Radare: Im Argen
Golden Antenna Records

Radare, a German outfit with roots in Wiesbaden and Leipzig, traffics in the kind of curdling noir jazz associated with acts such as Bohren & der Club of Gore and The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and composer Angelo Badalamenti. On the group's third release, Im Argen (German for “in a sorry state”), Fabian Bremer (guitar, piano, zither, synthesizer), Henrik Eichmann (clarinet, drums, piano), Jobst M. Feit (guitar, organ, piano, synthesizer), and M. Jurisch (bass, trombone) give birth to generally quiet and gloomy settings that carry with them cinematic associations, even if they're teased at more than explicitly laid out (an image from La Jetée and a photo of Elvis's funeral cortege are among those shown on the inner sleeve). An underlying narrative has to do with solitary individuals finding themselves in extreme situations, the idea alluded to by both the track title “Damsel in Distress” and the story-line of Chris Marker's photo-film.

At album's beginning, “Please Let Me Come Into the Storm/Luke” initially establishes a bleak soundworld via clarinet playing and tremolo guitar textures, though an unexpected mood shift occurs when the music modulates from desperation to hope. Warmth seeps in by way of electric piano playing until darkness returns, the music cast in shadow by raw guitars, heavy drumming, and the return of Eichmann's lonely clarinet. That opener is largely characteristic of the album as a whole, as the four subsequent pieces work variations on the theme. Similar mood alternations and slow tempos occur throughout, and the arrangements emphasize Rhodes piano, clarinet, drums, and electric guitars.

Brushed drums and organ lend “Burroughs” a differentiating character (though Eichmann's clarinet aligns it with the others), while Jurisch's trombone accomplishes much the same in “The Queue.” The thirty-five-minute release culminates with the multi-scenic epic “Damsel in Distress,” a brooding dark jazz exercise that grows progressively louder in a way that for one track at least exchanges the group's controlled presentation for something considerably noisier. It's not an unwelcome move, either, as it effectively reveals another dimension of the band.

January 2016