Review Summary: Dark gloomy and very atmospheric noir jazz/ambient, played at doom metal pace. The perfect album to play in solitude while walking through a city late at night.
The grimly titled ‘Bohren & der Club of Gore’ was formed in 1992 by members of hardcore bands with names like ‘Chronical Diarrhoea’ and ‘Macabre Farmhouse’. With this background, you may expect Bohren to follow in a similar pattern of playing incredibly fast and vicious punk or metal.
What the band actually do though is move all the way to the other extreme, playing a slowed down and incredibly sparse mixture of jazz and ambient. There is still a metal influence, but it’s the dark, gloomy and ponderous sound of doom metal, especially Black Sabbath, that Bohren draw from. With their third album, 2000’s Sunset Mission
, Bohren move toward perfecting their noir jazz soundscapes, replacing the guitar of the first two albums with a tenor saxophone.
This fusion of jazz and ambient played at a snail-pace works incredibly well, perfectly creating an impressively dark and haunting mood. The music is always tense and edgy despite being so mellow because of it‘s unpredictable melodies, which is what makes it so enjoyable to listen to. Sunset Mission
is the perfect album to play in solitude while walking through a city late at night because of the perfect noir atmosphere. It is not music you can listen to at any time, but when in the right mood it works perfectly. The songs, all instrumental, flow into each other perfectly so it is easy to get drawn in to the atmosphere.
The songs, ranging from 5 to nearly 17 minutes in length are centred on seemingly never ending double-bass lines. While this may sound dull, it is actually one of the reason’s the music works so well. The bass-lines are all gripping and totally hypnotic with just enough subtle changes to stop them from becoming stale but not quite enough to break the trance-like feel that is so easy to get totally lost in. The slow pace puts emphasis on every single bass note, making each one sound just as powerful as the last. The drumming is equally as restrained, though while the often simple and sparse drumming is usually played very gently with brushes it is equally as gripping as the bass, creating much of the music’s tension. With the exception of some rising cymbals that add even more to this tension, the drumming is never that loud, staying in the background for most of the music.
The real highlight of Sunset Mission
though, is Christoph Clöser’s fantastic saxophone playing, which sadly loses some of it’s importance in Bohren’s later albums. The rich emotional sax fades in at just the right moments before the music starts getting at all boring, playing unpredictable slow-motion melodies that sound totally improvised and always interesting. The piano plays equally unpredictably throughout, sometimes weaving between the slow saxophone at a much faster pace than everything else to add some excitement to the music and sometimes remaining as laid-back as the rest of the music, with each note left echoing for what seems like an eternity before the next.
The problem with Sunset Mission
is that it only works if you’re in the right mood to listen to it. The extended song lengths and long running time of 1 hour 13 minutes can quickly get boring if you don’t get drawn in, and while the album flows with barely noticeable gaps between songs this can make the album sound samey as there isn’t a huge variety between each song. However, while it can definitely be a grower, taking several listens to fully appreciate, Sunset Mission
is an excellent album that should appeal to any fan of jazz or ambient music and also even doom metal fans due to the uneasy gloomy doom-inspired atmosphere throughout.