Cobra Killer & Kapajkos: Das Mandolinenorchester

What might seem on paper a bizarre combination turns out to sound, well, almost natural. Yep, demented Cobra Killers Annika Line Trost and Gina V. D'Orio have doffed their electro beats and retro samples to unite with mandolin orchestra Kapajkos (actually three mandolins, bass, keyboard, and cajon) on cover versions of songs originally heard on Cobra Killer, The Third Armpit, and last year's 76/77 (there is a logical underpinning to the project: apparently Trost's great-grandfather was a conductor and violin teacher of Helmut Zacharias who started his career in D'Orios's grandfather's orchestra, the Lubo D'Orio Orchestra).

Sure there's an initial moment of bemused hilarity in hearing the mandolins kick out the jams in “Heavy Rotation” but the novelty subsides quickly, leaving charm in its place; certainly there's nothing unnatural sounding about the folk-ballad approach to “High is the Pine.” Furthermore, Trost and D'Orio retain the punky spirit of their past work by playing it straight vocally, and kudos to Kapajkos for digging into the material with such impassioned energy. Bolstered by the singers' rabid shouts, the ensemble imbues “The Stoker” with frothy speed-metal-meets-klezmer flavour, goes toe-to-toe with the fiery singers on “Mund Auf Augen Zu (Stecker Raus Ich Dreh),” and even joins in vocally on “Helicopter 666” and “Show Me Your Ruler.” The sole new song “Ist Es Farbig?” oozes dark drama, while Kapajkos creates an intense cloak-and-dagger backing for “H-Man-A-Psychocat.”

Analogically, the project recalls Señor Coconut's Kraftwerk interpretations, not only in the strange juxtaposition of elements but, more notably, in the groups' affectionate handling of their respective materials. Though one wouldn't want Trost and D'Orio to permanently exchange their familiar style for the one heard here, Das Mandolinenorchester's inspired spin on Cobra Killer's sound makes for a fascinating trip.

November 2005