( kröter ) – *a, *b, *c

Posted: 27 December 2018 in Albums
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Christopher Nosnibor

I was forewarned. The note which accompanied the debut releases – yes, plural – three separate CDs released simultaneously – but experimental collective kröter – strongly recommended that listening was not (yes, underlined) to be attempted with a clear head. The note’s sender, one Mr Vast, began with an apology. ‘I’m really sorry to do this to you…’ he wrote. I don’t believe him. He knows I like weird, fucked-up shit. Although with this sprawling three-album effort, I can’t help but wonder If he’s testing me. If I struggle, how will anyone else handle this work of ambition beyond sanity?

Things get off to a good start, with a picked guitar, notes bent, weaving a soft melancholy. I suddenly jolt and look around: it sounds like my cats in pain in the next room. No, wait, it’s just the CD. That’s some crazy woodtrumpet noise. ‘Is that the cat?’ my wife calls from the next room. ‘No, it’s just the CD,’ I reply. ‘Thank goodness, it sounded like the cat was really ill.’ Seconds later, my daughter’s at my elbow asking if it’s the cat she can hear in my office. I explain it’s the CD, and she declares that she loves it. We’re less than two minutes in, not even one full track of twenty-seven played, and already these Kröter buggers are causing mayhem and breaking my flow.

The sparse, bass-led spoken-word sleaze of ‘Sebastian’ seems positively commercial by comparison, despite being, in real terms, claustrophobic and vaguely disturbing, the monotone narrative bordering on the psychotic. And the rest of the album is just as weird. All the shades of weird, from dislocated spoken word colliding with off-kilter electro-funk to minimal electro-pop that sounds like it’s melting as beats misfire in all directions and loops stutter and fracture like some kind of sonic seizure, with the lyrics veering from the surreal to the ultra-mundane by the verse.

Wibbly-wobbly weirdness abounds, shuddering, juddering analogue synthiness and all sorts of inexplicable dominate pieces that range from interludes of less than a minute in duration to expansive workouts. On *b, ‘Dogsick’ is a seven-minute spoken-word piece that delivers graphic details about the varying shades of the globules of canine vomit, mutating along the way to find Mr Vast come on like Peter Murphy against a backdrop of whacked-out trumpet action.

There’s wonky, fucked-up funk disco on the menu, too, alongside the 10-minute ultra-sparse blues exploration of ‘Tricky Task’ that goes kinda Pavement, kinda huh? as it progresses. It’s impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, the killer from the filler: this is simply an exercise on experimentalism, and you’ll like it or lump it and maybe like some or lump the rest, or, meh, who cares?

By disc three, my brain’s beyond bent: my daughter’s hassling for more songs that sound like that cat and I’m being battered with tunes from her new Pomsie, which are like cat disco and explaining that there probably isn’t another song on the planet like it isn’t being well-received, which is troublesome, especially as kröter do have some net tunes half-buried in the big mess of weird shit. Then again, ‘Telephone Rag’ starts out quite nicely, but rapidly descends into screaming madness, and ‘Opera Lift’ is all over, a nasally-delivered narrative carried by a slow-building post-rock / krautrock crossover with swelling choral backing vocals. I mean, how do you rationally process this? There is no rationality to the yelping dog loop freakiness of ‘Asumasite Huip’, or the Doors-meets-The-Fall plod of ‘Flageolet Beans’, or, indeed, any of this. And then tings go kinda strangely Bowie on the last track, ‘Awful Light’, which is arguably the best track on the entire set.

Kröter are the epitome, the encapsulation, the embodiment, the definition of niche. They’re the archetype of a band making music for their own entertainment. These three discs – which purport to contain ‘excepts’ from their sessions in Berlin in 2017 – may represent the best of their improvisations, or only a flavour, but nevertheless leave the question ‘just how much material did they get down?’ The questions unasked, perhaps ‘how much more are the likely to release?’ and ‘how much more do we need?’ The truth is, the world is always a better place for artists unconstrained by convention: it doesn’t matter whether or not you, or I, or anyone, like them – it’s about choice. It’s about expression. And commercial success is no measure of artistic merit. And if the artistic merit of the individual pieces on this insanely ambitious, sprawling effort varies immensely, it doesn’t actually matter, because the merit is in the scope, the ambition, and the fact it exists. They may have utterly screwed my brain, but the world is better for the fucked-up weirdness of kröter.

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