German analogue/digital duo’s debut rouses with an irresistible call to the fray
The Wild Hunt. That’s what Die Wilde Jagd means. Deeply embedded in the German and northern European subconscious, it harks back to an ancient myth that tells of raucous, jeering hunters from the netherworld, whose path should not be crossed. They rove the forest every year during the Rauhnächte, those harsh nights between Christmas and Epiphany.
So far so Wagnerian you might think, but fear not, this is music that wears its folkloric references lightly. Düsseldorf’s Ralf Beck and Berliner Sebastian Lee Philipp chose the moniker for their new project because many of their rehearsal sessions took place during the Rauhnächte at Beck’s enviably well equipped studio, replete with his collection of old analogue synths and effects pedals.
But this is no exercise in nostalgia. And while it certainly references the more recent past of the legendary krautrock era, its combination of precise digital clarity – think the percussive sharpness of Gudrun Gut or Mouse On Mars maybe – and the freer, guitar-led meanderings of Teutonic forebears like Pyrolator and Kluster, make it a thrillingly “neu” listen.
For a debut album especially, the production values on show here seem exceptionally high, though that’s probably explained by the already strong pedigrees of both Beck (a much in-demand producer who also records as Unit 4 and as half of Nalin & Kane) and Philipp (composer and part of electro-wave duo Noblesse Oblige). The digital synth effects are right on-the-nose and bring a sculpted, pine-crystal freshness. Add those to fuzzy guitar loops and cavernously deep, reverb-heavy analogue textures, and you’ve got some sense of what’s on offer here.
‘Wah Wah Wallenstein’ sets out the record’s intent with cracking immediacy, laden as it is with taut percussion, bouncy basslines and echoed, reiterated vocal simplicity. “C’mon, c’mon,” you’re implored throughout. Only a fool could resist this rhythmically propulsive lure to the chase, particularly when the herald call comes from some giddily piped mountain horn/kazoo hybrid. ‘Jagd Auf Den Hirsch’ repeats all of these thrills and then adds more, finishing with a wonderful flourish of cymbal heavy, free-jazz inflected drumming of the highest order.
It’s this musical breadth that will no doubt get this debut noticed. Yes, the bass thrums and the bleeps crackle and morph into all manner of squelchiness. But you’re regularly blindsided by unexpected shifts in tone, emphasis and tempo. Swathes of analogue keyboard washes carry a lovely euphoric optimism on the outstanding ‘Austerlitz’, for example, which recalls La Düsseldorf’s ‘Silver Cloud’ with real pomp. And there’s even a funk bass from the Bootsy Collins school on ‘Torpedovogel’ that excites with chaotic wonkiness.
They’ve got something, these two. Never predictable, and certainly never repetitive, the verve with which they’ve delivered this debut promises much.