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ANBB - Mimikry



Collaborations between two established musicians with their own defined sonic aesthetics  are intriguing affairs. It’s hard not to imagine the results beforehand in your own mind - a collision of styles and ideas thrown together. Blixa Bargeld, whose chromatic career has spanned Einsturzende Neubauten and the Bad Seeds, is one of the more colourful and individual characters in music - a man with a thousand experiences and tales that he delivers with a rasping, yet oddly golden voice. I don’t think that there is a man alive that can make the german language both frightening and deliciously succulent at the same time. He brings his own unique vocal talents to a project that the austere, shadowy Carsten Nicolai provides musical accompaniment to. As one might expect from him, this album is full of throbbing hums, hisses and polarised, intense bursts of sound.

Mimikry was born out of several collaborations between the two from 2007 onwards.  Given the relative simplicity of the arrangements, it’s not hard to spot that these songs (with several being covers) were somewhat improvised, yet what leaps out after a few listens is the rich emotional tapestry that Bargeld weaves into Nicolai’s music. The Raster-Noton head honcho has made his name by producing material that is at times almost academic, concentrating on producing a soundworld full of angular lines, arcs and waves of carefully controlled distortion. Whilst it’s not hard to be enthralled by the intensity of this very black and white sonic landscape at times, it lacks for want of a more sophisticated term, a human touch. Like Uwe Schmidt’s album last year, more palpable emotional content lifts these works out of the self-obsessed area that this little-criticised label inhabits at times.

Bargeld’s range of emotions in his voice bring life to some of the more violent compositions, especially during one of the album’s best tracks, “Ret Marut Handshake”, which is about the mysterious anarchist and author B. Traven. Switching between english and german, his machine-gun delivery pulls the listener in and out of Nicolai’s beat structures to disorientating effect. Likewise, on ten minute opener “Fall” the two of them twist and mould together their trademark howls, silence and hisses into a grand epic.

It’s not all snarling and screaming though. Harry Nilsson’s “One” is treated with velvet-gloved care, Nicolai’s subtle washes of sound caressing Bargeld’s honeyed voice beautifully. Elsewhere, old folk classic “I wish I was a mole in the ground” , oft-quoted as an influence on rock nihilism, veers between the latter’s whispers and heartfelt rage with accompanying musical distress.

The latter half of the album builds with some emphatic compositions - most notably “Berghain” and “Wust”, where Nicolai builds an impressive sound collage to accompany what sounds like Bargeld’s descent into madness. Title track “Mimikry” will appeal to fans of the label - he keeps his vocals to the odd phrase and doesn’t seize control, leaving the latter to churn out an intriguing techno track full of staccato rhythms.

Given that this is a collection of collaborations over a period of time rather than an “album” in the strict sense, Mimikry is surprisingly coherent and very enjoyable. Bargeld’s largesse in his vocal talents gives the proceedings both an artistic refinement and a suitably subterranean veneer. Whether this is due to Nicolai’s role as a musical facilitator than composer is difficult to ascertain. As much as his sound compositions provide drama, it’s hard to get away from the fact that this is very much Bargeld’s album - his presence and range gives Mimikry life.

Toby Frith

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