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Christian Naujoks - Untitled

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Artist: Christian Naujoks

Album: Untitled

Label: Dial

Review date: Mar. 31, 2009

The self-titled, debut album from Christian Naujoks is unfocused almost to the point of grab bag-ism. Its appealingly sparse cover is a good visual analogue of what Naujoks attempts but largely fails to accomplish here: small-scale, dollop designs that hover between spontaneity and concentration. For most of its 13 short tracks, Untitled flits by, noncommittal and sparingly inspired, only fleetingly captivating.

Starting off with some po-faced Steinway contemplations, what the album lacks in intrigue it makes up for in vague starkness. Opener "Horizon Scene" presses a few ponderous chords into the waiting silence and at the 29th second, wraps up. The piano returns and plops strategically scarce tones amid some dulcet, marimba cycles (courtesy of Johan Popp) on "Maladies." "Young Blood" could pass for piano tuning. We also get two strained covers that try for methodical revisionism: "Off the Rose" reduces the vital mesh of jangle and rhythm in New Order’s "Leave Me Alone" to a soggy lament, while closer "Baby Blue" bathes a sketch of the Dylan tune in tinny fuzz. The sole track featuring electronic beats sounds like a Knife goof; "Bloom" finds Naujok’s voice pitch-shifted down to a nauseous basso vamping over a skulking pulse.

The near three minutes that make up "Two Epilogues,” parts one and two, are the album’s short high-point. Working with a Bologna Trio, Naujoks foregoes the morose dappling of his piano for a truly ethereal shimmer of wisps, winds and the melodious scurry of plucked strings. These are preciously transportive moments, which raises the question: what exactly is Untitled doing on Dial? The German label run by man-of-many-monikers Peter M. Kersten (a.k.a. Sten, a.k.a. Lawrence, etc.) excels in minimalism in both its alluringly austere sleeves (numinous details on deep black expanses) and similarly silhouetted sound (chiming metals and chrome timbres nettling pantone throbs). Strenuously serious, Untitled finds Dial dropping rhythm for naught. The label’s signature, immersive melancholy moods are poorly replicated in Naujok’s skeletal note sculptures. A selection of interludes, themes, cues and snippets, this could possibly pass as a score. But as standalone long-player, there’s too much left out to draw the listener in.

By Bernardo Rondeau

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