By Phil Scarisbrick
Channelling the Kosmische musik of the likes of Can and NEU!, LNZNDRF’s sophomore record acts as the perfect form of escapism
Kosmische Musik, or Krautrock as it was labelled by the British press, wasn’t so much a genre as a movement. It was an all-encompassing moniker to contextualise the burgeoning subculture that was developing in Germany. Cultivated amidst the frosty stalemate of the Cold War, the movement was a radical manifestation of the frustrations felt by a youth born in the ashes of the Second World War and living in a perpetual state of conflict – even though few bullets were fired. What connected the majority of the groups and artists in the movement was a love of electronica, new-age sounds and recording techniques. It is in this spirit that LNZNDRF wrote and recorded their second album, II.
Developed through a series of shamanistic jam sessions, the record mixes instrumental and vocal-led tracks to take the listener on a sonic journey that feels like an expedition across the universe. Largely driven by the Devendorfs’ motorik rhythm section – a style which bares little resemblance to their ‘day job’ – the eclectic blend of synths and stomping guitars make for an exciting and interesting listening experience. Opening instrumental – The Xeric Steppe – starts with vivid, spacious keys that anchor swells of synths. Like a nervous moment of anticipation, it circles, before the driving drums and bass ignite the song and project it into the stratosphere.
Lead single, Brace Yourself, gives us a first taste of Benjamin Lanz’s vocals on a hook-laden romp that channels Joy Division dynamics with New Order melodies. You Still Rip, too, is cut from the same mould, only it has a greater sense of urgency. The reverb-heavy vocals swirl around before settling on the central ‘I still need you the same’ hook.
There are several moments on the record that are reminiscent of The War On Drugs -none more so than instrumental highlight, Chicxulub. Scott Devendorf’s bass line feels like a turbo-charged V8 – hurtling limitlessly down the Autobahn. The scatter gun snare hits provide the only traction as a gloriously meandering guitar line circles above. Final track, Stowaway, has a similar dynamic to The Xeric Steppe, with its opening section swelling around a series of untethered synth sounds, only with Lanz’s vocal making its ghostly aura felt. Once again, it is the rhythm section that gives the song traction, as it settles into a loping crescendo that feels like it is going to burst through your speakers.
When you look back at what bands like Can, Kraftwerk and NEU! were trying to achieve, it was about escapism. It was freeing themselves from the mundanity of their existence. They looked at what was happening in the US and UK, and wanted a piece of it themselves. What their records did to the listener was to transport them, even if just for a few minutes, into another time and place. It is this spirit that courses through LNZNDRF’s second record, and why it is as perfect for these times as Kosmische Musik was for its era.
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