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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
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Castle Talk
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The Walkmen - Lisbon
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Fat Possum
Sankt Otten
Wunden Gibt Es Immer Wieder
Hidden Shoal

Rating: 4.8/10 ?

February 18, 2008
The music of German duo Sankt Otten is synonymous with water. It is awash with trickling guitars, shimmering keys and gently lapping bass pulses, its chords swelling like flooded rivers and quietly receding like ocean tides. When, toward the end of the first half of Wunden Gibt Es Immer Wieder, an earthy riff creeps through the mix, it makes for a complacency-shattering jolt; amidst all the liquid sloshing around the record, the band's second for Western Australian label Hidden Shoal Recordings, that bass, a solid, dirty intrusion on the pristine "Die Unvernueftigen Sterben Aus," is a rude disturbance to the record's languid drift. But any hope inspired turns out to be false - that bass line wanders through a few slow and apparently purposeless repetitions before inelegantly departing - but the moment of tangibility is a welcome detour away from the too-pervasive aural mist.

There is a German saying "Stille Wasser sind tief," or, as it is rendered in English: Still waters run deep. Such seems to be the hope of Sankt Otten (indeed, the final track on this album is titled "Stille Wasser"), that out of the band's sinuous textures will emerge some entrancing beauty, a moment of loveliness to justify the languid approach. But more often, Wunden Gibt Es Immer Wieder stagnates itself in tepidity, that other trait of still water.

Which is not to say that there is nothing of worth to be found in the band's sodden instrumentals. "Taschensymphonie" is a beautiful wisp of a song, begging to be followed by something a little more substantial that can build on its yawning grace. The mid-tempo, slightly off-kilter drum figures of the title track arrive instead, and the result is a damp shuffle. These instrumentals lack the compelling dramatics of Mogwai, and are too indistinct to approach the gorgeousness of, say, Sigur Rós. And when Sankt Otten fails to find transcendence, the results seem bereft of inspiration. "Festplattenliebling" is built on queasy piano chords that strut and fret for three minutes before the band abandons them altogether, while "Auf Suende Folgt Strafe" places a meandering guitar progression over a jazzy shuffle and, in short order, yields to aimlessness. Far more interesting is "Der Groove Des Guten Gewissens," which, with its foreboding strings and ominous piano breakdown demonstrates actual progression and dynamics.

Sankt Otten's greatest strength is its immaculate attention to textural detail. On rare occasion, that alone is enough; see, for instance, the vaguely country guitar that penetrates "Depressive Elite." But if timbres and textures alone can sustain a record, these are not capable of sustaining this one. After a while, the downpour becomes little more than endless drizzle.

Reviewed by Jonathan Bradley
A contributing writer based in Australia.

See other reviews by Jonathan Bradley



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