METABOLISMUS: “Sprießwärtsdrall” ****

Recorded 1995-98



More of a congregation of like-minded musicians than a ‘band’, Metabolismus is a moniker centered on Stuttgart-based personalities of Thilo Kuhn (guitar, organ), Werner Nötzel (guitar, strings) and Thomas Schätzl (bass, guitar).  They began taping their musical trial and error in early 1990s, occasionally publishing the fruit of their sessions on limited series cassettes, vinyl and, more recently, mini-CDs. 


Purposefully or not, their records usually juxtapose sessions realized years apart – in slightly different line-ups and certainly different stages in their musical and non-musical lives.  Their early attempts trod all over the ground – from Kim Fowley to Beefheart to folk, but by late 1990s, Metabolismus found their own voice.  In constant (metabolic) evolution, they successfully transformed the myriad of influences into an appealing, non-schematic eclecticism.  Although experimental in intention, the music proves to be quite relaxing in its impact, not least thanks to intoxicating, syncopated rhythms. 


Michael Paukner and Dietmar Köhle regularly show up on Metabolismus’ recordings.  Samara Lubelski appeared on at least two records in the late 1990s. 




The record begins with a host of sonic ephemera: hyperreal drumstick gouache, speed-reformulated vitreous effects, equidistant from sprints and molasses.  An energy-transforming modulator looms, exhibiting a range from sizzling to wooly to ghoulish.  This rather detached display of associationist electronics comes packaged with some acoustic guitar strumming. 


Schnee von gestern

From this spatiotemporal domain originates a rhythmic pattern.  Twined with a quaintly non-resonant electric guitar it yields to a concatenated metric evolution, mostly aptly assigned to the heritage of Karuna Khyal.  As it snakes surreptitiously, a sarod-like vibration condensates along the metric line.  The dosage of rhythmic subpatterns becomes effortlessly self-looping and quasi-periodic.  Thin veneers are overlaid – an eerie string here (Werner Nötzel), bird chirping-like whistling there.  Gradually, the increased dynamic begins to carry a heavier ballast, but in a controlled fashion.  An overloaded guitar gasps and, finally, the rhythm breaks down into micro-buzz.



We are treated with wind effects and gnarled ”clavinet“ notes shinning up and down the scale.  Very dovish, discrete distribution of percussive sounds clicks and clocks behind.  We can detect a broader, almost larval rhythm figure here, unconsciously recreating what should be an electric bass line.  Alternatively, we may be falling victim to auditory illusion generated by the highest note that the keyboard obsessively repeats, spawning (usually rewarded) metric expectations.  When it fails to do so, some analog synthesizer deposits a feline complaint.  The woozy synth magnetizes the overall effect with a very 1970s hue, traipsing in and out of audible space. 



Temple blocks make a premonitory call.  More elements will disambiguate East Asian memories – summer night crickets and distant ‘Buddhist trumpet’ (probably keyboard-generated).  Not only has the foggy melody a form of an East Asian song, but so does the string tuning.  Glassy overtones submerge everything else, but a stealthy, abiotic entity intones again a vague theme.


Walzstrom aus Partikeln (Dies tat er besser nicht getan)

An augurious, Epicurean melody dipped in 1980s geri reig sauce comes all complete with electro-guzzle and hollow, purposefully amateurish drumming (Andreas Pintore).  A text is half-sung – almost murmured, making a mockery out of German Sprechgesang tradition.  Horns, pseudo-cosmic bleepery and celeste tinkle enrich somewhat the texture of this NDW nostalgia.  But the tardy, impassive pace does not make it melancholic enough to evoke Legendary Pink Dots – the ultimate epigones of the era. 


Mehr genuß durch Stereo

Here Metabolismus goes buffoonish.  With a sense of humor worth of Tony Tani, Daevid Allen or Fontaine-Areski, they tackle the epiphenomenalism of “stereo”.  After an innocent intro scored for a saxophone, children’s voices, and a circulating Flugzeug, a grown-up girl asks an imperturbable Expert about the difference between stereo and mono.  Her sonic virginity is open to learn, provided the exposé is not too “scientific”.  The “professor” politely thrusts forward, challenging the girl to identify the sounds panning between the left and right channel.  The ‘sounds’ in question are electronic in a way that Luc Marianni’s or Dominique Lawalree’s electronic organ tales were – playful, melodic, downy, viscuous, nostalgic, infantile…



A pleasant nursery tune, performed on keyboards with rhythm box that (surprise!) does not annoy.  The benign, comforting flow is further softened by chirping larks, buzzing swarms, after-sunset amphibians and nocturnal orthopera.  An unassertive, candlelight theme flows from the organ (Thilo Kuhn).  Flat bell cymbals and a singing aviary close this impromptu.



A miniature littered with gurgling rocket lift-offs, gyromagnetic reverbs and stop-go cosmogenetic circuit effects.  A dig to Louis and Bebe Barron, maybe.


A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing

Can’s Idealtyp towers high above many German artists.  From snippets sneaked into Wim Wenders’s movies to panegyrics formulated by pop stars (Grönemeyer) – the band from Köln has been engraved on the firmament of the “decade that good taste forgot”.  And yet, Metabolismus’ tribute to the legendary Can-styled propulsion rises above the bastardizing (and very global) competition.  On this track, the familiarity effect stems from Karoli-type guitar phrasing, murmured vocal and understated, iterative pulse.  But the planar keyboard appears more potent than Schmidt’s and there is more chroma added to the appropriately blunted mix.  Acoustic guitar repeats a simple figure and glockenspiel insolates the upbeat atmosphere.  As far as homage to 1974 goes, Metabolismus ranks among the very best – up there with esoteric SYPH and dusky Circle.  



A short intro on ‘celeste’ brings on another metric run.  It chugs along like an old, reliable locomotive with its crankshafts lubricated by bass guitar, a very basic drum kit, and guitar hitches.  Intriguingly, the melodic contour is delineated by the bass (Thomas Schätzl).  Keyboards punctuate the engine’s heavy breath and ramp up inorganic sonority.  Then the ‘vibraphone’ notes return, mounting the entire scale until a rather digital sounding Yamaha closes the record. 





Literally each of Metabolismus’ records is peppered with output from various sessions.  The recent reincarnation is promising and new Tonträger are apparently in preparation. 


METABOLISMUS: “Rauchzeichen anstelle einer Quietschneente” (1991-96)

METABOLISMUS: “Wonderful, Dangerous, Confusing, or What” (1994, 1996)

METABOLISMUS: “Terra incognita” (1996)

METABOLISMUS: “Sprießwärtsdrall” (1995-98)

METABOLISMUS: “Von Anker” (2006)


Reportedly, there exist many other positions of questionable availability.  


Metabolismus should not be confused with British post-punk avant-garde legend Metabolist. 


Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 9:59 am  Comments (1)  
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ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” ****


Recorded 2006, 2007



The juicy name and squelchy logo hide the considerable talent of keyboard player Dirk Jan Müller who since the early 1990s has been recording increasingly inspired jams in volatile constellations.  But mid-1990s he was joined by guitarist Dirk Bittner, but it took several more years before the core of the currently active band took shape.


Electric Orange seeks inspiration in the long tradition of rock jamming, but often straying from the well-trodden format into unexpectedly hooked arrangements and exploratory parentheses.  For all those who miss the extraordinary inventiveness of German music over a generation ago, Electric Orange brings a whiff of fresh air, albeit with an aura of healthy déjà vu.


Unfortunately, the musicians insist on filling the available CD space with some marginal material, which somewhat mars the coherence of the sets.





We are transported into the unconscious world of childhood memories filled with amusement park hubbub – merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, cheesy itinerant businesses.  Regrettably, this evocative anaphora leads nowhere…  Sudden assault comes from a tribal drumming circle that flails its way indefatigably with the hoof-like precision.  Jagging guitar sound and a Hammond-soundalike localize the ghosts of their stylistic patrons.  An extraordinary power emanates from the band – unwavering, tight and compressed.  When the organ begins to chuckle on its own bobsled ride, the Second Hand’s supreme “Death May Be Your Santa Claus” comes to mind.  The potent chug-along is vibrant and jubilant, quite unlike the title (“delusion”). 


Rote Flocken

Electronic hairpin serpentines open with pre-recorded, tinny voices in heraus-pronounced German.  The organ cradles us in a comfy rut allowing the guitars to explore various registers.  Snippets of distorted recitation probe the über-conventional organ & guitar riffing.  Impotent trumpet, piano strings, unidentifiable samples and percussive glimmer penetrate the herringbone structure of this track. 


Span 5

In a natural segue, a more resonant guitar grit punctures the trippy organ – bass – drumset perfection.  The crystal clear mix allows our senses to tune into the various guitar pitches simultaneously.  On top of the range, distant wah-wah scrambles for attention in a patchy cooperation with eerily evocative organ (Dirk Jan Müller must have grown up on young Richard Wright’s fastidious harmonizing).  Silvo Franolic’s cymbal splashes pile up layers of dense cloud formations.  The rest of the band needs to soar above these vigorous explosions.  And soar it does.



The title track sounds like a tribute to Brainticket’s organ-led vortex, spinning tenaciously with the ease of “Cottonwoodhill” and taking us for a whirring steamroller ride.  Deposits of annunciatory voices are laid behind these gyrations, while a strained, pentatonic recorder bores holes in this cylindrical domain.  A full-scale guitar cum organ convulsion bursts in flames, only to reveal the unstoppable magmatic flow.  Screechy recorders will have the last word.



Initially, the organ, guitar, bass and drums quartet adopts a more leisurely, trotting pace.  In a monumental entrée, the rhythm section veers off towards the ecstasy of vertigo-inducing passages.  Tom Rückwald appears on bowed acoustic bass, doubled on choir-emulating mellotron.  Silvio Franolic treats his plump drums and tinkling cymbals with measured, downy mallets.  Bittner’s voice is full of painful agony, but despite its menacing quality, the uncanny, tubular vocal carries also crosstextual messages from a long-lost pedigree (e.g. Silberbart, 2066 & Then).  Mellotron’s fake celestial strings close this pleasant déjà entendu



Acoustic guitar succumbs to a sound forest of hand drums, cortales, and thrown coins.  A funky interaction arises from the thumping electric bass and teasing soft rolls harvested with brushes by the drummer.  The band unleashes sonic debris – stereotyped ‘Bahnhof’ announcements, flippant effects from someone’s oral cavity, persuasive girls, manual tooth brushing, an old-time alarm clock, an electric shaver.  But underneath, this is but a circular funky rondo – a fairly conventional musical joke.



We are now almost on a midsummer, Latin party terrain.  When the initial frenzy clears, a female voice adapts to the reigning climactic condition.  The hyperactive, but harmless, blithe beach guitars are reminiscent of latter-day Can’s dubious explorations into oases of rhythmic optimism.  Several isolated notes on a Spanish guitar shut this chapter.



After this 2-track parenthesis, the mood turns again, courtesy a threatening harmonium.  This catatonic instrument, rescued from oblivion 30 years ago by Univers Zero, is accompanied here by an intimate guitar, organ, drums and flute.  Electric Orange brings yet other memories of their nation’s formative Blütezeit.  The way the dispassionate recitation has been mixed in brings to mind the declamations by Walter Wegmüller or Sergius Golowin.  Acoustic bass and breathy flute frame the structure, supported by molten organ, much like early Gila – both in gesture and in form. 



First, vitreous sound of unknown provenience.  Next, a very international sound of a noisy schoolyard.  Then, sustained bass notes and mysterious harmonium gear the band to inchoate harmonic trajectory.  All these attempts are instantly spoiled by monorhythmic swelling and an angular organ chord.  This is a disappointing moment – the band creates anticipation that it does not live up to for several long minutes.  The prominence of the organ layer does not allow the muscular rhythm section to generate a punch worthy of Neu’s “Negativland” or Glenn Branca’s “Ascension”.  And even then, the idea would have been epigonic.  When Bittner’s singing breaks in, one is seriously puzzled – not sure if this is a parody, a dance number or a piece of failed space rock trapped in the troposphere and unable to overcome earthly gravity.  The harmonium and synthesizer fail to save the day, as the formulaic, isometric pounding is never too far behind. 



This is a ballad for acoustic guitar and bass, delivered with a slightly distorted, rippling voice.  The apparent ingredients are there (mellotron, and flute), but the tune correlates poorly with the stronger moments on this CD. 



Crippling electronic intro yields to an official pre-announcement worthy of West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band.  Fast bongo runs and a pulsating bass leave much space – enough for the organ and guitar to accentuate the beat.  Each time the guitar repeats its two-chord routine, the bongo woodpecker wakes up.  Additional distortion is provided by simmering synthesizer effects. 



Waves of low amplitude electronics wash on a sailboat fitted with organ and bass.  A toned down organ coupled with Josef Ahns’ ascending flute legato has many precedents: Ove Volquartz of Annexus Quam (“Beziehungen”), Herb Geller of Brave New World (“Impressions on Reading Aldous Huxley”) or Rainer Büchel of Ibliss (“Supernova”).  This engaging opening gives way to sub-Saharan hand drum and echoplexed guitar, with the organ ensuring further continuity.  In the final bars, a highly pitched guitar improvises until the final cut. 






ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Electric Orange” (1992-1993)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Orange Commutation” (1993-1994)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Cyberdelic” (1995)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Abgelaufen” (2001)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Platte” (2003)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Fleischwerk” (2004-2005)

ELECTRIC ORANGE: “Morbus” (2006-2007)


I have not heard the first three positions.  The general impression is that the band’s inventiveness has progressed on the most recent CDs.  “Morbus” was mastered by Eroc, krautrock’s ultimate studio joker.

Published in: on June 30, 2008 at 8:04 pm  Leave a Comment  
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