Borngräber & Strüver – Clouds

Immediately you know this is a release endowed with some High Magicke as well as a ridiculous amount of confidence

Oh what bliss, a new Borngräber & Strüver release. Their previous two LPs, Urlaub and In G are personal favourites of mine, what with their pumping, velvet clad beats and treacly synths. This is a completely different beast however, a sort of slow motion mash up. As magnificently brooding a record as you’re likely to hear in a while; we start with the soft, implacable and seemingly never-ending Wellen (Waves), conjuring up images of the sun rising over some monstrous city in the Ruhr belt. It’s just huge: and the soprano’s treated vocal adds a plaintive note that somehow blends in to all the phasing. Immediately you know this is a release endowed with some High Magicke as well as a ridiculous amount of confidence. Mobile is a pernickety track that is also funny in its relentless picking up one rhythmical flourish (apparently from Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote) and running with it for what seems like an hour. Like a dog with a bone the two can’t bear to drop this increasingly distressed, fractured detail and leave it in peace.In that it bears  a remarkable similarity to Dutch composer Lois Andriessen's 1971 piece, In Memoriam (check that out, chin strokers!). Bells is a more meditative affair, redolent of a walk through fog-bound woods, dripping branches, the earth wet underfoot…. A piano part plays host in this track to a whole set of background noises, field recordings and other strange guests. It’s got a feel of Eno, but Eno as a sort of freeform jazz composer.

Following that we have a three part track: Clouds 1-3, which is a brilliant essay in a whole host of classical and modernist conceits: we have chamber music, hesitant atonal passages, stabs at assertive modern classical structures (which sound like some sort of reverb-heavy Philip Glass piece) or gnomic blurts of Musique Concrète. There are even bits that sound like incidental music for a stage play. It’s all good, entertaining stuff. This bit (in 3) does remind me of Basil Kirchin, (without the pop pastiche bits), but that’s no bad thing either.

This mix of high classical and hard electronics has been done before in Germany of course, there’s a huge precedent: Stockhausen, Faust with Tony Conrad’s Outside the Dream Academy, Zeit, Harmonia’s Sehr Kosmische, Black Dance, bits of the Cosmic Jokers/ Ash Ra Tempel Swiss scene with Krishna Von Golowka… you could even chuck in a Gorecki symphony or two. Or have a listen to Nils Frahm or some of the things coming out on Erased Tapes. This means that in some ways, Clouds can sound more confident, take more risks, and look at taking this tradition and standing it on its head. I’m glad to report that it tries its best in this, and keeps its sense of humour intact.