BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE - Geisterfaust 2LP
If you enjoy it slow and low, Cologne-based Bohren & Der Club Of Gore will very likely do the trick. In fact, with each subsequent release the quintet's "horror-jazz" grows increasingly refined (i.e. incredibly fucking spare).
And hey, they've been at it awhile: Thorsten Benning, Morten Gass, Reiner Henseleit (who left the band in 1996 and was replaced a year later by the ivory-tickling saxophonist Christoph Clöser) and Robin Rodenberg began playing together in 1988, mining a metallic hardcore sound. Subsequently, as Bohren, they released Gore Motel in 1994, followed by the 2xCD Midnight Radio (1995), Sunset Mission (2000), and Black Earth (2002; reissued on Ipecac in 2004). Bohren's fourth studio album, Geisterfaust, is translated from the German as "Ghost Fist," but the five extended pieces feel more like ghostly tip-toes. Admittedly, though, each track's titled with a finger theme, so I suppose my idea wouldn't work. Besides, there's a fistful of heaviness breathing within the airy wraps of bass (kontra, fretless, 8-string), tuba, and bass trombone and the exceedingly spacious Fender Rhodes, sax, and brushed drums.
Bohren are often dubbed horror-jazz, though this hardly defines the sound. Consider, maybe, the recent crop of jazz-oriented Rune Grammofon released by Nils Okland and In The Country (featuring Morten Qvenild of the hyperactive Shining) or even something as downcast as non-jazz labelmates Deathprod, then remove 1/2 of the notes and replace any and all folksiness and/or Blue Note overtones with foreboding minimalist dirge and a Sunn 0))) or Khanate streak. Now, mix in some John Cage, because Geisterfaust showcases Bohren as masters of silence, using space and shadows rather than volume increases or additional sounds to create (and maintain) dynamics.
The tracks here are all relatively long, but the most expansive in all senses is the grandiloquent 20-minute opener, "Zeigefinger" ("Index Finger"), wherein they lug in a tuba and a nine-person choir. The track plods into the starting gate. Pauses continue to grow. Tones sustain miraculously. Voices rise in the background like traces of frozen powder. The drums increase in heaviness, but never break out. It's an appropriate way to start the LP-- you'd be hard-pressed to locate a single riff or roll on the entire album. The three of the remaining pieces-- "Daumen" ("Thumb"), "Ringfinger", and "Mittelfinger"-- fall into a similar line, with varying degrees of percussion and bass, and more or less pronounced vibraphone ("Ringfinger," for instance, just about establishes a mallet hook).
The final composition, "Kleinerfinger" ("Pinky") comes closest to the sound of past releases, a more crumbling "Twin Peaks" soundtrack on Codeine (band, not drug). But "Kleinerfinger" lacks that ineffible heavy feel (background built on octave-downed bass?). It features a steady high-hat and snare rattles like a slow motion whirlpool; there are also beautiful electric piano accents and a smoky saxophone. The most upbeat of the pieces (which isn't saying too much) as well as the most straightforward jazz, it's also the least interesting.
Bohren & Der Club Of Gore have been championed regularly (and fervently) by the fine folks at Aquarius Records in San Francisco, and they'd appeal to listeners of black metal as well as drone (Stephen O'Malley gives them props on his website). But for all of that gloom/doom, I could also see them appealing to fans of minimalist ambience and spare electronics, as well those who enjoy adventurous "out" jazz. But regardless of your genre identification, you'd do best to turn this up, concentrate, and let it work its way into your head.