We regret to inform you that the title of Kammerflimmer Kollektief‘s new album is so long that we don’t have space for a review. Just kidding! The album is incredibly succinct given the extended nature of the name. This is the Karlsruhe band’s 20th year in existence, and they continue to remain relevant, each release a revelation. 2015’s Désarroi included a light dusting of lyrics (especially memorable: the more you love, the more you can love). This time around it’s all fuzz and bombast, a beautiful excursion into abrasive textures and dramatic turns.
One could probably write a term paper on that cover ~ they burn witches, don’t they? We still burn witches, even in the #MeToo era, though we use different words to describe the practice, cloaking the hate in the folds of traditionalism, isolationism and the like. Kammerflimmer Kollektief is no stranger to the avant-garde; once upon a time, all of them would likely have been burned at the stake, not just the “witch” but the attending warlocks. Humanity fears what it cannot label. And despite the atheist tag, there’s a great feeling of spirituality in these grooves, which flow seamlessly from drone to improvisation to jam. Everything seems to have a form, but the description of the form is elusive. Every once in a while, the music tumbles ~ intentionally, we’re sure ~ into a clear segment of melodic whimsy. “Lucid, Imperial Beach” earns its title only in the last minute, perfect timing as it makes the listener strain and yearn.
The title implies rituals left undone, sacrifices to old gods, unattended buttons, obsessive-compulsive repetitions. Are we safe without them? Is it wise to neglect them? The sawing turmoil of “Discharged, Quauhnáhuac” is like that of an unsettled mind. But then it’s followed by the loveliest passage on the album, dotted with squeaking like that of a child’s toy, and benign whispers. The current trio is full of reconciled contradictions. If the band were to sing, this is where they would do it. Feel free to sing if you want; there’s still time, a window of peace between disasters, a lullaby of harmonium and guitar.
As darkness descends once more, it does so in memory of light. Things are not as bleak as the cover implies. Look closer. Still closer. No ropes are visible. The figure on the front seems to be hanging by his or her own intention ~ either imitating persecution or drawing on the power of the forest. We’ve forgotten so many of these rituals that we’re unable to recognize them at first sight. The seven songs, referred to as seven actions in the titles and seven stations in the liner notes, hearken back to the original seven stations of the cross. Who then is hanging on the tree? And who has the power, the hanger or the hanged? As in the infamous Tarot card, the hanging may simply mean inversion, a purposeful change that looks negative but is actually positive. The trio invites us to reevaluate our suppositions, to return to our initial impressions and to ask if they still hold true. (Richard Allen)