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Bohren & der Club of Gore - Geisterfaust

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Artist: Bohren & der Club of Gore

Album: Geisterfaust

Label: Wonder

Review date: May. 18, 2005

When German quartet Bohren & der Club of Gore’s previous outing Black Earth was reissued in America by Ipecac Records, it caused quite a stir among fans of ambient music, jazz and metal. Like some newly discovered dimension, the material was alien, but also eerily familiar – as if it had been there all along, but we lacked the faculties to perceive it. I played the record for several people – black metal aficionados, fans of Foetus, even a couple of "trad" jazz nuts. Most were impressed by the group’s organic density, as well as their uncanny ability to evoke menacing moods without employing any of the common devices of so-called "dark" music. Tactile, patient and steadfastly morbid, the disc was truly unique.

Anticipation, then, was understandably high for their next release. Geisterfaust – which translates literally to "Ghost Fist" – probably won’t bowl over those who enjoyed Black Earth’s more visceral ghastliness. While hardly a failure, the new effort lacks much of what made their previous disc so remarkable – a velvet brutality. The largest difference is motion, or the lack thereof; the new disc’s sluggish pace would try Sunn0)))’s patience. Perhaps the band’s intent can be inferred from the title – Geisterfaust evaporates before landing the punch.

Bohren’s arrangements remain a marvel. Instead of offering melodic and rhythmic commentary over a proscribed set of changes, band members become the chord, ringing out hollow, muted resonances as one apparitional instrument. Named after the fingers on the hand, each track assumes a gray distance, seemingly reluctant to leave an impression. There is no discernable build and resolutions are nonexistent, probably because any tension remains theoretical at best. Space is used remarkably well, but in the absence of intent, the compositions never truly flourish.

It’s not that Geisterfaust should be dismissed; it’s just that the band seems unnaturally self-absorbed. Explicitly, perhaps intentionally dull, Bohren & der Club of Gore are content to entertain themselves while putting their listeners under.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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