Marking the 50th anniversary of their debut, legends of German prog-folk look back in time to see the future.
With this band’s back catalogue, spanning five decades, bundled in a box set earlier in 2019, one would assume Peter Bursch’s minnesingers were ready to take stock and call it a day; instead, the sextet served up a second studio album of their second long-term comeback. Still, while “Indian Camel” gracefully wandered towards a prog mirage, that record’s follow-up is offering much more eclectic terrain for all to explore in order to connect the artists’ past to their present and witness the veterans mapping out their futher steps. It’s a valiant stance, yet it’s also one which will leave the listener slightly unsure as to where their possible new vector should lead to.
The issue is that the ensemble seem to propose rather disparate layers of emotional context here. They throw two of their classics, “Sofa Rock” – tinged with vocals now – and the title track, into an excitingly vibrant space where Tamara Sidorova’s violin adds sensitivity to new, belligerent arrangements, liberated from erstwhile claustrophobia, but also let Stella Tonon intone soulful sadness on “I’d Rather Go Blind” to revert the drift to blues (something the group haven’t genuinely dabbled in since the Big Bill Broonzy cover they laid down 40 years ago) and harness the genre again in the organ-splattered “Sole Ruler” only to scatter the rest of the tracks, the fresh cuts, all over the place.
For what it’s worth, the band’s defining folk thread is always there, from the purified pop-prog of “Bliss” – with Detlef Wiederhöft’s bass bulging and bubbling above and below the surface – to the fiery “Pajaro” whose sitar-fueled passion is burning slowly. But the desert throb of “Oriental Mind” would have fit the collective’s previous record much better, although the cosmic mix of Manni von Bohr’s drums and Tom Plötzer’s synthesizers can’t disappoint in any setting. So if Michael Dommers’ heavy riffs on “Black Is Your Color” almost break the album’s mold, they suggest there’s a lot of mileage in the group’s pockets of fantasy to tap into.
Should the veterans locate it, their sonic machine can run long.