There’s a cold, clinical sound to Tank, the latest album from Germany’s Kreidler, but it is also a pure sound. Kreidler have been making music for nearly 20 years, and the comfort that this band’s members enjoy in making music with one another is palpable. Live drums and bass back unabashedly synthetic keyboards and electronics, yet there is no true dissonance to be found in the combination; like the best of their krautrock progenitors, Kreidler find a way to marry the organic with the mechanic, creating a sound that finds both components compromising themselves a bit for the sake of meeting in the middle.
The purity of sound offered by Kriedler on Tank is actually a product of the members’ comfort not only with each other but with the sound that they collectively produce. Tank is an entirely instrumental album, without so much as a single sampled voice, unless you count the choir sounds in closer “Kremlin”, which sound far more likely to be the product of an instrument button on a vintage keyboard than any sort of actual sample. Each track contains roughly the same balance of the electronic and the organic, which makes one wonder whether Kreidler is capable of anything more, though the variance in sound from track to track is a constant reminder that of course they are capable of “more”, whatever that means — they simply choose to play in their comfort zone. This is doubly understandable once you realize that they spent all of five days writing and performing the thing in the studio and another eight or so doing post-production.
Tank is an album that went from twinkle in Kreidler’s eye to fully-realized longplayer in less than two total weeks of work, and nothing about it sounds the least bit raw or unfinished. It is six tracks of professional-grade atmosphere, six sinister moods over six metronomic beats.
No track on the album exemplifies this balance as much as the third track, “Jaguar”, and that trait is likely borne of the track’s electronic emphasis. Starting with (and spending much of its time repeating) a single note in a syncopated pattern and augmenting it with percussive machinery from the outset, Kreidler certainly establish a sound in the listener’s head. The bass and drums show up not long after those two elements, and while they certainly sound warmer than the electronics which open the track, they never steal the identity. It sounds overwhelmingly electronic for its duration, even as the “actual instruments” are pushed to the front of the mix. There is no virtuosity to be found, and that is to Kreidler’s benefit. It is emblematic of an album entirely devoid of ego.
Closer “Kremlin Rules” is just as impressive, even as it finds Kreidler pulling off a trick that they avoid for the rest of the album. Namely, after starting with a pensive, tension-laden slow burn for two-and-a-half minutes, drummer Thomas Klein takes a ten-second break before double-timing his beat into something driving and militaristic. Taking his cue, the rest of the band starts adding more straightforward minor key melodies into their own parts, eventually turning the whole thing into something you might hear over the end credits of a Tim Burton movie.
It’s difficult to put into print just how none of this comes off as boring, how so much of it sounds so carefully crafted and molded despite the whirlwind production period. Think about the ways that you can hear the humor and satire inherent in a Kraftwerk record, or the pure emotion in one of Tangerine Dream’s more abstract synth workouts — you’re halfway there. Tank features nothing approaching innovation, but it is a worthwhile listen nonetheless; as a study in balance and thematic consistency, it is astonishing.