Bohren & der Club of Gore

Black Earth

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Germany's Bohren & der Club of Gore are a black metal fan's lounge jazz act. Or, for those driven by the more extreme side of noir-ish ambient material, these cats lay it out with musical instruments (and a Mellotron), painfully slow and muted tempos, unventful compostions, and a relentlessly gloomy atmosphere. Originally issued in 2002 on Wonder and now re-released by Ipecac, Black Earth is a wrenching, turtle-like crawl through the vast darkness of jazz balladry and unreservedly bleak nihilism. The song titles say it all: "Midnight Black Earth," "Crimson Ways," "Maximum Black," "Vigilante Crusade," "Grave Wisdom," "The Art of Coffins" -- you get the idea. All of that said, the music is delicious, darkly sensual; a fine tonic for a lonely night. The quartet of drummer Thorsten Benning, saxophonist and pianist Christoph Closer, Mellotron operator, pianist, and Rhodes piano king Morten Gass, and double bassist Robin Rodenberg began life as a death metal hardcore act in the 1980s. Seeking a more original sound, they gradually gravitated to this incarnation of musical brilliance and mysterium organum. On most tracks, a shimmering Rhodes piano plays repetitive lines and chords and receives a deathly kiss from snares, cymbals, and the occasional bass drum before being adorned with the sparsest of Mellotron lines, paced with an excruciatingly tense groove by a low-tuned plucked or bowed double bass, and finally sung over with mournfully sensual, smoky tenor saxophone à la Ben Webster. The tunes are all long, drawn-out affairs, with aural images of abandoned streets and buildings on foggy nights, or steamy sewer grates inviting only the most desperate lovers and recreational killers and thieves out to roam through the blackness together. It's so overwhelmingly intoxicating and sickly sweet, it almost suffocates the listener in the twin scents of sex and death. Indispensible macabre listening.

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