Friday, April 07, 2017

RECORD OF THE DAY: BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE - BLACK EARTH



The German outfit known as Bohren & der Club Of Gore have been making music for nigh on 25 years now, and made a wider splash in the music world about 15 years back with this set from 2002, as well as their equally as fine epic from 2000, Sunset Mission. Until recently, I hadn't thought of them for many years. I used to sell quite a lot of their albums at Missing Link at the time, albums (it was CDs, of course) I usually recommended to fans of the Necks or John Zorn or the Residents or, let's fucking face it, Mike Patton and Mr. Bungle. It's not like they sound anything like Mike Patton or Mr. Bungle - and if they did, I sure as shit wouldn't be listening to them - though they did have some recordings licensed to Patton's Ipecac label at the time (an imprint which I will happily concede has done some fine things), and their non-categorisable eccentricity as a band did mean that the more adventurous Mike Patton fans would find something to enjoy in their music. And let's face it, most Mike Patton fans are such punishing worshippers of all things MP, that anything he spruiks will win them over. But that's OK, too. There are much bigger problems on this earth.

So, before I tied myself up with all this contextual nonsense, where was I? Oh yes, a few of the band's best recordings from this period - particularly the two mentioned - have recently been reissued on vinyl (and what handsome sets they be), and it has certainly renewed my interest in the group, so much so I recently purchased both Sunset Mission and Black Earth. Bohren still exist to this day and released a recording just last year (one of their earliest efforts is here, and it's well worth a listen), but these remain their peak efforts. Just what is it they do? Bohren feature members of various German death/black metal, goregrind and hardcore outfits, the story goes, and their music has been (self-) described as 'ambient jazz', 'death-jazz' and 'doom-jazz', all of which make perfect sense in their own ways. If you took the grim black metal imagery and sense of dark mystery away from the band, you may conclude that they're an extremely fine dark and moody velvety jazz outfit who sound like they should've been playing in a sleazy bar scene in an old David Lynch film (such a trite comment to make, I will acknowledge that, but one that also fits 'em like a glove), but with the added grimness on top, the level of theatre takes them to the next level.

There are many moments in the music of Bohren where everything sits still. Their music resonates like glacial drips of ice, and if everything wasn't just so damn gloomy, they probably could've found a home with various Scandinavian jazzers on the ECM label (or perhaps Rune Grammofon, I suppose), but I get a feeling that even the stern, guiding hands of Manfred Eicher would have difficulty taming this beast. Their music remains uncategoraisable, despite their best efforts, though if a melting pot containing the Necks, Angelo Badalamenti's film scores, the quiet, swingless shuffle of ECM's Nordic stable of stars and the ambience of folks like Coil and Lustmord sounds like a party you'd wish to attend, I would recommend Bohren & der Club Of Gore without hesitation. You can't dance to them, but their barely-there deathly rhythms never bore, and I've been knee-deep in their world once again for a few months now. A truly excellent band seriosuly worthy of reappraisal or newfound discovery.

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