Alter Der Ruine
I Will Remember It All Differently
Negative Gain Productions
If you’re a regular round these parts, you’ve maybe noticed Alex and I priming the pump for I Will Remember It All Differently for a while. We’ve been keen to highlight Alter Der Ruine’s sixth LP not only to let folks know that the band’s back for another full tour of duty after their brief breakup a couple years back, but also to communicate just how much of a jump in sound Michael Jenney and Michael Treveloni, plus new full-time member Tamara Jenney, have made with I Will Remember It All Differently. The side benefit of this has been allowing the album to simmer in the headphones for about a month. I’ve appreciated being able to dip into I Will Remember‘s untested waters time and again until its currents became somewhat familiar, but I don’t think I’m close to ferreting out all of this record’s charms and techniques, let alone how to go about reconciling it with the band’s existing discography. Those might be irresolvable quandaries, but I can’t help but keep trying in the face of a record this damn good.
There’s no sense belaboring the obvious: this is the best album Alter Der Ruine have released by a long mile. But the exact form that said landmark has taken, the new musical and thematic territory the group is pushing into, is just as remarkable as (though perhaps inseparable from) any plaudits tossed out free of context. Yes, longtime hands will be able to connect the glitchier parts of I Will Remember‘s percussion and the pinched sequencing to the band’s earlier work. But there’s just no precedent for the emotional frailty which can be felt in each of Treveloni’s words, in the slowly building melodies which are simultaneously mournful and strident.
Between “Tiny Wars & Quiet Storms” and “Stars” you can get a Cole’s Notes sense of I Will Remember‘s climes. The former’s full of impressionist imagery but is strangely urgent; “Drink up to pretend the hounds don’t lie,” Treveloni advises, but the foreboding in his voice and the tight guitar chime set against choral pads lets you know no one’s fooling anyone with stopgap measures. “Stars” is an almost too-painful look at a relationship intact but forever altered by tragedy, its gut-punch paradoxically strengthened by a sparse yet reassuring arrangement.
It isn’t all painful self-examination, but even when I Will Remember heads out to party it’s wearing a brand new set of clothes. “Quiet Crime” delivers a radio-ready chorus that has a great “Muss es sein? Es muss sein!” question/answer structure amidst noir paranoia. Am I overstating things by referencing Beethoven in connection with a band still maybe most known to punters as “the guys who did that ‘moustache ride’ song“? That’s entirely possible, but such are the rhetorical extremes to which a record this unexpected has driven me. Things close on the mysterious, chilly, and slightly processional electro-industrial bounce of “Leviathan”, with muted pads and hushed vocals bringing Haujobb or Seabound to mind. There’s a disaffected coolness to “Leviathan” that’s separate from the rest of the album, and while its rhythmic structure does clearly hearken back to the band’s past, another album with its wintry programming would feel like yet another entirely new mode for the band.
Sitting square in the middle of the record, “Will We Tear You Apart?” remains the highlight of I Will Remember for me, containing as it does just about every one of its strengths and advances: an anthem slowly rises from a plainly stated condemnation and declaration of war, becoming stately and beautiful as synth melodies coalesce around the repeated assurance that “We’ve seen who you are”. It’s a bizarrely comforting and warming song given its language of retribution and pursuit; I’ve tried listening to it from the perspective of the just convicting the hypocritical as well as from that of a tortured narrator haunted by Kafkaesque dream police. I’m not saying that “Will We Tear You Apart?” needs a resolution, but the brain can’t help but field test interpretations as the tune works its way onto the queue again and again. It’s a solid analogy for how arresting and deep I Will Remember It All Differently has shown itself to be; it weaves immediate magic yet eschews simple resolutions. Highly recommended, and a definite album of the year contender.