Review Summary: A deafening testimonial to the power of afterlife's musical amplification....
Have you ever imagined what desolation sounds like? I’m not referring to multitudes crying , war or losing your own home. Referring to desolation as a vast “nothing”, the loss of all valuable things on your life, failure. Bohren & der Club of Gore knows how desolation sounds like and they portrayed this tiny capsules, pieces of memory left behind by depression and sorrow, the fragments and wounds that compose every single note written er’ so played on their colossal Black Earth. This album not only leaves something in everyone that listens to it, engulfing them, it soaks them in its dark pulses. Composed in 2002 Black Earth is closer to the remains of this broken world than the end of the world itself…. Each track is similar to the following yet they are distinguishable for a simple reason, cohesiveness; instead of building up the album decomposes down, each track resembles shadows, millions of ghosts that haunt the empty wasteland that comes to mind while listening. And so the seductive nature of ambience that comprehensively incepts into your brain leaving you only an hour to appreciate the uniform sounds that haunt the album’s songs. A musical decomposition is way more complex than a musical progression thus a crescendo “building up”, decomposition rather than sketching ideas and helping them to naturally grow is about an already created piece and its antithetic disintegration. Bohren & der Club of Gore knew their goals when they decided to write or compose such sounds. Black Earth is labeled as noir jazz but it is more… much more than that.
What I mean when I suggest this album is much more than noir jazz is that every jazz band haves or had their own “style”, some ensembles have their own ideals, concepts and themes. Just like both Sun Ra and one of his best friends Pharoah Sanders focused on Egypt, religious experiences and Nile river’s surrounding societies mythology, the Bohren ensemble also possesses an entire concept; this one is Doom and despite many persons would disagree about the validity of Bohren’s interpretation of Doom it is still as thematically important in their music as it is musically influential. Black Earth more than anything is carried by a direction and that is its more important ideal, dragging the weight of the already “death” Earth on its shoulders, just something it principally carries. And that is what all bands should aim for, to fully embrace their ideal, concept and theme therefore they deliver it in such a way that it represents the musical equivalent of its core “style“. The Bohren ensemble music is conceptual perfection, Black Earth is a chronological progression of sounds that restores meaning to the word “desolation” and that’s why I differ with a genre classification, Bohren & der Club of Gore’s Black Earth exists in a world of its own, and it gets beneficed thanks to it.
Besides the theme that portrays Black Earth, it is Bohren & der Club of Gore biggest achievement as a band, or at least it is in my humble opinion. Black Earth represents along with the Mount Fuji Doomjazz corporation’s Anthropomorphic one of the most thematically capturing albums of the genre’s decade, or perhaps all time. The success of the album is intrinsically connected with the balance both of concept and music contained. Whereas Sunset Mission is known for providing more saxophone moments here and there it not embraces the concept as Black Earth does, Sunset is not “decomposed” because it builds towards a “dark city” vibe, as it is to expect from the quartet it does achieves its goal but doesn’t matches to the perfectionism and top-notch elegance of tracks like Crimson Ways from the sequel. The material of Black Earth completely fits it’s proposal’s size, and becomes the material that will be remembered for a long time.
Black Earth is a play of atmospheric ambience, piano, drumming, bass and a Tenor saxophone. The role each instrument plays is one hundred percent equal to the role that the other one plays, without ambience the saxophone would not have such a somber effect, while without the drums the music itself couldn’t be carried, supported or “sustained”. The piano plays a vital role on shaping the album most deliberate “jazz” moments, and because it barely touches the music it remains as a characteristically subtle element to Bohren’s music; but as I stated before this album is build upon tiny details, without them it wouldn’t work just as an airplane’s engine that does not generates thrust couldn’t force a lift and consequently without thrust there could not be drag, the three elements function as primary relatives because a push or pull needs direction. And yeah, each instruments plays a purposeful role on Black Earth’s music.
Every song that this album contains is superbly delivered and there are not stand-out tracks unless you are looking for something specific from the album. Tracks blend into the following track perfectly, that transitional fluency benefices the album already flawless flow. Black Earth could be divided into 3 suites
considering *1: From Midnight Black Earth to Destroying Angels. 2: From Grave Wisdom to Skeletal Remains. 3:The Art Of Coffins* . The Suite Number 1 is compromised of 5 songs , each song delivers minimalist jazz elements carried most of the time by mysterious ambience and slow paced drone drumming. Midnight Black Earth serves as an introduction and also as a distant relative to The Art of Coffins… the song is plagued by dark ambient and a feeling “darkness is approaching” stalks you, yet you already know this music is darkness in its pure form; then Crimson ways enters and is a perfect mixture between ambient and jazz bass but also further decomposes the sounds of the first track into longer terms. After that… the 3rd song is even darker and mellower, using for the first time prominent Fender Rhodes piano and ultimately trading lines with the saxophone. Vigilante crusade serves as a counterpart and sequel to Crimson Ways. It is a good example of symmetrically organized track listening, after one track is played the next track is and it revisits the sound used on the second expanding it. To conclude the first suite is Destroying Angels, the jazzier track on the record and it features a prominent use of the saxophone and piano yet they both finally stop eleven seconds before the song is over . This gives an end to the 1st suite of the record.
Suite number 2 is compromised of 3 songs, as a counterpart it is way more ambient laden than the first one. Grave wisdom is mostly a dark ambient piece but later adding drumming and bass it complements perfectly with the already established atmosphere. Constant fear is one of the most mysterious songs on the album too because rather than playing atmospherics it is carried by a jam between piano, (Not so much) ambient and saxophone; the drumming on this song is way more jazzier also. the sax really impresses. Finally we have the obscure skeletal remains, a play of saxophone and piano mostly.. The other instruments are drawing pre-fabricated art. The tenor saxophone goes free-jazz after 5 minutes and Christophe Closer does an amazing job accompanying his band‘s jam. This gives an end to the 2nd suite of the record. Finally we have The Art of Coffins… a song that could drive a stake through the heart of any mistaken ambiguity. The Art of Coffins is painfully slow, functioning as the vertebrae of Black Earth’s body it showcases droning pulses that eliminate every single sign of life found on its victim; founds home on its listener and mixes the seducing ascents of death and sex, ultimately the decomposition is obvious on this song, maybe because it is the slowest thus ultimately giving end to macabre epitome.
Black Earth is an album that overwhelmingly intoxicates your soul and drains it leaving only a placebo of ghost flesh. Bohren & der Club of Gore settled their goals and accomplished them here, it is as dark as the genre can get and one of the most important modern jazz albums released. This is a suffocating experience of loneliness, pure evil, darkness and depression; anyone willing to give up an amount of time can appreciate what Morten Gass, Christophe Closer, Robin Rodenberg and Thorsten Benning created in this album, more than that… that person might realize Black Earth is’ as someone else said:
“ A deafening testimonial to the power of afterlife musical amplification.”