Hans Joachim Irmler, organ player from Faust, is one of the more “interesting” of this famed German Polydor combo who subverted reality in the 1970s, in that at least he’s gone on to do worthwhile and adventurous experimental things rather than just touring a tired old “rock” act until his beard grows long and spindly. Today we have a foray by him into the world of classical chamber music, in the form of Die Gesänge Des Maldoror (KLANGBAD 75), co-credited to Carl Friedrich Oesterhelt, keyboard whizz and percussionist. Oesterhelt played in Merricks in the 1990s, but will be more well-known to many readers as the drummer and song-writer in Freiwiliige Selbstkontrolle (or F.S.K.), primo heroes of the vibrant NDW scene.
On this record, a small chamber ensemble (featuring members of the Modern String Quartet) play these six compositions, tunes which are occasionally decorated with vocal recits from Schorsch Kamerun, and often feature mad organ riffs and drones and intense pounding drumbeats. The original source material for this conceptual work Les Chants De Maldoror, a late 19th-century piece of poetic loopiness penned by the French poet Isidore-Lucien Ducasse under his pseudonym Le Comte de Lautréamont, was of course famously picked up the Surrealist painters and poets in the 1920s. Some of them may have liked its extreme anarchic and anti-authoritarian themes, others may have enjoyed its wayward style which refused to follow logic or make any narrative sense. However, I suspect Irmler’s mostly interested in the character of Maldoror himself, a figure of pure nihilistic evil, enemy of all humanity, lacking any sort of moral compass, and a fantastic “Do What Thou Wilt” styled figure who set himself above God and Satan alike. That may be old Malders on the cover there – a stern visage which could just as well be a photo of half a red cabbage resembling a face. That’s certainly the Maldster on the insert (see below), in an overwrought drawing which depicts him swaggering proudly over some damned souls in a subterranean setting, with evil devil dogs at his feet.
The original Chants De Maldoror drew some inspiration from Gothic fiction (those hysterical genre horror novels of the 18th century), and from Goethe’s Faust; need I say more…Irmler may be trying to reconnect himself, intellectually at least, with Faust, rekindling the original wild spirit of the 1970s band he thought he was joining, what with their X-Ray Fists promoting people power and anarchy in the streets, and those secret meetings in the woods where they made some sort of occult pact with each other. On the other hand, not much of that anarchy shows up in the music here, which is immaculately composed and performed and has a certain stiffness that one wouldn’t immediately associate with the loose-limbed band of hairy loons that produced the chaotic “Faust Clear” album. There’s still some evil lurking here, though. I can’t quite put my finger on where it’s coming from…perhaps the dark carnival vibe of the first track, with its martial percussion and diabolical fairground organ, or the nasty mixed chords of the string players summoning up a whirlwind of disaster. Or the sordid cabaret piano on the second track, which conjures images of decadence that would make Christopher Isherwood blush. And even though ‘Dritter Gesang’, the third track, may appear like conventional classical music, it feels laced with melancholy, paranoia, and poisonous thoughts, like a direct inversion of all that’s wholesome about European conservatoire music. Them as wants unsettling keyboard and organ experiments best flick to ‘Vierter Gesang’ for some tasty explorations of desolation performed on the old 88, while on the ‘Funfter Gesang’ that organ has transformed into a lumbering beast bent on escaping from the cathedral by means of distortion and loud volume, billowing black smoke into the congregation.
It’s not easy for me to join all this up, especially since the press notes are all written in German, but I choose to interpret this record as a visionary warning, a prediction of terrible times to come as the uncontrollable forces of capitalism increase their stranglehold on the populace over the next 20 years. The devil walks the earth now in the form of an unholy alliance of businessmen with politicians, sucking out our very lifeblood and converting it into digital information for resale to other butchers…which is one reason why I won’t carry around a Smartphone that allows others to steal my soul. Rant! Rave! Well, back into the rubber room for me…but the rest of you sane people, please do hear a copy of this. From 30th August 2017.
P.S. the Klangbad Bandcamp page has two bonus tracks not on the CD.