Momentum is a relative notion in the dark, doom-jazz world of Bohren & der Club of Gore. In the five years since its last studio album, Piano Nights (Pias Recordings, 2014), it has scaled back to a trio with the departure of long-time drummer Thorsten Benning. The shift from the earlier "doom metal jazz" was more than a subtle alteration. The German band, which has been together for almost thirty years, replaced one-time heavy metal guitarist Reiner Henseleit with tenor saxophonist/keyboardist Christoph Clöser in 1997. With that change, the sound of der Club of Gore took on the air of mysterious abstract meditation and gothic darkness. Patchouli Blue is consistent with the band's best work.
This is the trio formation as a small orchestra. Though Bohren & der Club of Gore is absent a full-time drummer, bassist Robin Rodenberg occasionally doubles on electronic drums, as do the other members. Clöser's sax, vibraphone and piano sporadically add effervescent traces to the nearly immobile pace of the music. Morten Gass plays organ, mellotron, piano, synthesizer, guitar and drums. Despite a dozen instruments among the group, the music often barely reaches the level of minimalism. Yet there is more to Patchouli Blue on careful listening. The exquisite, bluesy pieces "Sollen Es Doch Alle Wissen" and "Vergessen & Vorbei" are hypnotizing thanks largely to Clöser's dark, soulful accents and Gass' gently swirling effects. "Deine Kusine" borders on upbeat without ever breaking through to cheerful and the nine-minute title track has moments of full orchestration.
Bohren & der Club of Gore jokingly refer to this release of eleven Clöser/Gass compositions as "uneventful music." With their customary tempos, rarely exceeding the heartbeat of a blue whale, Patchouli Blue escapes having a numbing effect every time Clöser picks up his tenor and creates a transformative experience. Through these networks of melancholy, one can find an almost intangible light that irradiates a haunting soundtrack for a listener's imagination. Bohren & der Club of Gore is an enigma and perhaps the sub-genre labeling is part of the reason the group is not more widely known. It should be heard.
Total Falsch; Verwirrung Am Strand; Glaub Mir Kein Wort; Patchouli Blue; Deine Kusine; Vergessen & Vorbei; Sollen Es Doch Alle Wissen; Tief Gesunken; Zwei Herzen Aus Gold; Sag Mir, Wie Lang; Meine Welt Ist Schon.
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