Tag Archives: Krautrock

Album of the Day: Bremen, “Enter Silence”

Swedish noise rock luminaries Brainbombs are known primarily for their nasty lyrics and repetitive guitars. Entire tracks consist of a single, lurching riff, complemented by vocalist Peter Råberg’s uproariously violent and frequently misogynistic tirades. It’s ugly music, but often deeply compelling: garage rock taken to its logical limits.

Since 2012, two Brainbombs members have warped those methods into something spacier, more abstract, and less, well, mean. Bremen, the Uppsala-based duo consisting of current Brainbombs guitarist Jonas Tiljander and former guitarist Lanchy Orre, also deals heavily in repetition, but to more cosmic ends; the music is rooted in improvisation, blending psychedelia with jazz and a splash of krautrock. The end result is a sparkling sound brimming with anxiety and tension.

Enter Silence, the duo’s third release for electronic label Blackest Ever Black, is Bremen’s most cinematic affair yet. Each track oozes with atmosphere, whether it’s the muted dread of “Palladium” or the rough and tumble chicken pickin’ on “Aimless Cruising.” Instrumentally, these moods are accomplished with relatively simple instrumentation; on standouts “Vanishing Point” and “The Middle Section,” synthesizers, guitars, electric bass, and drums are used to sculpt portraits of faraway planets—immediate worlds that skew just a bit sinister.

Bremen provide plenty of material to mull over with Enter Silence, but ultimately, it’s the record’s accessibility that proves its biggest asset. By delivering a thought-provoking listening experience that’s also fun as hell, the duo uphold the same spirit felt in Goblin’s revered soundtracks and the best Neu! cuts. These songs are the stuff of acid westerns, surreal cartoons, and Eastern European fantasy movies—simply phenomenal.

Michael Siebert

Cavern of Anti-Matter and the Enduring Legacy of Krautrock

Cavern of Anti-Matter

Cavern of Anti-Matter

The return of Cavern Of Anti-Matter is exciting—partly because it’s a consolidation of the band’s own distinct identity. With any new project, the trio’s leader Tim Gane constantly runs the gauntlet of critical and fan expectations, thanks to his considerable body of work with Stereolab. And indeed when COA-M made their first album Blood-Drums in 2013, its low-key release and limited edition made it feel a lot more like a side project than the start of a new chapter. However, following a smattering of singles on other labels, 2016’s Void Beats/Invocation Trex changed all that. Word-of-mouth recommendations spread like wildfire, and its hypnotic synth repetitions and lush production won plenty of fans who’d never even heard of Stereolab. It ended up on quite a few best-of-year lists, and a deluxe reissue of Blood-Drums at the start of 2017 helped to keep the newly-won audience interested. Now, Hormone Lemonade is here, cementing the fact that COA-M are very much their own band, with a sound worth getting fired up about in its own right. Continue reading

Sunwatchers’ Free Jazz-Inspired Rock is Built on Strong Personal Convictions

Sunwatchers

Photo by Peter Kerlin.

Brooklyn-based Sunwatchers are an inherently political group—something that might be difficult to notice in the music they create. The quartet has concocted a style of instrumental music that’s otherworldly and electric, synthesizing influences as disparate as Albert Ayler and Cat Stevens, the Lounge Lizards, and hardcore noise groups from ‘80s New York. And while their new LP, II, is stunningly evocative, the fact that they’re an instrumental group made it difficult for Sunwatchers to articulate their philosophical and social positions. The solution? Put that vision on the album cover, front and center, for everyone to see.

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The Vitamin B12 Remains an Elusive Figure in European Improv

Vitamin B12

Some artists, like Beth Gibbons or D’Angelo, allow years—even decades—to pass between releases, so each new album becomes especially momentous and symbolic. Other artists, from Sun Ra to Lil Ugly Mane, release so much music so relentlessly, each album feels less important than the constellation it forms. And then there’s UK-based Alasdair Willis, who makes music under the name The Vitamin B12. Active since the mid ’80s, Willis is primarily known for A legendary 4xLP box set that compiled selections from various free improvisational sessions from his Brighton loft in 1986. In the intervening years, The Vitamin B12 has proven to be an elusive figure in the European free improvisation scene, which also includes acts like Nurse With Wound and H.N.A.S.

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Snapped Ankles Bring Wildness to Rock

Snapped Ankles

Photo by Katie Bagley.

The mild-mannered voice on the other end of the phone was not what you would expect—but then, expectations should always be checked at the door when dealing with Snapped Ankles. There’s very little information on the band, the members of which are often seen dressed up as monstrous shrubberies. What mentions are out there tend to refer to the band as if they were wild animals, not a rock band. The person we interviewed was to be referred to simply as a “Snapped Ankle.”

What we do know is this: Snapped Ankles formed in 2011 and built a reputation for playing warehouse art events, often soundtracking films and performances. In March they signed to the Leaf Label and announced themselves to the world with “I Want My Minutes Back,” a gloriously catchy krautrock track, which was quickly followed by EP The Best Light Is The Last Light, which fused electronic music, motorik grooves, and kitchen sink lyricism. Their debut album, Come Play The Trees, is next on the horizon and offer the perfect opportunity to uncover some of the truth from behind the suits.

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The Solo Work and Legacy of Dieter Moebius

Dieter Mobius

We credit Brian Eno with coining the term “ambient music” and opening experimental music to a mainstream audience—but it was largely the work of Dieter Moebius and Hans-Joachim Roedelius, aka Cluster—that prompted Eno to do so. The recordings these two young composers made together helped define a set of stylistic benchmarks that outlined “krautrock”—German experimental rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s—as a genre.

Though it’s most often associated with a shortlist of groups in more traditional psychedelic and prog-leaning directions, or is used as a rather crude umbrella for any German music of the sort (Can, Popol Vuh, and so forth), krautrock may be best understood as early German prog. Though they recorded one of the genre’s foundational staples with 1974’s landmark Zuckerzeit, Cluster exhibited characteristics that positioned them as a stylistic outlier to that basic archetype. (It’s notable that the musicians labeled “krautrock” have never particularly embraced the label.)

They recorded some of the earliest iterations of German electronic music, often eschewing guitar in favor of the new technologies of the time—synthesizers, drum machines, and electronic sequencers. The result was a culmination of sonic circumstances too unique to be replicated. Through technological inquisition, Cluster blended musical structures that referenced African polyrhythms and psychedelic/progressive rock forms with the experimental sensibility of mid-century European composers to develop a new musical language.

The resulting work demonstrated an alliance to the avant-garde in terms of their approach to compositional construction; their methodology was brazenly inventive, intuitive, and freeform. This less concrete and linear instinct connected Cluster to other German experimental groups like Ash Ra Tempel and Tangerine Dream, a substrata of krautrock loosely called, as a marketing term, kosmische Musik (“cosmic music”). Kosmische Musik was the matrix to Eno’s “ambient music” exponent—an atmospheric, amorphous style of composition chiefly concerned with texture and mood over melody and rhythm. If krautrock was German prog, then kosmische Musik was German New Age.

Since 1969, Moebius has contributed to over 30 releases, and has joined forces with many of the most influential composers of the 20th century. In addition to his output with Roedelius in Cluster and with Neu!’s Michael Rother in Harmonia, Moebius also delivered a long run of productions with the legendary German record producer Conny Plank. A luminary unto himself, Plank engineered hundreds of albums in the ‘70s and ‘80s including hallmarks by Kraftwerk, Devo, Eurythmics, and Echo & The Bunnymen, even rejecting a bid to work on U2’s The Joshua Tree.

Over the course of decades spent composing, recording, and performing, Moebius revealed himself to be a gifted artistic catalyst. As he drove new projects forward, he altered variables like personnel, geography and his toolbelt of electronics in order to achieve greater creative purposes. He was so enthralled by the idea of collaboration that only a few solo ventures exist within his entire oeuvre.

The final four records Moebius composed as a solo artist appeared between 1999 and 2011. As digital technology and electronic production tools became more commonplace throughout the 20th century, a flood of new electronic artists upstaged later works by fundamental figures like Moebius. Though public attention may have waned in recent years, Moebius’s work flourished; his later albums have a bold clarity of purpose. Moebius doesn’t loom over electronic music as a figure of canonical authority; he’s more of a humble tradesman, consistently committed to his craft. It’s through these final works that his inherent nature is so vitally represented.

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Noise, Makossa, Krautrock & More

7-essential-600-6.16.17

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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The Dark Sonic Evolution of Grails

Grails

Grails is a band shrouded in mystery. That’s not because of some great promotional effort, but because the seldom-touring and geographically far-flung outfit changes their style as they please. At various times in Grails’ discography, fans could point to the band as an experimental noise group, a heavy metal band, a free-jazz collective or a classical orchestra.

To hear co-founder Emil Amos tell it, that un-boxable and ever-shifting sound—Grails’ central mystery—is what has sustained his band for the past 18 years. The group’s latest album, Chalice Hymnal, trades some of the band’s darkly claustrophobic tendencies for majestic wide-open spaces. That’s about as fine a point one can put on an LP that dabbles in everything from krautrock to smooth jazz. Amos points to Italian and British “library music” as a prime influence for the album.

Still, the band continues to evolve. Its current modus operandi is propelled less by muscle than by a legitimately moving sense of sonic scale. “The way you transmute anger can become very subtle as you get older,” Amos tells me via telephone. He’s walking the streets near his home in Bushwick, the M train occasionally rattling by above him. “You start to perceive that there are other ways to be angry, and there are other ways to be impossibly dark.”

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