July 19, 2024

Caspar Brötzmann Massaker – “Der Abend Der Schwarzen Folklore” / “Koksofen” – screaming jazz feedback and heavy rock

Southern Lord 19th July 2019

A fascinating experimental guitarist in the heavy mode, Caspar Brotzmann plays with shapes and sound over four lengthy tracks on the first of these offerings, 1992’s Der Abend Der Schwarzen Folklore (The Evening of Black Folklore). His band is called Massaker (‘Massacre’) and are a trio playing loud and spacey, the results are a bit prog, a bit jazz, very heavy and, for me, tinged with the history of the place. Recorded in Conny Plank’s studio, near Cologne, I like to think the exploratory spirit of Can hung over proceedings. The nature of a guitar / drums / bass trio is the ability to turn on a dime and to listen with care to the others. The playing is in accord and sonically exciting, exploring new spaces. Drums may beat but they may pound instead or tread so slowly they nearly stumble. Influenced, apparently, by Caspar David Friedrich, the Romantic painter (you know the one of the tail-coated wanderer on a hill, above a sea of mist…..). It sounds all a bit Nietzsche but is more primal, more a response to natural forces – earthquakes, hard wind, implacable heavy crushing ice floes. Very atmospheric, as the guitar spins out plumes of feedback, buzzes, rumbles, rides on its own grumbling volume. A few lyrics surface but are mood pieces more than the focus of the pieces.

It’s a bit of a discovery for me, this and it’ll appeal to anyone who likes the heavier end of Krautrock, Earth or just quality semi-improv.

The second album, Koksofen, followed in 1993 and is a little more conventional but only a little. It is a bit more bone-crunchingly rock but still full of piss and vinegar. A Coke Oven is, of course a blast furnace. This furnace is full of the sort of noises a guitar only makes if over-amped, abused, and allowed to howl. Hymne, the opener is slow and sparse, yet when the noise breaks through I can hear paint blistering off the amplifiers. There are menacing sounds and hoarse spoken vocals. Wiege is more traditionally churning black metal but with the added fun of the intense additional incendiary guitar squalls. Kerkersong has great jazzy break-beats driving the chanting and nigglingly propulsive guitar. Recorded in difficult times, this album is intimidating and over-powering. Schlaf is the least sleep-like track and sounds as if heavy objects are falling to pieces around – drums scatter, guitar howls in bleeding feedback and the bass wanders gloomy forests.

Of the two, I’d pick Der Abend Der Schwarzen Folklore because the emphasis is more on the exploratory than rock volume but both are crushingly excellent experimental heavy music.

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