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Concert Review/ Caspar Brötzmann Massaker

img  Tobias Fischer

Caspar Brötzmann Massaker is a sharp power trio led by self-taught guitarist and singer Caspar Brötzmann (yes, he is the son of free jazz saxophone player Peter Brötzmann). Between 1987 and 1996, with Eduardo Delgado Lopez on bass (plus backup vocals) and Danny Arnold Lommen on drums, the West Berlin-based band has released five albums: among them, Koksofen and Home are dark metal jewels, more or less glistening with nervous sweat. Tonight is their official come-back show after more than a decade of silence.

Gathered in the hall made of concrete and metal, the audience is varied although it seems to include many fans of the first hour. Gazing through the red spotlights and the plumes of fog, I try to grasp the weight and the loudness of the sound. My very first thought is: this apocalyptic music is coming from hell! Wearing an open black shirt revealing his bare chest, Brötzmann looks like one of these sensitive tormented poètes maudits, a combination of Ian Curtis and Robert Smith, or something like that, but with an evil edge. Bassist Delgado Lopez is all nerves and the brutal drummer is all... er, muscles, but I am pretty sure he's got nerves too.

The music is all but one-dimensional. No wonder Brötzmann regularly plays with percussionist FM Einheit: there are similarities with the industrial and experimental approach of Einstürzenden Neubauten. You can hear that not only in the experimental gimmicks, the machinery-like mechanical rhythms but also in the atmosphere itself, often surreal or nightmarish. Little by little, Brötzmann unveils his one-of-a-kind technique, stressing on colours and drama. He seems to enjoy playing with the amp and feedback, which gives a new textural depth to his peculiar sound.

When lines of metal drones loop, Brötzmann looks like he is having a mystical experience. Indeed, there's  a mesmerizing metal presence here, that recalls Stephen O'Malley and Peter Rehberg's duo KTL and brings Massaker closer to psychedelic and stoner rock. In the song 'Tempelhof' (from their last album Home), his guitar sounds like an amplified didgeridoo. The experimental side of the music and its mantra-shaped repeated patterns inspire several 20 minute-long tracks structured like nonsensical Bruckner symphonies: one define worlds of sound following the other like blocks. Whereas the Austrian autistic composer superimposed all themes in the end in order to build the massive sonic equivalent of a cathedral, Massaker care only about the sequence, making it a cinematic soundtrack, poetic wanderings through soundscapes.

Above all, the music is gripping, always forward-moving. If not experimental, it contains elements of punk rock and is vigorous and efficient as fuck. Both the bassist and drummer are doing an amazing job. Together they are capable of building dark fast balls of rhythms, a vibrating and ferocious background noise that allows Brötzmann to play kind of solos, whether experimenting and improvising like no one else, or striking some heavy metal riffs.

After one hour and a half, I could finally distinguish more than two words of a song. « Hey. Sarah. I would saw you down. » Don't let these words fool you, it's just another purgative song, there will be no massacre. After two encores, the trio gathers at the center of the stage and Brötzmann kisses the shaven heads of his sidekicks. You could see a radiant smile on their face. Now a new album would be nice.

By Antoine Richard

Homepage: Caspar Brötzmann Massaker
Homepage: Berghain Club

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