Music Reviews

Artist: Irmler / Oesterhelt
Title: Die Gesänge des Maldoror
Format: CD & Vinyl
Label: Klangbad
Assuming my German is just about adequate enough to understand the press release correctly, “Die GesÄnge des Maldoror” is a mostly-instrumental musical setting inspired by the six cantos of the influential Isidore-Lucien Ducasse writings of the same name from 1869.

It’s a startling and dynamic six-part epic composition combining a compact traditional orchestra with a sprinkling of added ingredients ranging from prog rock-style heavily effected guitar through to electronic ambience.

After a deceptively calm start, the first and longest part is a multi-sectioned affair full of percussive shifts and tension, with a theatrical flavour. The short second part pushes the prog rock elements and will appeal to King Crimson fans, before the third part shifts gear boldly into a pared back near-minimalist environment of soft drone, distant indistinct solo choral voices and gentle bells- towards the end of which, the German spoken-word reading of the text sharply jolts the listener’s complacency.

In some ways, the second half mirrors the first. The fourth part brings back the orchestra, with gentle plucked strings, before yet another unexpected diversion into analogue synth noodling reminiscent of very early Kraftwerk, that then somehow hops into downtempo jazz. The fifth part, another highlight, loops us back round to the rock guitar, with added sharp-edged cuts and distortions, which fades as the more conventional orchestra returns, before the sixth and final part offers us a sombre analogue-electronics-heavy finale.

Every time you think you’ve settled into the listening experience of this album, things shift- but in a non-brutal way that keeps you along for the ride. It’s a fascinating, expansive, melodramatic and high-budget affair which deserves a lot of attention.

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