Sankt Otten: Messias Maschine
Denovali Records

Abetted by contributions from drummers Jaki Liebezeit (Can) and Harald Grosskopf (Ashra, Klaus Schulze), synth player Ulrich Schnauss, guitarist Coley Duane Dennis (Maserati), and saxophonist Christoph Clöser (Bohren & der Club of Gore), German duo Stephan Otten (drums, programming, synthesizers) and Oliver Klemm (guitars, bass, synthesizers) hone their Sankt Otten sound to a new level of perfection on their seventh full-length Messias Maschine (Messiah Machine in English). Their sound now resembles some blissful alliance of krautrock, post-rock, and kosmische musik, with a typical track atmospherically awash in pulsating synthesizer patterns, programmed drums, and guitars. The sixty-six-minute instrumental affair is significantly strengthened by artful lead melodies (typically voiced by electric guitar or synths) and sophisticated arrangements.

Interestingly, the album's most memorable piece is “Die Messias Maschine,” the only one featuring Sankt Otten alone as guests appear on all of the other nine pieces. But the track stands out not so much for anything personnel-related but for a transporting lead melody that, as voiced by Klemm's guitar, is, in a word, intoxicating. Almost as strong is “Mach bitte, dass es leiser wird,” which finds Miles Brown (The Night Terrors, Heirs) draping haunting theremin melodies over a metronomic 7/4 pulse built up from drum programming and burbling synth patterns.

Now seventy-five years old, Liebezeit plays (on the three tracks on which he appears) with the same kind of metronomic precision he's shown throughout his career. He first appears on “Du hast mich süchtig gemacht,” where his grounding pulse serves as a rock-solid foundation for Klemm's Fripp-styled guitar ruminations and Otten's synthesizer washes. His presence is also felt during “Das Geräusch des Wartens,” a ponderous, slow-motion setting that moves with tectonic force, especially when Liebezeit's on board to punctuate Sankt Otten's dense synth layers. He's not the only drummer to make an impression, however: aggressive live playing by A. E. Paterra (Zombi, Majeure) gives the muscular, synth-heavy workout “Nach Dir die Sinnesflut” post-rock oomph.

A funkier side of Sankt Otten emerges in the groove fashioned for “Da kann selbst Gott nur staunen,” an Elektro Guzzi-like krautrock jam whose panoramic expanse gives Dennis's echo-laced guitar textures ample room to maneuver. An entirely different flavour is added to the album when a deep-throated tenor sax solo by Clöser graces the twelve-minute ambient closer “Endlich ein schlechter Mensch,” which is otherwise distinguished by the lustrous washes of synths and guitars the group sculpts as a base for Clöser's playing. All told, it's a superb outing from Otten and Klemm that shows Sankt Otten's music in the best possible light. As significant a contribution as their guests make to the recording, Messias Maschine is ultimately most notable for the high level of the duo's songwriting and arranging artistry. It would be hard to imagine long-time fans being anything but won over by this finely wrought set of progressive electronic music.

July 2013