It's interesting to witness how extensively expectation colours reception. Mohn's self-titled debut album is a case in point: had I not known that its material was the product of a Wolfgang Voigt-Jörg Burger collaboration, my impression probably would have been a wee bit different. That's a circuitous way of saying that the two participants bring a fair amount of baggage with them, with Voigt known for output under numerous guises including Studio 1, Mike Ink, and Gas, and Burger known for the work he's issued under names such as Triola and The Modernist—and let's not forget the work the two previously released under the Burger/Ink name. For those keeping score, the Mohn set is their first album together since their 1996 effort [Las Vegas], and anyone familiar with that set will realize right away that the Roxy Music fixation documented on the earlier release is nowhere to be found on the new one, which has more to do with krautrock and ambient genres than pop per se. To return to the earlier point, once I became aware of who was involved, I was taken aback by how different Mohn sounds compared to the work the two have previously released, separately and together. Had I not known the identities of those involved, I would have taken the album on its own terms and deemed it a sterling example of electronic craft.
There's a gothic and epic quality to much of the material, with some of its textural treatments calling Voigt's Gas project to mind. One of the things that's striking about the album is that it's very much of the electronic genre yet at the same time resists being easily slotted into its sub-genres: it's neither techno nor ambient but instead some mercurial fusion of the two. The beats that are present pull Mohn away from ambient in its purest sense, but they're hardly of the strict dance floor-oriented kind. A good exemplar of the style is “Sector 88” in that it's powered by an insistent dub-techno pulse but also drenched in vaporous shimmer and swirl, and consequently, there's a dreaminess to the track that has more to do with trance than techno. A dark and fuzzy pulse likewise powers “Webber 2020,” with this time the synthesizer-dominated material swelling to a grandiose pitch.
At album's beginning, “Inrush” plants us firmly in zoned-out kosmische territory where the beats are little more than bass-heavy swarms of coruscated flickerings and the melodies haunted after-images. Darkness shrouds “Schwarzer Schwan” even more powerfully, as the opening moans of a ghoulish choir come to seem more diseased when disorienting arrays of deathy thuds emerge. It's the stuff of which nightmares are made, and far removed from the comparatively bucolic sounds the duo have issued elsewhere. Less forbidding is “Ambientot,” which, despite the heavy plod of its beats, allows some degree of light to show through and, most interestingly, exudes an almost prog-like stateliness in its melodic content. Gothic, too, is the mesmerizing “Das Feld,” which sounds like a Gas-Popol Vuh spawn in its hypnotic melding of amorphous fuzz and trippy dronescaping. The lulling rhythmic repetitions within “Wiegenlied” again point in Gas's direction, though the loud percussive accents punctuating the new track put some distance between it and the earlier project. In contrast to the fuzzy character of many tracks, “Saturn” is rather crystalline in its deployment of pulsating sequencer patterns, though the producers give the material a psychedelic cast by slathering it with waves of fluttering percussive textures. If anything, the fifty-seven minute album sounds like the work of old masters, producers with decades of experience to draw upon and no shortage of imagination about what to do with it.