Bohren & Der Club of Gore 

Black Earth

First, let me say how absurd it is to review this nocturnal, doombient-jazz album while a sunny spring day beckons outside my window. Second, even misanthropic nihilists need an album to clutch to their callous bosoms. Black Earth fits that bill. Bohren & Der Club of Gore -- Morten Gass (piano, Mellotron, Rhodes), Thorsten Benning (drums), Robin Rodenberg (double bass), and Christoph Closer (sax, piano, Rhodes) -- sounds like an ex-demonic metal band drilling so deeply inward, it emerges on the other side bathed in a holy glow of tranquility, an aurora of timeless, stunned beauty.

"Midnight Black Earth" immediately alerts you that this disc won't be soundtracking summer parties. The song begins with Mellotron groans as desolate as Antarctica and a tender, spectral Rhodes piano motif Radiohead would kill for. Then come the beats, which sound like a Xanaxed zombie hammering coffin nails. Here and throughout Black Earth, the band plays at a glacial pace, as if it has been condemned to purgatory, so the musicians might as well conserve their energy and let every note hang in the air and decay like their own mortal bodies. Most of Black Earth is as foreboding and lead-footed as early Swans, but not as densely layered, so the effect is even creepier and more chilling.

Listening to Black Earth is like sipping absinthe for 71 minutes. The visions! This is what Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre should've been listening to as they cogitated their deepest thoughts -- it's hard to think of any other music that submerges you into the existential murk with more seductive power than Bohren's.


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