Karl Marx Stadt: 1997-2004
Lux Nigra

Lux Nigra full-lengths are issued so rarely the mere appearance of a new one feels like an event, and Karl Marx Stadt's 1997-2004 doesn't disappoint in that regard. It's not entirely brand new material, however, as it combines two vinyl releases, the previously released 1997-2001 and the new 2001-2004, issued in tandem with the full-length. How, incidentally, did the Karl Marx Stadt come about? When tracks were selected for a compilation intended to feature artists from Chemnitz (which went by the name Karl-Marx-Stadt from 1953 to 1990), it turned out that all of the pieces chosen were by the same artist: Christian Gierden, also known as one-half of The Society Suckers (credited with producing “psychedelic pogo trash music”). Having decided to retain the moniker, Gierden transplants the Suckers' love of manic breakbeats into his solo work with hyper junglisms forming the new album's unifying thread.

Naturally it features a generous helping of extreme breakcore— the hammering breaks and screaming wails in “Optime Prior,” the roaring caterwaul of “Six Red Dead,” and the apocalyptic meltdown “Ode to the Fate of Mankind” clearly attest to that—but Gierden wisely deviates from a one-dimensional onslaught with synthetic orchestral flavourings (“011000”), fulminating techno (“Nowhere at Home”), and even mutant surf music rumble in “Geht das Zusammen Oder Getrennt.” A brief episode of chilled respite surfaces in the glistening melodies and typewriter clicking beats of “Nsk1.shareoom” (previously heard on the Lux Nigra All Stars comp), and Gierden even adds a choir and orchestra to the insanely cranked breaks in 7,000,000,000,” with string stabs recalling Hermann's Psycho.

What distinguishes the album is that, while rooted in breakcore, it transcends the genre via Gierden's enriched arrangements and imaginative structures. For example, “Vgamz” already works well enough as a stampeding broil of slamming breaks and ear-splitting noise, but he wisely enhances it with floating layers of glistening melodies. Similarly, a dark and stately march of chiming keys introduces the classically-tinged “Moonie Moonstone” before clattering rhythm patterns take over. Only the cartoonish Beck-Sheryl Crow hoedown “All I Wanna Do” disappoints as its novelty appeal quickly fades, making it pale in comparison to the ambitious pieces preceding it. It's a brief coda, though, and does little to spoil the arresting impression this album otherwise makes.

April 2005