Markus Oehlen: Wanne 4
Infinite Greyscale

Saying Markus Oehlen brings a breadth of experience to this single-sided ten-inch release is clearly an understatement: he's worked as an exhibiting artist for almost four decades, is a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich, is regarded as one of the pioneering figures in German punk music, and was once a member of The Red Krayola. We're not dealing here with some fresh-faced fifteen-year-old cranking out laptop tracks in his bedroom (not that there's anything wrong with that). Oehlen operates according to his own schedule, with Wanne 4 his first physical release since 2003's Rock & Roll Is Here To Die (Blue Chopsticks).

The release itself is an unusual one: pressed to mint-green vinyl (in a 300-copy edition), Wanne 4 backs the A-side's title cut with a screen-printed B, but to make up for charging an LP price for a one-track EP, Infinite Greyscale's sweetened the deal by including two digital bonus tracks with the vinyl purchase.

A wonky, genre-transcending slice of instrumental techno, “Wanne 4” opens in Afrobeat mode with a free-floating blend of scratchy guitar riffing, 4/4 kick drums, and generous dollops of percussive detail. The ten-minute running time gives Oehlen ample time to work multiple change-ups into its design while at the same time keeping the steady pulse in place as an anchor. Breakdowns and buildups of differing kinds transpire, after which a jubilant finale kicks into gear, with guitar strums and a left-field clarinet cameo bringing it home—it's a weird one for sure. On the bonus tip, “Endvers 1 Arabneu” carves out its own woozy path for ten minutes, this time with voice samples and acidy synth gurgle added to a collage-styled treatment that's at times beefier than “Wanne 4” as well as more scenic and aromatic, after which the comparatively svelte “Projekt 2 Kraut” brings the guitars to the forefront for a breezy exeunt that shape-shifts between styles, funk, jazz, and krautrock among them.

January 2016