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Bohren & Der Club of Gore: Geisterfaust

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The four Germans in self-described “horror jazz” outfit Bohren & Der Club of Gore aren’t so much jazz musicians influenced by rock as they are “drunken metalheads” who’ve opted for In a Silent Way-type instrumentation. Bohren keyboardist-bassist Morten Gass says that 2004’s glacially paced Black Earth is a “doom record.” Yet that album sounds like cocktail bop in comparison to new follow-up Geisterfaust, the culmination of Bohren’s trend away from blues-based gestures.

On the quartet’s latest, its fifth full-length, Bohren saxophonist Christoph Closer leaves his horn in the case for all but the final song, “Kleiner Finger,” opting to focus on electric piano and vibraphone. Closer’s tenor sax may be the band’s strongest idiomatic signifier, but it was also the music’s most obvious source of melody. And without it Bohren’s languid, improvisation-free tunes are reduced to a series of pulses-each one given ample space to resonate and breathe before the next one is played.

If Black Earth is sparse, Geisterfaust is a wasteland: horrific, perhaps, but too melodically barren to make for true jazz. Regard it instead as modern metal rendered as quietly and beautifully as possible.