Bohren & der Club of Gore

Piano Nights

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Though there was an EP in between, it has been over five years since Bohren & Der Club of Gore's last full-length, Dolores. That record provided a shift in their trademark, "doom-ridden jazz music." There, one could actually hear lighter, breezier sounds in their suffocating, black narcotic mix. The nine tunes on Piano Nights walk a line between the haunted beauty of Dolores and the more austere, glacial darkness of earlier recordings. Co-composers Christoph Clöser (piano, saxophones, vibes) and Morten Gass (organ, Mellotron, baritone guitar, piano) create an uneasy tension that compares to something that approaches the airy compositions of Angelo Badalmenti -- with their beautiful veneer of innocence that barely conceals the sinister -- and the, mysterious, near-Gothic explorations of Harold Budd (à la The White Arcades and The Serpent (In Quicksilver). The rhythm section of bassist Robin Rodenberg and drummer Thorsten Benning remain almost tensely restrained, but given the pace of these tracks, sticking to that economic language is remarkable. While the set is constructed to be listened to as a whole, there are standouts. Opener "Im Rauch" has a lonesome saxophone solo and vibes adding color and texture to the spectral, minor-key moodiness. "Fahr Zur Hölle" is almost church-like in its processional pace, led by organ, piano, and Mellotron. Though it doesn't swing (nothing this band plays ever does), the vibes on "Ganz Leise Kommt Die Nacht" recall the approach of the Modern Jazz Quartet's Milt Jackson on the Atlantic-era MJQ album, with sparse, spacious lyrical assertions amid otherwise gray, gauzy textures. Two-thirds of the way through, a sampled, wordless vocal chorus changes the cut's entire flavor, and it becomes a funereal dirge. "Verloren (Alles)" is the most skeletal track here in terms of form; the doubled saxophones move along a nearly static scalar line as piano and rhythm section sketch in brief melodic ideas over ten-and-a-half minutes. Closer "Komm Zurück Zu Mir" brings the sampled chorale back amid pronounced tensions via the use of electric guitar and an icy tenor saxophone -- think Jan Garbarek at his most speculative and pensive. It sends Piano Nights off in an inviting if cautious wash of darkness, both earthy and otherworldly.

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