SANKT OTTEN - Engtanz Depression
I really liked Sankt Otten’s last record Messias Maschine, on which the instrumental duo from Osnabrück in Germany collaborated with different artists on every song. In that way, Engtanz Depression is a step back to the band’s earlier sound, but not really, as Stephan Otten and Oliver Klemm have been using a lot of new sounds and have also added an even more analogue sound to the music.
Founded in 1999, they used to be a regular band with vocalist, who departed after two albums to start his own band Pendikel. After a six year hiatus, Sankt Otten really got going as a duo, and have released an album nearly every year. Engtanz Depression is their eight longplayer or eleventh overall release, and starts with Urlaub unter Psalmen, a track that begins very quietly and then builds up tension. The rhythm section has a very hypnotic vibe, there is even a surprisingly lot of guitar, some of that played with an e-bow to remind us King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, resulting finally into something somewhere between trippy kraut rock à la Neu!, ambient à la Eno/Fripp and a more contemporary post rock feeling. The following Beten, Tanzen, Küssen is a mellower track that comes with a moody harmonium part, which is a first on a Sankt Otten album. This is accompanied by quick picked guitar notes and mellotron, giving the whole song a very melancholic atmosphere. Wo es immer regnet is taking us to the Eighties with ancient sounding electro beats and melodramatic synth chords.
This time some of the material has started as improvisations, and it shows. The songs are not instantly accessible, but the duo has worked hard enough on them that they will all reveal their intricacies and little secrets after repeated listening sessions. This is music that comes rather from the brain than from the guts, but it doesn’t rob the music of any of its magic.
Two of my favourite tracks come towards the end of the record. The twelve minute long Sing die Apokalypse is a masterpiece of hypnotic electronica with a flesh-and-blood beat that will surprise you during its last minute with a furious finish line. The concluding Ich bau Dir ein Museum, with eight minutes the second longest track, once again starts quietly, but gradually build up momentum into one of the liveliest pieces I have ever heard from Sankt Otten.
What I love about Sankt Otten is how the combine different elements into their very own sound. There is a strong influence of German kraut rock, a nearly as pronounced one of early ambient, but there is also no denying the shadow of the more synthetic and chilly sounding Eighties plus a certain nod to contemporary post rock. If you like your music without vocals, then there is certainly a lot to discover with Sankt Otten. If you are not yet familiar with the duo, then Engtanz Depression is certainly not the worst point of entry into the vast body of work of these amazing artists.