Review Summary: Den Umgekehrten Atem feels like the loss of urban innocence, condensed into a 21 minute potted history.
Considering Dahinter Das Gesicht
preceded Schwefelgelb’s August release by a meagre six months, it’s all the more notable how much of a continuation Den Umgekehrten Atem
– at least initially. While hardly out of form for the duo when taking their back catalogue into consideration, across such a short time frame the change is jarring. Gone is the four-to-the-floor gutpunch of sub-bass, and gone are the hypoxic industrial synths that paint imaginations with shades of grey and bottle green. Instead, gated snare, distant calls and twinkling, crystalline melodies are the order of the day for opener ‘Im Wasser’; while not exactly bubblegum pop, the busy throwback to Kraftwerk’s traditional EBM is light enough that Schwefelgelb fashion an optimism akin to the exponentially booming cities of yore.
That is, however, until around the 3:30 mark, where this optimism proves to be artifice. The hitherto sparingly-used low-end doubles up, bringing with it morbid swells that bleed the track of discernible joy, or passion. Oppressive encroachment, as it happens, charts Den Umgekehrten Atem
’s general direction. Gaining a few industrial quirks yet still fundamentally mid-register, ‘Das Ärmellose Hemd’ retains a cursory similarity to ‘Im Wasser’s original tone. It takes little further investment, however, to note much of the 80’s joie de vivre
has been stripped; an exercise in minimalism, its energy feels hollow, triggering involuntary movement yet little in the way of emotive response. Joined once more by an unflinching kick drum, ‘Stillhalten’ asks sordid, nay sick enjoyment from the listener. With every strike of what sounds like PVC pipes, images of subterranean orgies are conjured by its repetitive, percussive bassline; each permutation realises a strange fetish of the unexpected, as the body writhes to fall in line. By the time ‘Um Meine Haut’ comes around, Den Umgekehrten…
’s reversion to stifling industrial techno is complete. Sid Lamar’s drowsy announcements become lost in the constant decay of metallic clangs (the usurper of the gated snare), ambient whooshes and deep stabs of synth, like a rail announcer reduced to insignificance by the bustling masses, going through the motions like an automaton. Den Umgekehrten Atem
feels like the loss of urban innocence, condensed into a 21 minute potted history.