Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Klabautamann - Our Journey Through the Woods (2003) 85/100.

My strange habit of working through a bands discography backwards has come into affect again. I initially got hooked on Klabautamann through their most recent, and jazziest album to date, ‘Merkur’. After that I decided to take a history field trip and pick up their other two albums, ‘Der Ort’ being the first of the previous two that I listened to first. So, on my journey through time, I have reached my final destination -- ‘Our Journey Through the Woods’. This, the seemingly long since forgotten Klabautamann full-length, is perhaps just as innovative as their other two opus’, but it appears to have been left behind perhaps due to the dated feel of the production. Don’t let the self-released tag fool you, though. The album was recorded by the bands two main musicians, Florian and Tim, though it was mixed and mastered with the help of an outside force. Though the album definitely has a dated feel to it, the instrumentation itself is what is known as “ahead of its time”. The instrumentation is brilliant and though it doesn’t have the professional production values to bolster its sound, it still stands up strong against a lot of albums in a similar field to this.

Seemingly inspired by Ulver’s legendary ’Bergtatt’, Klabautamann waste no time implementing their own take on a classic sound. There are folksy bits to this album, including some lush acoustics on the fully instrumental song ‘Elfentanz’. This folksy feeling does also extent to other songs, not just this fully instrumental track. Take ‘Rabenmorgen’ for example. The wonderful acoustic build-up is pivotal to the folksy side of Klabautamann. The cleaner side to the band definitely continues throughout the song with experimentally layered guitars. One provides the typical sort of black metal riff, which includes some repetition and a lot of distortion, whilst the other has a cleaner side. The production can be quite thin at times, which means we can hear certain chords being plucked and the twanging of the bass, but this gives the album an authenticity and charming quality, rather than showing up any inconsistencies in the song writing, or skill of the musicians. To me, it gives the album a quirky feeling and shows a human side to the band when their skill is usually out-of-this-world and awe inspiring. The all acoustic affair, which pit’s a cleaner, more distant side to the guitars and uplifting folksy acoustics is a delicate touch, one which shows the multi-faceted approach of the band well.

According to an interview I read, Tim had the majority of the say as to how things ran on this ship and though the atmospherics might not be as tight, or compact as they are on ‘Der Ort’, the dynamics of the songs like ‘Rabenmorgen’ surely require an open style and should not be contained. The album does have an expansive feel to it, though perhaps not as much as on either ‘Der Ort’ or the jazzier ‘Merkur’, though this album also has a lot of innovative bass play during the course of its duration, which spans just over fifty minutes, giving the listener a full feeling, as if we’ve definitely not wasted our time with this glorious debut. Whether there’s as much experimentation occurring on this album or not is difficult to tell. The multi-faceted nature of the music requires numerous listens to even become accustomed to the out-of-the-ordinary stylistic approach from a band who seemingly take influence from a traditional form of black metal and folk merger. The role of the bass and second guitar is incredibly important to the structure of the songs with titles like ‘Rabenmorgen’, once again, showing how audible and clean instrumentation alongside repetition and distortion can make an ordinary sounding style appear wondrously creative and innovative.

The jazzier side to Klabautamann really shines through on songs like the aforementioned, but that side to the band is only being developed in its early stages here. There is definitely a harsher quality to this album when you compare it to ‘Der Ort’ and songs like the marvellous ‘October’ which had the courage to even incorporate female vocals, an aspect that is completely missing from this album, though a session drummer is used along the way to provide a juxtaposed performance by occasionally supplying more varied parts and then returning to styles of old with a repetitious role on songs like ‘Seaghost’, a track that definitely conjures memories of the defunct second wave and its use of really short and sharp riffs. The drumming, particularly the use of the hi-hat, can feel too timid on songs like ‘Seaghost’, but this doesn’t feel too detrimental to either the song, or the album in general. The vocals, which remind me of the old Enslaved style from their earliest albums, and the distorted guitars provide enough bite and backbone so that the timid drumming doesn’t affect upon the album negatively. As the years have gone by, both musicians, Tim in particular, have improved upon their recording techniques, producing some of their albums by themselves. The music here doesn’t suffer from their relative inexperience at the time at all and is a great debut from a great band.

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