Tag Archives: Germany

Sankt Otten – Messias Maschine (2013)

Sankt Otten - Messias Maschine (2013)

Sankt Otten are a German duo formed in 1999 with six studio albums under their belt. On this, their seventh album, the collaborate with numerous artists including Jaki Liebezeit from Can and Anthony Paterra of Zombi and Majeure.

Their sound is on the more electronic side of krautrock/space rock and, at first, I wasn’t taken in with it; until I got to Mach Bitte Dass Es Leiser Wird, which just made everything click. I don’t think I had been listening with the right ears. What an outstanding track: beautiful theremin courtesy of guest musician Miles Brown leads the melody in an instant space rock classic. Lovely synths drive the majority of the tracks and, with deep listening, one is taken on some great astronomical journeys.

While the album is still pretty reserved overall, there are moments of outright beauty and it is a great album, but one that needs to be either completely in the background or intently listened to; there is no half-an-ear to be had here.

Favourite tracks: Mach Bitte Dass Es Leiser Wird, Das Geräusch des Wartens, Nach Dir die Sinnesflut

Spotify link: Sankt Otten – Messias Maschine
Bandcamp link: http://sankt-otten.bandcamp.com/album/messias-maschine
Sneak peak: 

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Paradoxical Frog – Union (2012)

Paradoxical Frog - Union (2012)

Paradoxical Frog are a New York based jazz trio, consisting of German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock, and Americans, pianist Kris Davis and drummer Tyshawn Sorey.

Straight away it is evident that this isn’t going to appeal to the casual jazz listener, it is pretty intense stuff. Opener, An Intermittent Procession and following track, First Strike, are a fairly good indication of the album as the whole, it’s fairly dynamic, running across many different moods, with the trio interplaying and improvising masterfully. While First Strike is a particularly dark brooding track, An Intermittent Procession highlights more of the dynamics of the group, as melodies are picked up, picked apart and discarded and the piano intermittently takes the helm and then takes more of a percussive role, with almost random abandon.

Third wave was a term coined in 1957 to describe the cross over between jazz and classical forms, and there is something about this album that make me see it as something of a crossover between free jazz and modern minimalist composition. I think it may be the extremely rhythmic nature of the piano throughout, which evokes Cage’s prepared piano works.

An interesting release that requires some deep listening to get the most out of, but worthwhile nonetheless.

Favourite tracks: Fear The Fairy Dust, Union

Spotify link: Paradoxical Frog – Union

Rockets – Pregnant! (2013)

Rockets - Pregnant! (2013)

First off, this isn’t the French space rock band from the 70s/80s, but instead a German Gypsy-rock/”Irish rock” (as their Facebook page says) band. I think that they may have formed in 1992(?) and the Pregnant! is their third album.

By listening to quick snippets, as I often do with the list of albums to review, I was rather looking forward to this, it sounded like an interesting gypsy/dub crossover, vocals sounding even a bit like Joe Strummer.

Opening track is quite encouraging, with a driving beat and upbeat gypsy rock; but that’s where it ends, in my opinion. The album becomes incredibly cheesy, incredibly quickly and begins to remind me of much of Eurovision; cheesy and derivative and I’m afraid, overall, I didn’t enjoy it.

Spotify link: Rockets – Pregnant

Klima Kalima – Finn Noir (2012)

Klima Kalima - Finn Noir (2012)

Klima Kalima are a German experimental jazz band consisting of Kalle Kalima on guitar, Oliver Potratz on double bass, and Oliver Bernd Steidle on drums. This album, Finn Noir, is inspired by and dedicated to the film noir of Finnish directors, Matti Kassila, Aki Kaurismäki and Mikko Niskanen; all the track titles on the album are named after films by these directors.

I was astounded by this album. To begin with, you would have a hard time discerning this as jazz, but scratch the surface and all will be revealed.

The first two tracks form a suite about the journey of struggling jazz musician from St Petersberg to Leningrad: La Vie De Boheme (Part I: Saturday Night in St. Petersburg) is an aggressive distorted guitar-led track, sounding almost like a garage rock band, but the bass is the jazz keystone tethering the riot and giving direction, and as it becomes bowed and the guitars become choppy and settle, the garage veil is lifted and the jazz influence becomes apparent, before finally going savagely stratospheric. La Vie De Boheme (Part II: Sunday Morning in Leningrad) is the second part and a more obviously jazz track. It begins laid back, with the guitar and bass wandering and exploring the aural territory. Homage is paid to Pink Floyd as the intensity builds and the opening riff to Shine On You Crazy Diamond is played; showing Klima Kalima in touch with the progressive side of rock as well as the experimental side of jazz. The track then calms and plays out with some more of the bass/guitar exploration.

Ariel is bittersweet, with funky rhythm sections interspersed with sorrowful guitars; like the rest of the world will not allow the mourner to be alone, but instead to get back to living their life. Blues riffs are used liberal as motifs by the guitar and the effect is startlingly effective on both this and following track, Things Will Turn Out Right, a cover of a song from the film Man Without Past.

The next track, Maister I Margarita, could be placed anywhere from avant-metal through to jazz, at times sounding like Ruins or even Fantomas as complexity rules, and Klima Kalima feel at the same time loose, relaxed and natural and tight, on the mark, and in perfect cohesion as a single unit.

Two tracks are dedicated to the films of Inspector Palmu, It Is Gas Inspector Palmu and Stars Will Tell Inspector Palmu; and both are fantastic progressive jazz numbers, less experimental than some of the other tracks, but just as engaging. They bookend Cafe Brutale, a fantastic track that takes on many dimensions as the bowed bass adds much expression and alongside a splendid drum solo, and passages again sounding like they could be in the domain of complex rock or math rock bands.

Penultimate track, Calimari Union is a free jazz odyssey, while Eight Deadly Shots closes up the album in suitable experimental style.

In all, I was really struck with this album. The raw nature, experimental wit and visceral passion present on Finn Noir combine to make a fantastic album. I am truly

Favourite tracks: Ariel, Maister I Margarita, Cafe Brutale

Spotify link: Klima Kalima – Finn Noir
Sneak peak (I think this track is actually La Vie De Boheme (Part II: Sunday Morning in Leningrad)): 

The Bell Laboratory & Pantha du Prince – Elements of Light (2013)

Pantha du Prince and The Bell Laboratory - Elements of Light (2012)

I have to admit, I was a little perplexed when I started listening to this. I thought Pantha du Prince would be a dub artist from the Caribbean and I thought The Bell Laboratory referred to Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Laboratory, known for its early phonographic experiments and recordings. I must admit, I did look forward to what this unusual combination would bring, but was shocked when I started listening and then read about them.

Pantha du Prince is actually the assumed name of German minimal techno producer Hendrik Weber, and The Bell Laboratory are a Norwegian percussion four-piece. The album also features a 50-bell instrument called the carillon, usually found in the bell tower of a church and played on a keyboard of sorts.

With the ringing cadences of the bells, I am reminded of John Cage’s percussive works for prepared piano (1958-1967), especially on the two tracks which bookend the album, Wave and Quantum. At other times, I am reminded of Pierre Henry’s musique concrète experiments, especially the  well-known Psyché Rock (1967; later reworked as the Futurama title track), or parts of Variations Pour Une Porte Et Un Soupir (1963). However, while Henry was something of a music futurologist, I doubt he envisaged the electronic music revolution that he was a part of creating.

Despite my likening to Cage and Henry, this album sounds like those 60s auditory experiments only in passing, the beats making it more modern sounding. The five-track album is designed to listened as a single piece of five movements. The two main tracks, Particle and Spectral Split are surrounded by an intro, transition and outro. It begins with bells and other percussion, with the beats only coming in around 4 minutes into the second piece; to begin with, the bells create a trance-inducing peaceful drone-like canvas, and Weber’s beats act to break this reverie, subtly at first. Weber has sought to incorporate different sounds into electronic music and has certainly succeeded, and we are talking true incorporation, not some musical découpage; the bells and percussion certainly don’t play second fiddle to Weber’s beats.

I very much liked this album, both for its inventiveness and outcome. There is a lot going for it and, although techno is a get-up-and-go music, designed for dancing, Elements of Light is an album for any time of day or night, the interplay of beats and reverie is fantastic. This could well be a modern classic.

Favourite tracks: Particle, Spectral Split, Quantum.

Spotify link: Pantha Du Prince & The Bell Laboratory – Elements of Light
Sneak peak: