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Artist: Mohn

Album: Mohn

Label: Kompakt

Review date: Jul. 11, 2012

The last time we were treated to a full-length from the duo of Wolfgang Voigt and Jorg Bürger also happened to be the last time electronic music was in the U.S. pop conversation. Their debut album as Burger/Ink, [Las Vegas], arrived stateside via Matador as acts like The Prodigy broke into the charts. Rechristened Mohn, and with a retooled sound that acknowledges their 15-year hiatus, their second album arrives amid the sound and fury of EDM. If [Las Vegas] still sounds fresh because of its mix of minimal techno rigor and whiffs of Roxy Music’s elegant debauchery, Mohn is comparatively leaden: its formerly fleet-foot monochromatic palette has grown viscous with time.

Mohn is a foreboding album that also has its comforts. It’s touched by the same mercurial, approximately quixotic quality that made Voigt think he could pull off an album of atonal e-piano romps. What sounded good and within his reach on paper turned out to be irritating in reality, although there’s a certain smirking delight in the fact of its existence. Mohn, however, goes in the other direction: As uneasy as the vibes can be, it’s an album that rewards repetitive, environmental listening. It’s something you want to sink rather than dive in to; you can put it on before bed not so much to help you get to sleep but to initiate the ritual of sleeping. It’s an ablution as much as Harold Budd’s music. That constancy is the heart of the music, and it’s not an unexpected gift from these two. That in turn makes one wonder if Kompakt, and the large shadow it cast over the first decade of the millennium, are less predictable than we may have thought.

There’s a hint of Demdike Stare in the ghostly ululations and 10-ton industrial downbeat of "Schwartzer Schwan," and the following "Ambientôt" continues the dirgey feel, even if the electric guitars admit a touch of brightness. The hallucinatory metallic heat waves of [Las Vegas]‘s monumental "Twelve Miles High" issue from a very different, and more traditionally techno world than these icy transmissions. "Saturn" comes closest to being Mohn’s most epic cut, but it’s propelled by a phlegmatic, Germanic sequencer pattern that calls to mind one of those mathematically dubby Monoton anti-grooves. The synths have an unusual amount of gain, bulking up the duo’s wraithy sounds just shy of distortion, while a little deeper into the mix there are some of the nicest metallic percussion sounds this side of the Moritz von Oswald Trio.

But when you really get down to it, there’s no real gulf between the duo’s two full-lengths. The classic-by-consensus [Las Vegas] and the oddball resurgence of their second act are the kind of companions that would totally never give you a hard time for taking them for granted; they’ll still be there, straight up chilling, when you decide to pay real attention and find you adore them.

By Brandon Bussolini

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