Artist: Kammerflimmer Kollektief
Genre: Avant-Garde Jazz, Future Jazz
Year Of Release: 2015
Quality: FLAC (tracks)
1. Désarroi #1: Mayhem!
2. Désarroi #2: Grundstürzend
3. Free Form Freak-Out
4. Evol Jam (Edit)
5. Désarroi #3: Burned
6. Désarroi #4: Unlösbar
7. Désarroi #5: Saumselig 2
8. Zurück zum Beton
9. Désarroi #6: Mayhem! (Reprise)
The thrill of meshing established genres and performance styles together surely comes when a particular approach works unexpectedly, when there is a genuine moment of excitement that transforms the way an artist thinks about their composition by bringing fresh ideas to their technique. Désarroi is the 10th album from Kammerflimmer Kollektief, and it comes on the back of a discovery spanning experiments in improvisation, free-jazz, dub, folk, and psychedelic rock. If nothing else, KK are a persistent outfit who must have felt that thrill countless times throughout their 19-year history, and it must have resounded deeply with their fan base when they proclaimed this album to be their wildest record to date.
Fronted by multi-instrumentalist and founding member Thomas Weber, the German sextet swiftly became a melting pot of stylistic intent. Initially conceived through an affinity for hip-hop, punk, and electronic music, the band’s reputation for playing unpredictable shows and their highly publicized jam sessions meant that they soon developed a non-conformist stature while laying the foundations for the Bavarian experimental scene.
It’s fascinating to trace the shape of the band’s output across the last two decades, at least in an attempt to uncover the genesis of Désarroi’s peculiar aesthetic. KK’s music is frequently deemed to bear “soundscape” qualities, and the makeup of each track here points to a reactive technique that’s rooted in the alteration of cities and towns that they’ve occupied in the past. Along the way, there are references to Can, Neu!, and even Bohren & der Club of Gore, which are balanced with a continued enthusiasm for electronics and sampling. This often provides space for the double-bass, guitar, and harmonium mainstays to breathe, giving the band their own distinctive flavor. It’s taken different forms over the years, but it feels like this might be a defining statement of sorts.
Désarroi certainly expands on those predilections, but it retains a constricted focus. The album not only embodies a sprawl of ambient jazz fragments (for which the band has become most renowned), but it also features an S.Y.P.H cover and a Zero 7-style pop rendition. These are interesting approaches within an accustomed framework, sure, but the they never really surprise or challenge the listener’s expectation as to where the sound might take them. Désarroi is a safe album in every sense, and when you take into account the versatility of musical aspiration and the possibilities all poised to pounce, that’s a little disappointing.
The album starts to show signs of a diluted lunacy on “Désarroi #4: unlösbar” (and there is an apparent interest in exhibiting a lack of control across the track list): the double-bass strings hum and shriek to a backdrop of metallic percussion and distorted loops that flay and tangle before ending in a high-frequency reverie. It’s a positively charming few moments that cease as abruptly as they began, a hint at the album’s potential that precedes a fade into nothing. Sadly, it’s the closest inkling of a Eureka! moment if there ever was one, although it does alter one’s attitude to the surrounding tracks. The fractured rumble of strings and concluding ambiance of “Désarroi #5: saumselig” suggest an avant revival, as the faint vocal interjections on “Désarroi #3: burned” remain a distant memory. And although there are some compelling ideas here, Désarroi dwindles away on the final track — that S.Y.P.H cover — simmering and cooling without impact, yearning for that invaluable spark that Weber often seems so damn keen to ignite.