Such A Dream
Karger Traum’s first full-length release is marked by an even blend of fresh experimentation and homage to classic electronic pioneers. But it’s likely that the arch Teutonic drag of the Oklahoma City duo will prompt listeners’ first reactions to Such A Dream. It’s a unique enough feature which threads through tunes which borrow equally from EBM, synthpunk, and Neue Deutsche Welle, but shouldn’t be taken as the sum total of the record’s appeal.
Taylor McKenzie’s vocals, at times restless, at times manic (and often both within the same track) seethe throughout Such A Dream and are placed right up front in the mix so as to catch every sigh or muttered word. It’s tough as a non-German speaker to evaluate the intent or content (or even the pronunciation), but it passes the smell test, and doesn’t seem to be there for the sake of shock or novelty. Rather, I’d hazard a guess that Karger Traum are aiming for a tone and feel which mirrors that of the innumerable German bands exploring synths and stripped down song structures in the early 80s.
Blake Lusk’s crisp programming and occasional integration of guitar would certainly slide in comfortably alongside DAF records on the shelves, but for every tune like “Was Ist Was” which ably recreates the original EBM genome, there’s another engaging moment which can’t be pinned down to any band or era. Check the odd rhythmic sample used beneath rumbling bass on “Blick und Feld pt 1”; left to speculation I’d have to tag it as a bowl of dry cereal being lightly shook. Free-form compositional experimentation often holds sway, with songs emerging out of the combination of Lusk’s sound design and McKenzie’s vocal impulses, but there are still some solid tunes at the core of much of the record: the harmonic synths and languid guitars which emerge beneath the initial attack of “Familienlied”‘s bass programming and barks recall far earlier pioneers like Neu! and Can.
Often when we talk about self-consciously “traditionalist” or retro bands trading in ostensibly experimental sounds and genres, we have to accept a certain degree of paradoxical conservatism in the deal. That’s not the case here. Such A Dream gets over through the immediacy of its moods and its rewarding takes on vintage sounds, but more importantly Karger Traum have cast a wide enough net over the past that they’re never beholden to any form or motif for too long, and have a keen ear for new sounds.