Listening to the German band Bohren & der Club Of Gore was and remains a pointedly unique psychological experience. In fact, thanks to the startlingly minimalist song constructions, there’s a lot of responsibility subtly shifted onto listeners right from the start. That unique psychological poignancy feels pretty much inescapable — you’ve got to engage.
On their new album Patchouli Blue, the band perform somber, jazz-adjacent music that feels slowed down with methodical precision. Across the entire runtime of just about an hour, there are no bombastic blasts from a drum machine or surprise guitar solos. Instead, it’s just you and the band’s subtly proceeding instrumentation, including chilled but still inviting synths, saxophone melodies performed with the slow determination of wisps of smoke from a pipe, and beats from an organ performance. Those keys feel like they’re moths floating along in a fog, gradually inching themselves towards a dull light in the distance.
And with the immersive, wrap-around feel of the music as a whole, which could be compared to slowly tightening up a large coat around yourself in the middle of frigid winter, listeners feel taken along for this journey. The album doesn’t just feel like a curio. Rather, the confidence necessary to draw this restrained style out through the entire album feels alluringly infectious, like there’s a consistent promise of something you’ve been after lurking just around the metaphorical corner.
On the band’s title track, they dig into this immersive, experiential aspect pretty magnificently. There, Bohren & der Club Of Gore begin with a string of those ominously suspended-feeling, meaty key tones accompanied by somberly meandering, thick tones from the always prominent saxophone. Soon, apparent guitar and/or bass strumming kicks in with soft cymbal hits in the background. The music feels like a ready-made soundtrack for slowly progressing down a dimly lit street between bars as snow falls and subtle music permeates the silence with tantalizing tones.
“Tief Gesunken” feels like a real standout song, although the album’s experience deserves more of a full immersion rather than picking and choosing. Still, that song’s confidently steady but slow electronic beat thickens the sound a bit like the arrival at the sepia-toned club that you’ve been meandering towards all this time. The song also features some particularly memorable sax work, and as a whole, it feels surprisingly catchy, but in the sense of seeming ready for repeated listens rather than packing any kind of earworm.
Listening to this latest Bohren album feels like a forced slowdown. It feels like a demand to stop and appreciate the “ordinary,” because here, that subtly dissociating sense of life gets a chance to shine all on its own.
Check some out below. The full album will be available on January 24 via Ipecac Recordings. Pre-order at this link.
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