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All Diese Gewalt
Welt In Klammern Fred Bowler , October 8th, 2016 16:14

Very quietly – or, more accurately, very loudly – and almost completely unnoticed by Germany's network of indie contractors (mainly based in Hamburg and Berlin), Stuttgart, a wealthy southwestern city now governed by a Green mayor, has produced a number of notable alternative musicians and labels. A good introduction to this 'scene' is the 2013 sampler aptly titled Von Heimat Kann Man Hier Nicht Sprechen (“One can't really talk of home here”). And, while even national newspapers are now starting to react to the supposed emergence of a “Stuttgart school”, one character has received particular attention.

Max Rieger is the vocalist of acclaimed post-punk trio Die Nerven, as well as being involved in several other projects such as the drone-dub outfit Jauche, and producer for a number of indie bands. He records as a solo artist under the All Diese Gewalt (“All this violence”) moniker, and has so far released one EP – 2014's Kein Punkt Mehr Fixiert. His debut album, Welt in Klammern, “World in Brackets”, released in September by the renowned Staatsakt label, is a fine pop gesture coming somewhat unexpectedly from someone known for guitar noise and a type of lyrical punk-expressionism somewhat common to a significant amount of German rock bands from the last 30 years or so.

Welt in Klammern is a break, or perhaps an intervention: there's not much noise, hardly any superficial existential despair and a near-complete abstinence from cramped loud-quiet dynamics in these ten songs. Many of the tracks resemble ambient music and the more repetitive side of the post-rock spectrum; bands like Tortoise, for example. Because this un-rock'n'roll but vaguely psychedelic music comes from Germany, the anglophone world might be tempted to attach it to the profitable kraut-rock label, but Rieger cites Steve Reich as one major influence and as a compositional approach this applies well to the layered and richly textured compositions driven by intermingling synthesizer arpeggios, drum computers, and sometimes, bass lines evoking a dark new wave disco sound. One or two songs – particularly opener 'Wie es geht' – will bring to mind The xx, but it's a passing association. The overall form of the album mutates from climatic buildups to more dream-like, floating states. Songs glide into each other, and though Rieger had to choose from a large number of finished recordings for the album, the whole thing sounds coherent, as though written as one continuous piece, with one specific idea in mind.

Rieger's voice, bearing probably the greatest similarity to his earlier work, is heavily present. But here, it sounds somehow different, more reflective: monotonously, he sings and repeats verses that seem to refer to forms and objects, as well as to an unidentified 'You'. Significantly, though, the lyrics don't cling to a traditional narrative "I", something Rieger has experimented with, but in Die Nerven has mostly held to convention, to cliché even, who sing “In meinem Kopf spielen sich Dinge ab die keiner versteht / Die keiner verstehen will” (“In my head there's things going on that no one will understand / That no one wants to understand”).

There is a sense of calm, stemming from the fact that we are either too far inside or too far outside to hear the storm. At the same time, the album is affected with an omnipresent feeling of fading out. Rieger has said that he writes his lyrics in between places, when waiting for someone to turn up, or after missing a train. This lyrical rootlessness, a lack of place and of a clear association with the centered subject, is palpable, especially on more ambient tracks such as 'Klang' or '(Ohne Titel)'. No Future, sure, but also no past.

All of this makes for a very beautiful and melancholic ride, one mostly devoid of individualist tropes like anger, paranoia or despair. In a way, it is an album about passive discovery. It ends with vague hopes for tomorrow in 'Morgen Alles Neu', followed by the closing 'Geister' – a hauntological folk song where a helium-tinged voice, reminiscent of Quasimoto (and his German equivalent Marsimoto), is heard sighing something about a necessary distance. A fitting way of ending an album by someone who will hopefully continue to make music as moving and focused as this.

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