The name sounds a bit frightening, especially when you know that ‘bohren’ means ‘drill’ in German, and when you find out that the band comprises of Thorsten Benning, Morten Gass, Robin Rodenberg and Reiner Henseleit who hail from a hardcore provenance, but this is a case of a musical bark being much worse than its bite. With album titles like Gore Motel and records that take inspiration from the mind of a serial killer, it’s not – by any means – sweetness and light. In fact, Bohren and der Club of Gore is about as dark as you can get without creating a lot of racket. The guys call it “doom-ridden jazz music” and I love everything about this band from their album artwork to their consistent and yet evolving style.
The music has changed somewhat from the early years when one of the founding members of the band, Reiner Henseleit left. It’s still slow and dark but Christoph Clöser’s sax replaced Henseleit’s deep and resonant guitar in 1997 and ever since, the music has transformed into something more cinematic, less doom – more jazz. The first album with Clöser was Sunset Mission – a personal favourite of mine. Listening to Prowler you can imagine that you’re a character in some sleazy, noir-crime adventure, wandering the streets late at night when everyone else has gone to bed. It’s lonely music, but warm and melodious enough to keep you company. With the next two albums, Black Earth and Geisterfaust, the tempo got slower and the melodies became more drawn out than ever, resulting in two albums that offer the listener the most reduced, extreme and yet recognisable style that the band had, by then, become known for.
With Dolores in 2008, things changed again. The band describes this album as if “the shutters are being raised, the windows thrown open, fresh air and sunlight are flooding into the room.” Higher pitched melodies and lighter vibraphones seem to help this feeling along. Drowned in Sound‘s reviewer Chris Power said that “Bohren still tap into precisely the same wee small hours blend of sexuality, battered glamour, mournfulness and undefined threat that Badalamenti’s compositions evoke.” However, I think that the lightness of not only instrumentation but composition of this album make it the least like Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks work. I guess it’s personal, but I think Black Earth and Sunset Mission most closely resemble the underlying menace of the Twin Peaks score. Dolores, particularly the track Schwarze Biene seems to have influenced Mike Patton’s score for Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines. The percussion and uplifting chord progressions remind me a lot of that OST – which is by the way – fantastic. And speaking of Mike Patton, he provided the vocals for the Bohren cover of the Warlock’s Catch my Heart from the Beileid album.
I have been listening to the new album Piano Nights, due to be released on with PIAS records on Friday. It’s more of the same awesome, ambient jazz that Bohren has truly made their own and yet it’s got a new flavour that sets it apart from any previous records. I particularly love the use of the synth choir, organ and reed-heavy sounds they’ve adopted for this album. The dirge-like Segeln Ohne Wind is quite unique; uplifting and melancholic all at once. As ever, I am enamoured with Clöser’s saxophone stylings and the whole band’s delicate touch when it comes instrumentation. I interviewed Christoph Clöser recently for 15 Questions and my favourite quote by far is “We think, the listener should enjoy the music/concert and follow his inner cinema. We follow ours.”
Bohren and der Club of Gore is cinematic music. It paints a definitive picture, visually and emotionally, and takes you somewhere else. To a place where the band is playing in the corner of a darkened club with low ceilings,where the waitresses are slovenly and the whisky is cheap. Well, that’s where my inner-cinema takes me.