BOHREN & DER CLUB OF GORE- ‘Patchouli Blue’

By their own admission, Bohren & Der Club of Gore have a modus operandi. Almost 30 years and now eight albums into their career, the German trio know what they’re doing, and they aren’t afraid to do it over and over and over again. Whether they get called dark ambient, jazz noir, or “the gentlest black metal band on earth”, they plot, they play, and they produce each of their records in much the same way. ‘Patchouli Blue’ sticks to the plan.

That means more extremely slow rolling drama and downtempo doom. More brushed drums, sparse synths, and Christoph Clöser’s smooth saxophone leading the way. Never any vocals. There’s every chance that by the time seven-minute opener ‘Total Falsch’ lopes to a close, some folks will have had their full. There’s nothing here for a hyper-modern attention span and this certainly isn’t a record that will convert those that previously passed on the band. For everyone in sync with Bohren’s beat though, there is so much to love.

‘Total Falsch’ is, in fact, classic Bohren, somehow both crystal clear and under a fog so thick you can practically taste it, ‘Glaub Mir Kein Wort’ is melancholy in a fitted dinner jacket, like a slow-motion Bond theme, and the rubbery bass at the end of ‘Sollen Es Doch Alle Wissen’ might be worth the price of admission alone. Where ‘Verwirrung am Strand’ initially veers dangerously close to jazz club parody it slowly unfurls into something beautiful, and if ‘Deine Kuisine’, one of the shortest songs here, sticks outs for relatively jogging along, at least it throws the curtains wide open, one of the lightest tracks too. 

So far, so familiar, so reliable, but one new, perhaps unintended but very welcome ingredient is a serious sci-fi vibe. Bohren have always been fit for a soundtrack but instead of the usual wistful, film noir images they conjure up, here they paint in neon pink and electric blue. The title track (Bohren’s first such thing) is loaded with sustained synth notes and tension, ‘Vergessen & Vorbei’ leans even further in, background music for the most somber parts of the next Blade Runner movie, and the last, chilling half of ‘Sag Mir, Wie Lang’ could give John Carpenter a run for his money.

Still, it’s hard to recommend any of these as single songs. ‘Patchouli Blue’ works best in bigger chunks, all at once if possible. As neatly constructed as each part is, none will have the same power standing on their own. Unabridged, there’s ebb and flow, darkness and glow- the shorter, loungier, still wordless but somehow more conversational tracks working in partnership with the longer, deeper and darker ones. And the whole thing a trip worth taking over and over and over again. Modus operandi, indeed.

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