Ekkehard Ehlers is an artist who refuses to be pinned down by genre constrictions or fan expectations. Over the course of seven full-length albums and compilations he has paid tribute to Albert Ayler, produced an album of folk-tinged glitch music, reinterpreted Schoenberg, and written lullabies for newborns. So it makes perfect sense for Ehlers to reinvent himself yet again with A Life Without Fear. This time around he digs deep into the darkness and records a nine-song session of Delta blues soaked with nihilistic lyrics and fuzzed-out computer crackles and pops. His instrumentation of choice this time around varies from his other works, as he collaborates with a small-group using viola, trumpet, mouth harp, and guitar to create drones that sound like they're processed through a rusted beer can. Covering the traditional "Ain't No Grave" and Ralph Stanley's haunting "O Death," Ehlers paints a stark portrait that would be a fitting soundtrack to traveling the destroyed Deep South countryside and viewing the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina. It is this disturbing tone that Ehlers serves as a reminder of just how beautifully fragile the human condition is under the strains of adversity and despair.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Rob Theakston