Sunday, January 4, 2009

Kammerflimmer Kollektief "Cicadidae" (Staubgold, 2003)

Artist: Kammerflimmer Kollektief 
Album: "Cicadidae"
Release Date: April 14, 2003
Genre: Abstract, Neo-Classical, Chamber-Music, Post-Rock
Mood: Sophisticated, Autumnal, Fractured, Elegant
Reminds Of: Jaga Jazzist, Flanger, Triosk, The Cinematic Orchestra
What People Think: Discogs, Amazon
Definitely Worth Buying: Boomkat, Amazon, CdUniverse

1. Neumond Inselhin 
2. Sie Tranken Regen 
3. Über Die Wasserscheide 
4. Blood 
5. ...Denn Nacht Ist Jetzt Schon Bald! 
6. Sie Tranken Regen (Version) 
7. Mantra 
8. Eierdaunen (Gerupft) 
9. Irgendwann: Frühling 
10. There's A Weight On You, But You Can't Feel It 

Good electronic music should be a dissociating experience, taking you away from whatever you're doing without holding you captive to some narrative or tired verse-chorus-verse strong structure. It's about mood and the ability to spirit you out of mundane logics to hear the isolated beauty of pure sound and noise -- the creation of an active background soundscape that pokes and prods at your consciousness and never drowns it.

Which describes perfectly Kammerflimmer Kollektief's Cicadidae. At work, when I'm performing some dreary, repetitive task that requires a modicum of attention (but not much more), it's a perfect soundtrack. No single mood ever dominates and Cicadidae, the third release by the German six-piece, is by turns ominous, dreamy, driving and creepy. It is never boring or predictable.

In fact, for electronica -- a label that sells short the work's ability to cut across genres -- the range is striking. Opener "Neumond Inselhin" charges forward with a piano melody washed by synthesizers, and shuffling jazz beats aren't rare on the album. But most of the songs are less than directed, made up as they are of meandering fuzz and chirps and chimes.

The overall feeling is one of disembodied beauty -- the piano and droning guitars -- always on the verge of plunging into chaos and confusion, represented by some screeching free jazz elements. But while Thomas Webber, the man behind Kammerflimmer Kollektief, never loses control of the compositions, his restraint is never heavy-handed. The work has a light, airy quality.

All of this, plus the band's name, which translates to "Shimmering Collective," makes the work sound more academic than it is. In reality, Cicadidae is, quite simply, beautiful, evocative mood music that even in its defiance of genres is always focused and never extravagant. It's certainly worthy of place on the shelf next to Aphex Twin, Portishead and Phillip Glass.


After blowing me away with a debut release (that was largely the work of one man - Thomas Weber), the Kammerflimmer Kollektief disappointed me with each of their subsequent releases. Always one to give someone a second (or third) chance, I bided my time for the domestic release (it was released on Staubgold in Europe) of Cicadidae and settled in with the group once more. Once again, the sound of the group has changed somewhat, but this time it's for the better. Whereas the debut Mäander mixed sampled beats and a healthy dose of noise with some instrumentation, their second (Hysteria) and third (Incommunicado) were varying degrees of improvised and slightly deconstructed jazz that also found the one-man operation expanding into a full-fledged group.

Whereas those last two releases were simply too loose and rough around the edges to hold my attention much, Cicadidae really feels like the group coming together and working as a solid unit. In 10 tracks and just over 40 minutes, the release exudes a warm calm that works in subtle ways and actually seems to move in the exact opposite of their random noise freakouts of previous efforts. From the opening track of "Neumond Inselhin," it's clear that this is a different release from the group. An upright bass and very quiet percussion provide a thin skeleton on which quiet rises of strings, guitar melodies, and processed noise (including a slight harsh moment around the mid-point) and chimes ride. It's celestial electronic jazz, and it's one of the best tracks that the group has done to date.

Elsewhere, the group mixes a touch of spaghetti western in with their sound ("...Denn Nacht Ist Jetzt Schon Bald!"), slow-burning, dark lounge ("Blood"), and even a touch of dub ("Eiderdauned (Gerupft)"). As can probably be surmised from the above, the release is cinematic as all get-out. "Sie Tranken Regen (Version)" is all alternately quivering and hushed layers of strings and horns that slowly slink around one another and build into a haunting close while "Mantra" mixes some dusky piano and guitar into another slow-burner that pays off with a nice tension.

There are a lot of groups right now that are doing their own take on jazz and electronic music, but like Jaga Jazzist and the Tied And Tickled Trio, Kammerflimmer Kollektief is definitely carving out their own path. It's different than either of those groups, yet fans of either would probably find something to enjoy in this release (although it inhabits much quieter corners). As with other times a group has came back and surprised me after letting me down a bit, I'm glad I gave the group another chance. 


"The kind of music that makes the heart feel tangy beauty and longing captured in pristine simplicity, yet it has the noise and imperfections of the real world..."


death.of.the.left.unfinished said...

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Death Of The Left Unfinished

Anonymous said...

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trullala said...

link down!


do you think it would be possible to fix this link or re-post?

Fearghal said...

Any chance of a re-up?

Great blog btw.

Anonymous said...

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death.of.the.left.unfinished said...

New fully working link, dudes...:

Death Of The Left Unfinished

Anonymous said...

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