Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Kammerflimer Kollektief - Wildling

Kammerflimmer Kollektief is one of the few bands that send me into giddy anticipation when I get news they’ve released a new album. Maybe that’s because they’re one of those bands I can claim as “mine,” and I still get that sophomoric kick when I mention a band my friends have never heard of. And they have a cool name to boot. Just saying “Kammerflimmer Kollektief” makes me feel cool. How many band names do that anymore?

The band is a collective in the true sense of the word. The lineup has shifted constantly over 11 years and 8 albums. Only one original member remains. So it’s a remarkable testament to the vision of the “kollektief” that the music has remained so consistent.
For their newest album, Wildling, the group is paired down to just a trio. This has focused their sound considerably, though the sound is unmistakably “kammerflimmer.”

“Kammerflimmer” translates literally into “shimmering,” which is not a bad way to begin describing the music the band makes. Though it is a peculiar kind of shimmering -- more like the way stars would shimmer on the surface of a lake at night. There’s always a bit of a spooky element just under the surface that makes describing their music difficult. I could tell you that they basically find a subtle, comfy groove, settle into it and let various avant jazz-inspired acoustic and electronic sounds wash in and out of the cracks, but that would be a bit like saying the Ramones played three-chord punk rock. It’s just not fair.

The main thing that separates this new album from the others is the prevalence of Heike Aumuller’s vocals. Though her voice appeared on a few tracks of the last album, Jinx, it is on all but two here. Normally, the addition of vocals is something that would elicit much moaning and gnashing of teeth from yours truly. I adore instrumental music. And Kammerflimmer has produced many albums of astonishing instrumental music. I know I’m in the minority, but usually the addition of vocals usually means the affair is over for me. It certainly ruined my love for bands like Papa M and Mice Parade. So I was fully prepared for the potential of something ghastly. But once again, Kammerflimmer deliver beautifully and surpass expectations.

Not only do Aumuller’s vocals match the eerie qualities of the music perfectly, but they add a new, even more ghostly quality. Her vocals alternate between actual lyrics that you can almost understand and the sort of bewitching, shamanic scat vocalise she debuted on jinx. It’s exactly the kind of thing that could go terribly wrong. Not only is there something truly artistic about the way she pulls it off, but she might actually be exorcizing demons.

I’ve always thought Kammerflimmer Kollektief would be an obvious choice for film music. There is an inherent soundtracky quality to what they do. Many of their pieces would be right at home in a David Lynch movie. Come to think of it, that’s a fairly apt comparison and maybe one of the reasons Kammerflimmer aren’t more popular. They tend to want to explore places that can be a little uncomfortable. But they do it gracefully, fearlessly, and without any sense of irony -- qualities lacking in much of both popular film and music today.

1 comment:

  1. Great to see you back. I was slow to warm up to the vocals when I got this new album, but that is the case with much of their work. I agree about the uncomfortable soundtrack aspect of their work. When I first heard Absencen, I couldn't wash from my brain the mental image of an introspective interlude in an eighties detective movie complete with saxophone in the background. But the more I listened to the album the more strange the music became until I realized it was completely its own thing.