Bohren & der Club of Gore

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Gore Motel (1994), 6.5/10
Midnight Radio (1995), 7/10
Sunset Mission (2000), 7.5/10
Black Earth (2002), 6.5/10
Geisterfaust (2005), 6/10
Dolores (2008), 6.5/10
Piano Nights (2014), 5.5/10
Patchouli Blue (2020), 6.5/10

German instrumental combo Bohren & der Club of Gore (keyboardist Morten Gass, guitarist Reiner Henseleit, double bassist Robin Rodenberg, drummer Thorsten Benning) penned the modest ominous ambience of Gore Motel (1994) halfway between the geometric jams of the Necks and the downbeat atmospheres of Angelo Badalamenti's soundtracks.

That idea transcended its original scope on the double-disc Midnight Radio (1995), whose (untitled) pieces were rendered hypnotic, anemic, very slow, stark and evocative by super-heavy bass notes and catatonic drumming. In other words, the "rock" music that used to be driven by guitar and piano was now driven by the rhythm section but in a negative way, by downplaying and limiting it rather than by propelling and emphasizing it. Labradford's ambient noir was perhaps the main influence. The 22-minute 1 takes a few minutes to launch the slow-motion guitar melody, which sounds like the cover of a romantic jazzy tune. The 13-minute 3 feels a bit more psychedelic because it toys with reverb and adds delicate keyboard tinkling. 2 and 4 hide gentle melancholy melodies that sound like slow-motion versions of a ballad by the Cowboy Junkies. Barely more lively, and with a bass line that is almost doom-metal, 5 retains the cinematic feeling of the previous album. 7, instead, is all doom and gloom, a soundtrack for suicides. The album's main problem is that it contains a lot of filler, like 6, 8 and 9. And 11 is a weird dance track with drum-machine which doesn't seem to belong to this album.

After a long hiatus, the quartet returned in a jazzier configuration (having replaced Henseleit with saxophonist Christoph Cloeser) that crafted the ambient noir jazz of Sunset Mission (2000). The pace is much less funereal. The music is almost colorful instead of being black and white. Piano and saxophone duet and dance in Prowler A neoclassical element ripples through the mournful, funereal adagio On Demon Wings. Meanwhile, a sci-fi mood permeates the droning Painless Steel and a gothic element transpires from Darkstalker, a sense of emptiness perhaps inspired by Tarkovsky's movies. But these are just the appetizers. The stakes increase with the graceful somnambulism of Midnight Walker, with the full cinematic experience of the ten-minute Street Tattoo, with the enigmatic suspense of the ten-minute Dead End Angels, and with the pensive piano and saxophone soliloquies littered throughout the melancholy, autumnal, 16-minute Nightwolf. Compositions like Dead End Angels and Nightwolf represent the peak of their aesthetic principles and at the same time indicate how to escape its limitations.

Black Earth (2002 - Wonder, 2011) is their gloomiest album, bordering on horror music. The macabre suspense of the twelve-minute The Art of Coffins sums up the mood of the entire album. The nine-minute Midnight Black Earth is a funeral march with a mournful saxophone coda. There's an austere and menacing tone starting with opener Crimson Ways that sets this album apart from the previous ones. Maximum Black even has a zombie choir floating in the background. Vigilante Crusade definitely drifts in to ghostly territory. On the other hand, Destroying Angels leans a bit too much in cocktail lounge territory, and a few songs towards the end could have been trimmed away. There are rare attempts to disrupt the general archetype. Notably, the obstinate languor of Skeletal Remains is derailed by an almost dissonant sax solo.

In attempt to escape the limitations of their format, the more ambient Geisterfaust (2005) toyed with vibraphone, tuba and a choir (and no saxophone until almost the end) in the 20-minute Zeigefinger and only matched Bohren's classic sound in Kleiner Finger, while Dolores (2008) generally veered towards thicker arrangements (the eight-minute Staub).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Federico Morganti)

La combo strumentale dei tedeschi Bohren & der Club of Gore (Morten Grass alle tastiere, Reiner Henseleit alla chitarra, Robin Rodenberg al contrabasso, Thorsten Benning alla batteria) concepė la dimessa atmosfera di Gore Motel (1994) risultando come una versione pių viva e meno geometrica dei Necks.

L’idea trascese il suo scopo originale nel doppio Midnight Radio (1995), i cui pezzi erano resi ipnotici, sottomessi, lenti, austeri ed evocativi da un basso particolarmente pesante e da un drumming catatonico. In altre parole la musica, prima guidata da chitarra e piano, era ora guidata dalla sezione ritmica, ma in maniera negativa, minimizzandola e limitandola piuttosto che incentivandola ed enfatizzandola.

Dopo una lunga interruzione, il quartetto fece ritorno in un assetto pių jazz (dopo aver rimpiazzato Henseleit con il sassofonista Christoph Cloeser) che produsse il noir jazz ambient di Sunset Mission (2000) e Black Earth (2002).

Nel tentativo di fuggire i limiti del loro formato, Geisterfaust (2005) giocava con vibrafono, tuba e coro, mentre Dolores (2008) virava in generale verso arrangiamenti pių corposi.

The EP Mitleid Lady (Latitudes, 2009) contains just the ten-minute title-track, recorded in 2006.

The mini-album Beileid (Ipecac, 2011) contains a 13-minute cover of Warlock's Catch My Heart with Mike Patton on vocals and the more typical 14-minute Beileid.

Overall, Piano Nights (2014) ranks perhaps as their most languid work. The long and mellow phrases of the instruments in Bei Rosarotem Licht evoke a sense of hypnosis, a sense of almost religious yearning. That atmosphere of profound meditation extends into Fahr zur Hoelle, with its cold landscape of drones and its funereal saxophone elegy. The same praxis becomes self-indulgent in the eight minutes of Ganz Leise Kommt die Nacht, a fragile and anemic litany that exudes resigned doom, a case of baroque mannerism bordering on new-age music. Past the slightly more lively fanfare of Segeln ohne Wind, we descend again into the ecstatic purgatory of Unrasiert. The ten-minute Verloren (alles) is generally as light as a feather, suspended on a droning synthetic choir. The end game of this method is the music of the languid bands par excellence: the ten-minute Komm Zurueck zu Mir sounds like a slow-motion version of Pink Floyd's Learning to Fly. Piano, vibraphone and organ dominate these pieces. The saxophone is unusually contrived.

Six years later, Patchouli Blue (2020) was another classy manifestation of their brooding noir-jazz. If no song is truly mesmerizing, there are countless moments that count as pure hypnosis: the lethargic strumming and sustained organ chords that combine to jumpstart Total Falsch, the romantic sadness injected by Christoph Cloeser's saxophone and how it all ends in a lake of elongated notes a` la Pink Floyd; the delicate piano lullaby of Verwirrung am Strand that sets the stage for another lyrical saxophone melody (one of their strongest) against a backdrop of dramatic organ drones; the transcendental "om" intoned by the sax under a gentle rain of crystal keyboard notes in the nine-minute Patchouli Blue (although this piece stretches too long for what it has to say); the oneiric echoes and repetitions of Vergessen & Vorbei; the smoky and bluesy atmosphere of brief pieces like Sollen es doch alle wissen and Zwei Herzen aus Gold; the ghostly sideral silence trapped between vibraphone notes and electronic drones in Tief Gesunken; etc. Sag mir wie Lang merges their noir-jazz with the cosmic music of the 1970s, and Meine Welt ist Schoen with horror soundtracks. At least Verwirrung am Strand and Tief Gesunken belong to their major canon.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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