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 xxx)

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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 Stefano Iardella)

L'EP Mitleid Lady (Latitudes, 2009) contiene solo la title-track di dieci minuti, registrata nel 2006.

Il mini-album Beileid (Ipecac, 2011) contiene una cover di 13 minuti di Catch My Heart dei Warlock, con Mike Patton alla voce, e il più tradizionale pezzo di 14 minuti Beileid.

Nel complesso, Piano Nights (2014) è forse il loro lavoro più languido. Le frasi lunghe e suadenti degli strumenti in Bei Rosarotem Licht evocano un senso di ipnosi, un senso di desiderio quasi religioso. Quell’atmosfera di profonda meditazione si estende in Fahr zur Hoelle, con il suo freddo paesaggio di droni e la funerea elegia del sassofono. La stessa prassi diventa autoindulgente negli otto minuti di Ganz Leise Kommt die Nacht, una litania fragile e anemica che trasuda rassegnazione al destino, un caso di manierismo barocco al limite della musica new age. Dopo la fanfara leggermente più vivace di Segeln ohne Wind, scendiamo di nuovo nell'estatico purgatorio di Unrasiert. I dieci minuti di Verloren (alles) sono generalmente leggeri come una piuma, sospesi su un coro sintetico ronzante. Il punto finale di questo metodo è la musica delle band languide per eccellenza: i dieci minuti di Komm Zurueck zu Mir suonano come una versione al rallentatore di Learning to Fly dei Pink Floyd. Pianoforte, vibrafono e organo dominano questi brani. Il sassofono è insolitamente artificioso.

Sei anni dopo, Patchouli Blue (2020) fu un’altra manifestazione di classe del loro minaccioso noir-jazz. Se nessuna canzone è davvero ipnotizzante, ci sono innumerevoli momenti che contano come pura ipnosi: lo strimpellio letargico e gli accordi d'organo sostenuti che si combinano per far ripartire Total Falsch, la tristezza romantica iniettata dal sassofono di Christoph Cloeser e come tutto finisce in un lago di note allungate alla Pink Floyd; la delicata ninna nanna per pianoforte di Verwirrung am Strand che prepara il terreno per un'altra melodia lirica del sassofono (una delle loro più forti) su uno sfondo di drammatici droni d'organo; il trascendentale "om" intonato dal sax sotto una gentile pioggia di note cristalline della tastiera nei nove minuti di Patchouli Blue (sebbene questo pezzo sia troppo lungo per quello che ha da dire); gli echi e le ripetizioni oniriche di Vergessen & Vorbei; l'atmosfera fumosa e blues di brani brevi come Sollen es doch alle wissen e Zwei Herzen aus Gold; lo spettrale silenzio siderale intrappolato tra note di vibrafono e droni elettronici in Tief Gesunken; ecc. In Sag mir wieLang fondono il loro noir-jazz con la musica cosmica degli anni '70, e in Meine Welt ist Schoen con colonne sonore horror. Almeno Verwirrung am Strand e Tief Gesunken appartengono al loro canone maggiore.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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