By varying their gait and direction, Germany's Like a Stuntman have created a patient, entertaining, and ultimately distinctive album.
After listening to this album, Like a Stuntman's choice of title for their second full-length makes sense. The Bedouin are a historically nomadic Arab ethnic group from the desert areas of Africa and the Middle East. Similarly, the music of Like a Stuntman carefully picks across the landscape, searching for a place to settle. This isn't because either can’t decide where they want to be -- it's a strategy for prosperous survival. Original Bedouin Culture roams from barren plains to rolling dunes, gleefully winding through unexpected paths along the way. By varying their gait and direction, Germany's Like a Stuntman have created a patient, entertaining, and ultimately distinctive album.
Although the group eventually settled, the Bedouin must have had a lot of time to ponder the infinite while crossing great expanses of desert. The wordless harmonies and the impressionistic lyrics of Original Bedouin Culture suit this practice quite well -- the music feels considered and reflective. The band plays with pop forms and electronic textures with equal dexterity. Clicks, buzzes, and krautrock rhythms suggest a fractured internal dialogue while leaving plenty of room for lyrical interpretation.
The Beach Boys loom as large as Kraftwerk on Like a Stuntman's landscape. These seminal bands may have written for different worlds -- sunny California highways and dark European cityscapes, respectively -- but a common sadness and ennui unites them. A cappella outtakes dripping with sadness from Pet Sounds and longing keyboard tones from The Man Machine beautifully coalesce in the sound of Like a Stuntman. The band understand these contrasts and they usefully pull from both general frameworks to create something unique. There may be shades of other bands such as Fuck, the Flaming Lips, and the Notwist, but of significant credit to this band, their music defies easy comparison.
On Original Bedouin Culture, Like a Stuntman also seem to draw inspiration from Jim Jarmusch's 1995 anti-Western film Dead Man. The opening "Wake Up William Blake" may refer to Johnny Depp's doomed character, who shares his name with the English poet and painter. The closing "In a Canoe" could be about the ending of the film, and the guitar bears a slight resemblance to Neil Young's epic soundtrack. These references might be coincidences as well.
Regardless of intent, the cinematic scope and questioning, introspective nature of some of the music on Original Bedouin Culture could effectively soundtrack portions of Dead Man. Ethereal, layered songs like "Owls" and "Damascus" match up well with the sinister black-and-white world of the film. These tracks, much like the film, are surreal, dark and satisfyingly discomforting.
The lead single, "MC Sensation", and "Off-Flavour" seem to fit into a different, more colorful world independent of Jarmusch's film. "MC Sensation" revolves around the lyrics "It's obvious why / You wear / Camouflage" without really explaining why it's so obvious. The band sound both triumphant and playful on the track. "Off-Flavour" takes it time to build up to a frenzied electronic squiggle before melting into a vocal-heavy comedown. Like a Stuntman succeed in varying these emotional approaches primarily because of their patient, studied approach to songwriting. The band simply know when to step back and allow their songs to breathe.
Original Bedouin Culture is a quirky, fuzzy album that rewards repeat listens. The electronic and vocal density of the music only reveals itself gradually and, to the band's great credit, rarely sounds overworked.
Sometimes following one's nomadic instincts can lead to the Promised Land.