Blackjack Illuminist Records
In an era still marked by would-be Joy Divisions in post-punk and darkwave bandwagon jumpers, the singular perspective on these genres that’s been refined by Alexander Leonard Donat though his Vlimmer project remains a welcome one. Bringing a sense of the cinematic, some dashes of classic Neue Deutsche Welle, and a propensity for dense arrangements rarely found in styles which often make minimalism a priority, Vlimmer remains in a universe all its own. While not quite as violent or claustrophobic as 2021’s Nebenkörper, new LP Menschenleere offers some new glimpses of Donat’s “through a funhouse darkly” takes on post-punk and darkwave.
While Menschenleere carries the bracing instrumentation and wounded vocals which give all Vlimmer records Donat’s distinctive spin, once the discerning new listener adjusts to that style they’ll be taken by the variety on display here. The careening, carefree melodies of “Zielzweifel”, the synth-punk nightmare of “Mathematik”, and the sleek club-friendly lope of “Schädelhitze” all zip past within a twenty minute span, each with radically different energy yet linked by the idiosyncrasies of the project. One never forgets that one is listening to a Vlimmer record by virtue of its speed and clatter, but once those ground rules have been established, it’s a free for all.
One often gets the sense that Vlimmer’s inspirations lie well outside of the genres it’s handiest to associate the project with. The flurries of sugary synth and double-time percussion on “Fatigo” sound more like an homage to anime soundtracks than any ‘traditional’ synthpop. That sense of cross-genre influence is as much a product of arrangement as mood or core sounds. The stacked and galloping toms which mark much of Menschenleere (the project’s martial dimension was a big part of its allure when we first heard it through Angststand) are almost never found within current post-punk, yet dovetail nicely with the record’s more traditional sounds.
While it’s sometimes tempting to credit Donat’s inimitable style to his pedigree as the son and grandson of classical pianists and composers, on the whole his toolkit feels decisively modern. It’s perhaps doubly impressive, then, that a record like Menschenleere finds Vlimmer hammering out such a distinctive space for itself within realms where one imagines every experiment has been attempted and every rock overturned.