Three LPs spread across more than fifteen years may not be a formula for overnight success, but it’s definitely helped to generate fervent cult appeal in the case of Swedish EBM duo Sturm Café. Sure, Gustav Jansson and Jonatan Löfstedt have never completely dropped off the radar, keeping their hand in here and there with remix and rarity releases, as well as the excellent Es Geht EP in 2017. But there’s no question that strict quality control has both built anticipation for and refined Fernes Land, a record which ably demonstrates their canny sense for roots EBM alongside their playful forays into neighbouring genres.
It always bears mentioning that Sturm Café are the very rare old school EBM band to have established a clear, recognizable style distinct from the genre’s cornerstones. Are there some hints of early 242 in the sproingy bass of the title track? Yes, but the strident yet warm, sweet, and welcoming sound of the rest of the arrangement and Löfstedt’s vocals is something that they’ve honed entirely on their own. The impassioned, romantic build of “Männer Gegen Männer”, which finds D.H. Lawrence-like drama in morning commutes, similarly rewards those of us who’ve come to admire the band’s singular approach.
That confidence in their own style (whether instinctive or earned after so many years in the game) also lets Sturm Café push beyond the boundaries of EBM, moreso on Fernes Land than at any previous point. For every classic anhalt punisher like “Schauspiel” there are at least two oddball genre-jammers. Check the minimal synth-funk of “Funkbereit” which recalls Scotch’s classic italo cuts along with any number of early house tracks, or the Falco-styled early electro of “Spielziet”.
It’s tough not to get behind a band who are so clearly having fun with EBM at every level. While at the band’s surface aesthetics still check off a lot of classic EBM markers (albeit with a synthwave palette swap this time) and the lyrics to “Discolied” celebrated their own traditionalism, Fernes Land has none of the turgid stodginess which old-school EBM seems to so often necessitate. Your favourite SwEBM band’s favourite SwEBM band are back and are looking to party. Recommended.