Germany - Full Moon 128 - 03/04/07
Wir koennen ja Freunde bleiben
Hidden Shoal Recordings
I must confess to having a love-hate relationship with any music that I know I wouldn't be able to create in a million years, even with a million monkeys to help me out. Let's just say I hate Sankt Otten, meaning that I love them really, and that Hidden Shoal have continued their run of solid gold releases with this beauty from Germany.
I can remember when Portishead's Dummy came out, laying in bed with headphones on, listening to it for the first time. I literally felt myself elevating above the bed, just rapt that anyone could create music that was so bloody perfect in every respect. So luscious and evocative, so fucking beautiful.
But then, as I became more and more cynical, and I noticed that more and more people had albums like Massive Attack's Protection in their collection, even though I thought their music taste was shit, I started to realise that there's a very particular genre of music that loads of people can enjoy and yet still be artistically interesting enough for musos to wank over. They'll whip themselves for liking anything that the average schmo spins to death, but they'll also obsess over the fact that it's probably got a sample from a Norwegian porno soundtrack in the fade out to track four.
Massive Attack and Portishead are the prime examples of this, simply because loads of people have got an album or two in their collection amid the David Gray and Moby's fucking Play - but it's still great music. My mantra for my 30s will be: "I shall not force myself to hate something just because I know someone with shit music taste likes it too."
Sankt Otten fit rather nicely here, simply because they deserve to be heard and loved by loads of people, and seeing as this is paragraph four already, I suppose I'd better start writing about this album specifically. Ah, but you see that's the key with enjoying this kind of music - it evokes so many other things, draws on so many other genres, stirs in a whole heap of sounds and feelings. Do they do it well? Damn right they do.
Just listen to opening track and single "Fremdenzimmer". It's like Talk Talk trapped in a locked groove, and then used as a soundtrack to a film in which a spy falls in love with a ballet dancer. Or something. It's all very cinematic stuff, and smooth and lovely too.
The use of samples and instrumental shifts is incredibly effective, like the way the mannered string sample at the start of "Wenn die Musik verstummt" hangs on, goes all wibbly, and then breaks away with tense drums and tremoloed guitar as you find out that the spy is actually a robot from an alternative future where everyone is born with a cigar in their mouth.
My personal favourite is the title track, a simply beautiful soundtrack to floating in space while eating cornflakes. The wafting factor is cranked up to eleven, and then a weird string synth line comes through that makes you realise that the milk in space gets a bit chunky.
In short, Sankt Otten make the kind of music that sends film reels spinning in my head, and is ideal for driving around cities to, especially if you're wearing a trenchcoat, smoking a cigar, and are just about to meet up with a ballet dancer called Helga who needs rescuing from cornflake-eating robots from outer space...
Copyright © 2007 Tim Clarke