TRAUMKAPITÄN - Virtue Comical

Traumkapitän - Virtue Comical

16 songs
56:44 minutes
***** *****
(DIY)

Bandpage

Although Luxembourg has seen the rise of many promising new bands, the tiny country never really had a progressive scene to speak of. Traumkapitän are an unlikely candidate to start a movement, if you consider that their founder left indie rockers Metro before they became local celebrities. He even discarded the guitar and starting composing on the piano, intending at least to attempt a solo career. In the meantime though, he assembled a whole bunch of freely interchangeable musicians around him, so that Traumkapitän is not so much a band as a fixed core with artists coming and going. When they recorded their debut CD Virtue Comical, they were seven musicians playing piano, drums, bass, saxophone, cello, electronics and vibraphone… and no guitars!

Don’t worry though, Traumkapitän’s artiness has its limits, as the songs all have a firm structure and are carried always by Christian’s angular keyboard playing technique and his edgy vocals that have more charisma than you would have expected from someone used to playing second guitar. The rhythm section makes certain that the songs have a firm rock foundation, allowing the more unusual instrument to procure jazzy and classical figures. Especially the saxophone draws parallels to Van Der Graaf Generator, and when was the last time you heard a vibraphone in a rock band?

Virtue Comical is a concept album of sorts, even though the lack of a lyrics sheet and written explanation makes it hard to grasp it. The opener Hillary Hilarity starts with an soprano opera singer, confusing the listener at first, but especially the first half of the CD has a bunch of highlights, with the band always at their best when they play their straighter and more rocking material, as the splendid Godson or later on the groovy Back And Forth. Their quieter tracks allow for introspection, and it’s especially the not even two minute short House Of Glass which feels like a condensed history of progressive avant rock music.

Traumkapitän take their influences from the mid-Seventies Rock in Oppostion movement that spawned such bands like Henry Cow and Slapp Happy and related artists (Robert Wyatt, Fred Frith,…). This means that Virtue Comical is never an easy album, but their emphasis on comprehensible piano lines gives them an unexpected catchiness, as if Dresden Dolls were teaming up with the aforementioned bands.

Virtue Comical is a long album, with two improvisational pieces in the middle, and becoming more complex towards the end, but it still remains in my opinion the best album ever to come from Luxembourg, because it dares to confront the audience with genres that are normally not expected from a rock band. And considering that they have already composed enough material for a second album, we are really in for some great music in the future. This is one of the few (maybe the only?) Luxembourgish album that deserves a maximum rating.

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