräulein pack out the St. Moritz Club, a tiny, claustrophobic bar in the heart of central London, at a night promoted by the enterprising Submarine Cat label, to whom they have just signed and where, coincidentally, they have joined ARXX on a growing roster. This time, rather than standing at the back with Clara, I stood right at the front with LOUD WOMEN’s supersnapper Kiera Anee and my daughter Kim, herself a veteran of several Fräulein gigs. I have learned from experience that the best place to see Fraulein is right at the front, particularly in a confined space like the St. Moritz where the audience is literally face to face with any band.  Full-on immersion in the tidal wave of sound that two people, a drumkit and a grungy guitar produce is the only way to go.

Whether playing on the big stages that they are increasingly finding themselves occupying around the country, or squeezed into the corner of a club not much bigger than the average-sized living room, Fräulein never give less than 200%.  In the unlikely event that you have never seen Joni and Karsten before, the amount of audio power that the duo seemingly summon up at will might scare you at first, but if you are prepared to meet even it halfway I promise you that satisfaction is guaranteed every time.  I find their sound so unique that I am reluctant to offer reference points, and would prefer you to make your own comparisons. The best way to do that is to go and see them yourself – although their 2022 vinyl/download EP A Small Taste is as good an entry point into the world of Fräulein as anyone could hope for (it’s available via Bandcamp, please check it out if you have not yet done so). All four songs from the EP are integral parts of their 10 song set,  along with several newer offerings like their fab current single ‘Pet’, that already sounds like a Fräulein classic on just a few streams and (for me) one live hearing.

The blend of new and old in the set is seamless and enthralling, and I would definitely like to espouse the virtues of “a new song that we’ve never performed before” as Joni announced it. Unfortunately she forgot to say what it was called, but you have my word for it that it was a right banger, just like everything else they played.  It’s a shame that some of their older songs like the majestic ‘By The Water’ have had to make way for more recent compositions before they have been heard by newer fans, but understandable that any band would want to move their repertoire up a gear as they add to it…

If any one track stood out as the absolute highlight on the night it was “And I Go (La La La)” which has come a long way from its first public performance, without a lyric, at East London’s George Tavern in June 2021. It’s the perfect blend of radio friendly pop and irregular rhythms that sum up Fräulein, and give them something unique that makes them a must to see and support.

If you haven’t done either yet, your opportunities are close at hand as Karsten and Joni are about to embark on their first headline tour of the UK (well, just England at the moment) with shows in mid to late April that will take them from Leeds to London (including a doubtless nostalgic return to the Crofters Rights in Bristol) across a two week period. Full details of where and when can again be found on Bandcamp, or on the band’s socials…) Please do not pass up the opportunity to see what is truly one of the great musical unions on our scene and of our time.