Berlin-based composer, singer, pianist and vintage synth devotee Lisa Morgenstern first came to significant public attention with the self-release in 2019 of Chameleon. Produced by Grammy-nominated Argentinian composer and cellist Sebastian Plano, it was a collection of spine-tingling grace and wonder in which her multiple-octave-spanning voice – part Elizabeth Fraser, part Björk, part Minnie Riperton, all Lisa Morgenstern – soared above bewitchingly atmospheric piano and synth lines. In its wake, her flourishing reputation – fuelled by compelling concerts in which her arms are often stretched either side of her as she plays multiple instruments while singing – led to performances across Europe with artists including Ólafur Arnalds and Max Cooper, as well as at festivals and prestigious venues, from Iceland Airwaves at the National Theatre Reykjavik to the Reeperbahn Festival at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg.
Morgenstern has simultaneously made a name for herself with the variety of her collaborations. During the pandemic, she was hired to co-compose the score to one of Netflix’s forthcoming priority drama series, and additional studio collaborations with Casper, Balmorhea and Aukai have emerged since Chameleon’s release. Live shows with the renowned women’s Bulgarian Voices Berlin choir and, separately, the Munich Radio Orchestra meanwhile won further acclaim, with both institutions subsequently crucial to Morgenstern’s upcoming album, for which she also wrote the complex arrangements.
Morgenstern’s broad tastes no doubt have something to do with her upbringing as the independently-minded daughter of two orchestral musicians, one German, one Bulgarian. She began playing piano aged 5 before embarking on a promising ballet career, but when this was prematurely cut short by injury at the age of 15, she returned again to writing and performing music. A lingering love of Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Stravinsky was tempered by a youthful passion for punk, metal and, later, goth, and though it might be presumptuous to point to individual instances, each of these – along with a robust hunger for all sorts of other music, whether older or more contemporary – has in some way coloured her work since.
The forthcoming album, however, eclipses Morgenstern’s earlier work, as well as that of many of her contemporaries, by looking back to her roots with as much innovation and enthusiasm as it looks forward to the future. Incorporating a voice that’s haunting, compassionate and remarkably versatile into icy synth soundscapes, intense orchestral arrangements, delicate piano melodies and even the folk of her ancestors, it pursues a variety of associated yet rarely trodden paths to devise a dreamlike album of bold invention, sweeping drama and striking intimacy.