Rock enthusiasts often think of electronic music as a realm
only to be sought out in the cause of art and atmosphere.
Even in the hands of a band like Radiohead, electronic
influences are often looked down upon as misguided attempts
at experimentation that create too much clutter and distraction
without purpose. The bases of these claims are often valid.
The use of synthetic, sampled, or otherwise electronic sounds
creates another layer between artist and audience. To work
around this boundary, artists must have the ability to bring
emotions out of their machines. As evidenced by their sophomore
effort Outerbeats, Germany’s Malory communicates
so naturally in this mode that the electronic layer becomes
one of intimacy more than distance.
The difference between intimacy and distance seems to rest
on the artist’s conception of atmosphere. This has always
been the main function of electronic sounds – the creation
and exploitation of mood and tone. In this sense, movements
like glam rock and the mainstream pop of the eighties distinguish
themselves at the presentation level more than the songwriting
stage. Both of these styles relied on a heightened sense of
attitude and atmosphere to convey their ironic detachment
and even decadence. While this music can be entertaining and
arty at times, electronic sounds have come to be associated
with this distance. The sense of irony, however, began with
the artists who then enlisted machines in their cause. For
bands like Malory, sincerity begins at the songwriting level
and eventually gets channeled through the electronics. The
sound still creates an additional layer, but one of romantic
mystery more than detachment.
The notion of layers actually becomes central thematically
as the five members blend sustained guitar lines and loops
over a hypnotic rhythm section. The two vocalists, male Jorg
Kohler and female Jordis Marschner, display absolutely
stunning melodic and harmonic interplay. Low provides
the closest comparison this side of the Atlantic with Malory’s
vocals more smooth and atmospheric. Marschner reminds one
of Julee Cruise and her amazing work with David
Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti. That trio also serves
as one of the better comparisons to Malory in their ability
to take iconic styles and infuse subtlety and intimacy. To
be fair, comparisons become almost meaningless in context
of the emotional register that Malory finds on Outerbeats.
If it is possible to claim some notion of objective and pure
artistic beauty and integrity, Malory can make that claim.
This becomes especially true as the music and lyrics melt
into a groove that serves more as a study of formal artistic
qualities than any political stance. This deserves another
comparison to Low with Malory achieving in lush atmosphere
what Low achieves through starkness.
If this album has a drawback, it comes in repetition. The
other side of this of course is trance, hypnotism, and meditation.
The depth of the music makes a stronger claim for the latter
experiences, but boredom becomes the unfortunate side effect
if you are looking for something more diverse and dynamic.
More accurately, Malory finds diversity and dynamics in subtle
builds, layers, and tensions rather than a variety of tempos
or rhythms. Only "Lake of Doubts," "Space In
Your Mind," and "Three Elements" out of the
eleven songs on the album pick up the pace and rock out. Otherwise,
the songs are evenly mid-tempo and bright.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Malory comes from their
lack of reference to current musical trends. Although wearing
the German flair for technology and precision, these songs
seem so distant from German techno and industrial rock. Malory’s
music has a softness that only fits in dream pop, but their
attention to tone and effect is unique. Jorg Jakel’s
percussion will slide from steel drum worldbeats to drum machines
to various percussion toys; Sven Ziesche plays bass
as both punctuation in the stream of guitars and as a floating
melodic counterpart. Kohler and Daniel Hammer rely
on what sounds like delays and e-bows for a symphonic and
gorgeous sound. Kohler and Hammer control the programming
for an organic addition that blends seamlessly into the guitars.
The four musicians do not make a false move.
In making an electronic record that comes off simple and
pure, Malory makes a striking case for the sincere possibilities
of these tools. Although irony can be instructive and enjoyable,
honesty will always be the core of a healthy state of music.
Outerbeats substantiates Malory’s claim to this core.
- Lake Of Doubts
- Xirius Polar Station
- The Choice You Have
- Falling Shine
- Déjà Vu
- Painted Dreams
- I Can’t Stand
- Space In Your Mind
- Argo Night Shuttle
- Three Elements
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