1992

Saâda Bonaire were lost and found twice. Formed in 1982, the German new wave band had only one single to its name before getting dropped by a label that blew its budget on a young Tina Turner. Thirty years on, Captured Tracks released a compilation of previously unheard 1980s material that satisfied a cult following, revealed a hidden Mideastern influence, and unlocked songs that deal with queer love affairs. Now, the label has unearthed a new trove of unheard tracks from the band’s even lesser-known second lineup.

In 1990, producer and string-puller Ralph “Von” Richthoven set sights on restarting the project, recruiting vocalist Andrea Ebert to replace Claudia Hossfeld, who’d left in 1985, alongside returning frontwoman Stephanie Lange. Keeping in vogue with the new decade, they threw out the new wave synths and boogie guitars in favor of baggy trip-hop breakbeats, quiet storm breeziness, and Chicago house productions. The group were noticeably paying attention to recent hits from Soul II Soul, Crystal Waters, and Deee-Lite (even lyrically nodding to R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion”), though 1992 opens with their covers of early ’70s selections from James Brown and Stevie Wonder.

In Saâda Bonaire’s hands, Brown’s appreciative single “Woman” sinks into a loungey instrumental, as if what’s a revelation for the Godfather of Soul is, for Ebert and Lange, just a known truth that bears repeating. Their cover of Wonder and Syreeta’s duet “To Know You Is to Love You” brings its sexual undertones full-frontal, thanks to a background mix of impish giggling, breathy moans, and hushed whispers. With two female voices, the sapphic suggestion is there for the taking—“lesbian chic” became an American phenomenon in 1993 with an era-defining k.d. lang magazine cover, and the track might have seemed ripe for fetishization. But not even that fad could hand Saâda Bonaire a wide release, and the tapes from this period were stowed away and, until recently, thought to be lost.

It’s a shame, because Middle Eastern instrumentation was still a staple in the band’s ’90s incarnation, and the album’s Turkish vocalists and saz guitarist steal every scene gracefully, even if just for an introduction. Arabesque flute wraps around the coiling bassline of “Running” to give an otherwise temperate track some much-needed flair, and returns in the breakdown of the eight-minute “So Many Dreams.” Swapping in and out vocal hits, horns, and funk guitar against rich Italo-disco piano, the track also encapsulates the desert festival-readiness of 1992’s production: sun-bleached with a hint of psychedelia, sobered by the headspace of open air.

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