Fogh Depot: Fogh Depot
Sankt Otten: Engtanz Depression
The music presented on past Sankt Otten albums has been characterized by many things, foremost among them the distinctive way by which Stephan Otten (drums, programming, synthesizer) and Oliver Klemm (guitar, synthesizer, piano) have blended aspects of krautrock, post-rock, and synthesizer-heavy electronica into an immediately identifiable group persona. That trend continues on the German instrumental duo's eighth album Engtanz Depression (Close Dance Depression) but with a few twists: somewhat of a looser feel characterizes certain tracks, and some even developed out of free improvisations, an entirely novel approach for an outfit with a reputation for fastidiously scrutinizing every sonic gesture. As a result, the fifty-five-minute set feels less tightly wound, and a refreshing live dynamic seeps into the playing at certain moments.
Though it would appear that the music was assembled by Otten and Klemm through multi-layering, the two convincingly create the impression of a live band feel. It requires little effort at all to imagine a representative instrumental like “Urlaub unter Psalmen” as having been laid down in the studio by a guitarist, bassist, keyboardist, and drummer, and much the same could be said of other pieces on the nine-track release. Other details that identify the material as Sankt Otten are the duo's affinity for E-bow guitar effects, a move that bolsters the mysterioso dimension of the group's sound, and its prominent deployment of synthesizers.
Otten and Klemm liberally draw from a number of different genres on the release, too. Sounding as if it's been lifted from a Michael Jackson hit, a repeating funk guitar riff offsets the atmospheric aura permeating “Beten, tanzen, küssen,” for example, while the synth-drenched “Wo es immer regnet” derives a similar kind of kick from a funky drum groove. Entrancing kosmische serenades (“Der Himmel ist voll”) and twinkling krautrock excursions (“Karfreitagskarpfen und Dolce Vita”) also sit side-by-side, but if there's a signature track for the album it would have to be “Sing die Apokalypse,” a muscular, twelve-minute travelogue that touches all of the Sankt Otten bases. Though, as mentioned, Engtanz Depression sounds as if Sankt Otten's loosened up slightly, no one should get the wrong idea: Otten and Klemm's material is as polished as ever, and the performance and composing levels are once again high.
A feeling of looseness also characterizes the material on Fogh Depot's self-titled debut album. No band personnel is listed on the collection , though the trio does extend thanks for inspiration to Moscow-based ambient-electronic outfit zZzMmM and jazz artists Thelonious Monk and David S. Ware. The jazz nod isn't unwarranted, as illustrated by the smoky jazz stylings of specific tracks and the front-line status accorded tenor saxophone playing. Electronics play a role in Fogh Depot's music, and as such the group's sound can't be pigeonholed as acoustic jazz, even if that style is central to the Fogh Depot sound.
The opener “Anticyclone” offers a good example of the trio's approach in the way it juxtaposes electronically enhanced episodes and brooding jazz sequences led by tenor sax playing. The presence of low-resolution samples and bebop styling gives the music a dusty vibe, and the merging of electronics and acoustic jazz conjures the image of a dimly lit European nightclub where musicians huddle over instruments in a shadowy back corner.Without sacrificing the brooding character of the group's sound, “Nevalyashka” splits the front-line focus between piano and sax, whilst also giving attention to ambient-electronic treatments and drums. The electronica side of the band comes boldly to the fore during “Orphan Drug,” which wildly screeches and pulsates in its first half before morphing into small-group jazz (replete with electric guitar) for the second. And the sax player—whoever it is—establishes a strong presence throughout but never more so than during the freewheeling “Sagittarius” and sombre ballad “Dark Side of the M0nk.” The absence of band members' names gives the album a rather self-effacing quality, and the release is an admittedly modest affair at thirty-nine minutes. Fogh Depot's music, however, is certainly compelling enough, and the combination of jazz and electronic elements certainly holds promise for the range of possible future explorations.