Ascetist / Psalm69 / Grant Hobson
No doubt I’m not the only reviewer to use the word “Lynchian” to describe the noir-ish stylings of previous work by Bohren. It’s a term they’ve grown tired of themselves and are seeking to move beyond with this three-track, thirty-five minute release on Ipecac. Using label boss Mike Patton to sing on their version of Warlock’s “Catch My Heart” seems like an astute move to garner a bit more interest in the band whilst adding to Patton’s CV after his recent work on Italian jazz-inflected movie scores. In theory it should be more engaging, but as a listening experience it’s not an excursion that’s wholly successful.
Unfortunately, this is a stately atmospheric plod that rarely engages the heart, mind or feet. The opener, “Zombies Never Die” mixed Jarre-esque synths with what sounded like an out-take of Branford Marsalis’ work on Sting’s first solo album. Odd, yet, dull.
The much-vaunted “Doom” aspects to their music – the pace and atmospheric construct of their sound, comes to the fore in the last two tracks, the aforementioned Warlock cover and “Beileid” (“Condolences”). Patton croons intermittently in that slightly nasally histrionic fashion he’s made his own since FNM through the former whilst chimes and percussion add some slight colouring to the restrained latter. It’s all well played and produced, but fails to engage any of the emotions that you’d expect or hope for. The lack of a sense of dread, fear or regret that are the hallmarks of Doom seem to be M.I.A. As a result, the release moves through the three tracks of tastefully played supper-jazz that you could play at any slightly depressing dinner party you hosted for people you didn’t particularly like.
I Heart Noise / Ilya
One can’t help but wonder whether Pitchfork (unintentionally, one assumes) forced Bohren & Der Club of Gore to rethink their entire strategy when they gave the band a “horror jazz” tag.
There’s nary a trace of traditional jazz (or any kind of jazz for that matter) to be found on the latest EP from B&DCoG. Instead, Beiled comes off like an an ambient/atmospheric Oreo cookie – there’s two instrumental tracks plus a cover of an old Warlock track “Catch My Heart” that features Ipecac head honcho Mike Patton on vocals.
Both “Zombies Never Die (Blues)” and the title track are somewhat similar in their pace and ominousness. And despite the fact that Mr. Patton lends his vocals to “Catch My Heart” (which sounds nothing like the original), he keeps it mostly very low-key and sticks to quiet croon/whisper, so don’t expect any trademark hysterics or screaming just yet.
The only negative thing about the entire affair is that all three tracks are insanely long. Perhaps sticking to 7-8 minute format would’ve worked better in this case, since there’s nothing new going on beyond 10 minute mark in all three tracks anyway.
MathRawk / Baxter Holland
This three-track, 35-minute soundscape is incredibly sparse and nuanced. A vibraphone, synthesizer, and Rhodes do the melodic heavy lifting, with saxophone and minimal percussion adding texture and weight. And while I generally despise saxophones, Bohren and der Club use it tastefully.
The first song, ‘Zombies Never Die (Blues)’, is a stately, mournful wash of synth whooshes and distant booms of thunder. Vibraphone and sax slowly meander and weave their magic, giving it the feel of a really depressing David Lynchian striptease.
The second song is a cover of Warlock’s ‘Catch My Heart,’ with Mike Patton guesting on vocals. I did a bit of research on Warlock, learning that they were, in a nutshell, a beloved 80s German hair metal band. The original is a pretty over-the-top power ballad, but it’s very fun. But where Warlock’s version is bombastic and overwrought, Bohren and der Club of Gore’s is restrained, world-weary and booze-soaked.
The final song, ‘Beileid,’ brought home “doom-ridden” for me. Much like the previous two songs, it’s incredibly spare and haunting. But where the first two had a lighter touch, this one is suffused with dread and foreboding. Again, using nothing more than synth washes, a Rhodes, and some cymbals and a tom for emphasis, Bohren and der Club craft a masterpiece of tension and anticipation that offers no release. By turns beguiling and threatening, it’s the crown jewel of the album.
So if you’re looking for something that quietly and insidiously breaks your heart, this album is just the thing.