Sankt Otten: Sequencer Liebe
Denovali Records

Two years ago, Sankt Otten issued a split recording with Majeure, but the release was perhaps more notable for revealing the German duo's growing interest in vintage synthesizers, a move that carried over to the 2011 album Gottes Synthesizer. Together since 1999, Sankt Otten duo Stephan Otten (drums, programming, synthesizers) and Oliver Klemm (guitars, bass guitar, synthesizers) now continue their love affair with analogue synthesis on their sixth full-length collection, Sequencer Liebe, which aptly translates as “Sequencer Love.”

The extent of that embrace is apparent from the recording's first moment when pulsating sequencer patterns and synth washes form a luscious analogue base against which Klemm's e-bow-styled guitar emotes. The title track suggests that by drawing heavily upon the German progressive electronic music tradition, specifically krautrock and kosmische musik, Otten and Klemm are charting a way forward for themselves. A similar pairing of synthesizers and soaring e-bow guitar sounds distinguishes haunting mini-epics of ambient sweep such as “Mir Bricht Die Stimme Weg.”

“Gestern Fand Ich Alte Traenen” likewise looks back albeit in a different way in adding ‘80s electronic drum sounds to the song's dreamy melodic content. Listeners of a certain age will recognize immediately the hard-edged thwack of the electronic kit's snare, but the effect, oddly enough, isn't off-putting. If anything, the decision to use electronic drumming is consistent with the duo's total commitment to synthetic sounds. An epic, brooding character infuses “Die Stadt Riecht Nach Dir,” whose drum machine beats and synthesizers call Autobahn-era Kraftwerk to mind, “Hungrig Kann Man Nicht Tanzen,” and the closing “Ende Gelände.” “Kann Denn Liebe Synthie Sein?” and “Der Heilige Schmerz,” by comparison, bring a more uptempo synth-pop sound to the album.

Otten and Klemm certainly know their way around track construction. Each of the recording's eight tracks, most in the five-minute range, are meticulously conceived and executed, and though there's a clearly defined template used throughout—e-bow guitar the lead voice embedded within a dense mass of synthesizers and electronic drums—the duo spins satisfying variations on the theme throughout this fully realized forty-minute set.

June 2012