What happens when a Brooklyn noise rock screamer joins forces with a German-born lover of instruments, natural sounds and tape manipulations? The nine-minute long “Carolina Foxtail/Sea Chirp” is as good an introduction as any to the dreamlike clarity and sudden mutations of Requiems Der Natur, 2002-2004, the first and perhaps only collaboration between Panthers’ Kip Uhlhorn and Simon Wojan. For all of three minutes, static-washed vocals, organ-tremolo’d melodies and strange electronic curlicues coalesce into a lullaby, as sweet and evocative as your mother’s voice. Then, very suddenly, the electronic squiggles gain the upper hand, a steel drum rhythm begins to pound and kazoos — yes kazoos — pick up the exuberant melody. The transition makes perfect sense, in the way that dreams make perfect sense when you open the door from your room and find yourself at the top of the Eiffel Tower. You sort of have to be there.
The triumph of Requiems Der Natur is that you are there, fully present and participating, as the duo meanders from shimmering electro atmospherics to pounding Krautrock jams to pizzicato strings to ghostly jazz and blues riffs. Natural sounds emerge from hazy musical textures. Water, animals and birds all lurk the corners of tape-altered, non-organic backdrops. The overall effect is beautiful, disturbing, ever so slightly off, as you process hallucinatory mix of real world beauty and otherworldly eeriness.
The cuts on this album flow seamlessly into each other, the disembodied voices of “Opening/Ice of Rift” curling into mist as the xylophone plinks and chants of “Clearlight Entry” gain steam, the soft-focus blues licks of “Field Ghosts” melting into the long-toned vibrations and skittery violin plucks of “Coastal Breathe”. The cuts feel like movements in a single composition, varied but viewed from a single perspective, and they tend not to break off into freestanding songs. Still “Holy Canyon (Vanish)” feels like it could stand on its own, its moody keyboards pulsing under noire-ish horns, while “Summer Cloth” is bent and gorgeous and self-contained in its lo-fi dreamy vocals and insistent keyboard riff. The longer pieces — “Carolina Foxtail/Sea Chirp” and the closing “BrightBeijing” — are more abstract, linking fragments of song with long, noise-altered interludes.
This is wonderful, tantalizing music, with melodies buried under fuzz and all the interesting stuff happening at the periphery. You may never fully get a grip on it — it’s always slipping away and shape-shifting into something entirely different from what you expected. Still, even the attempt to understand something as weirdly compelling as Requiems Der Natur is mind-expanding.