Disturbingly delicious dark vibes from Germany. Or is that deliciously disturbing?
Release Date: 18th February 2022
Ain’t genres wonderful? Doom jazz, dark jazz is what I am suggested, and whilst, undoubtedly, it is dark and doomy, delightfully so, jazz it really isn’t, despite the presence of, on occasion, gloriously mellow trumpet. Quite what it is is, well, that too is a tough one, but my old ears hear Prog and Post Rock references predominantly, the sheer ambiguity and ambience calling to mind a brief liaison between Van Der Graaf Generator and Mogwai. And that’s not a bad place to be, if, arguably, niching your bets a tad away from worldwide fame or fortune. If longish instrumentals that feel their way out of a forbidding landscape, with tendrils of declamatory controlled discord, mixed in with pastoral permafrost permutations is your thing, then this should be right up your crevasse. I liked it.
Taumel are a name new to me. Taumel translates as an attack of giddiness or as a frenzy. That they are German should not come as a huge surprise: there are certainly echoes of kosmische musik, if chillier and into more controlled ECM territory. Based around drummer, Sven Pollkötter and the keyboards of Jakob Diehl, they describe themselves as a project that expands to contain whichsoever musicians needed at any one time. This time around that is Boris Nicolai on guitars and Manuel Viehmann on trumpet and flugelhorn. Also entitled Traum II, this is, therefore, their second “dream”, with an earlier Traum I coming out a couple of years ago. Whether that is essentially pretentious or totally apt, I will leave to you, but, as a description, it isn’t entirely inappropriate, calling to mind the extended dreamscape properties of Echoes or Atom Heart Mother, the Pink Floyd of that era being another applicable reference point.
Greatcoats on, let’s explore! Opener, Now, begins as a slow mechanistic drone, over which gradual guitar and electronica emerge, over a tentative foundation of chordal structure. The conflicting parts noodle together actually quite enticingly for almost two or three minutes, as percussive thuds and thumps apply some greater detail. Squawks of trumpet snicker with brisk peals of snatched guitar, the sense of something likely wicked this way coming. At the climactic moment, boff, it’s gone. Nothing. Without the time to look over your shoulder or turn up your collar, it’s straight into We Stay, echoing drums and sinister low notes on the piano. Rather than the Ozzy that intro could effortlessly introduce, the mood moves a minor key, becoming reflective, building all the while, the percussion your beating heart, with what sounds like vibraphone jittering behind the electric piano. Muted brass adds to the suspense, as the guitar and piano go a little competitively bonkers. So far, so Nosferatu the Vampire. That the collective has a bevy of soundtrack credits to their name should come as little surprise, the mood of faded black and white gothic horror writ large in this piece. For over eight minutes this manages to hold attention, largely given the solid base of the rhythmic metronome, holding the disparate other maelstrom together.
Forever changes the mood and transforms the setting, presumably the origin of the J word in the PR blurb. A delectable piano, guitar and drums cushion some truly absorbing trumpet, as Kind of Blue as you can get. Some ghostly shimmers of effects swirl glacially into the mix, over Diehl’s sympathetic piano. A beautiful interlude that certainly took me out the deep dark woods of the earlier tunes. Setting you up, don’t you know, as Lost In Space is then every bit of that, strident chimes of fanfare over harsh military drums. All very Galactic Empire Invasion about to go wrong, that which is then invoked by harmonium and then jagged slivers of savage guitar. If initially discordant and damaged, it finds a pattern, stepping delicately aside the predictable notes, finding instead a logical progression. The dawn sequence from Echoes is evoked, if in a parallel dystopia, the glissandos of guitar very Gilmour. Trumpet and keyboard muddle to prevent this thought taking too much hold, the sense increasingly of trying to find bandwidth communication. Back come the fanfares, but, with the drums careering wildly, the destination remains unknown. With the separate elements spinning out of control, this is twelve minutes that bear repeating, to see if there is a different way out. (Spoiler alert: there isn’t, but I can’t stop listening.)
The final tune, Forever, starts like an orchestral warm up, with random notes and sounds. A gong then sounds, drawing in a buzz of jagged orchestrated electronica, pounding drums emphasising a processional semblance. With the brass taking to the front, it is another threatening vista, echoes and effects propelling that sense. Sound as filmed by Peter Greenaway. Wah wah guitar is then as welcome as it is unexpected, adding a further veneer to the ceremony, as distorted speech stutters gutturally. And then, rather than ending, it stops.
Gorgeous. Unsettling. Confusing. All these words suffice. Is this music you seek or does it seek you? I wonder. You might imagine you need already to be in a certain mindset to embrace it, but I am uncertain. This is both background music and all the music you need.
Here’s a live studio version of Lost In Space: