Arndt Peltner, that sagacious and seasoned doyen of Krautrock, calls Die Wilde Jagd’s latest release Uhrwald Orange one of his favourite albums of the year. It’s the second full-length release from the team of Sebastian Lee Philipp and producer/sometime bandmate Ralf Beck.
The album — their first in three years — translates as
Clockwood Orange, and the motif of a forest nightscape underscores this beautiful and deeply inspired album. The album is mostly instrumental, which is as it should be. Human voices would be out of place in this throbbing, pulsating, glitching and grooving nocturnal jungle. What discernible sounds there are, are those of the dark forest which lends the album its name: winds gusting, owls hooting, frogs chirping, distant and amorphous howls, only momentarily discernible before they are enveloped in the emergent rhythm of this imaginary, electrofied lunarscape.
Minimalist beats weave, rise and ebb playfully; there’s a deep sense of groove but also of playful fun on this album. The subdued hum and electrical throb which forms a uniform soundtrack underlying the rhythms of each song lends it a particularly Eurocentric feel. What is it about that electrical hum and deep bass groove that evokes imagery of a dark Berlin cityscape; cruising beneath a criss-crossed Black Forest of electrical wires and skyscrapers on a distant and imagined Autobahn? Whatever; this is European groove at its best.
It’s hard not to move, tap, dance while listening; yet something about the subdued and dark instrumentality of the album seems to mock the listener’s response to its irrepressible groove. Lyrical exceptions to a predominantly instrumental album include the whimsical chanting of “2000 Elefanten”, the gentle trance-like recitations of “Ginsterblut”, and the deep, dulcet tones of primary musician Sebastian Lee Philipp’s voice on “Der Uhrwald”.
For an album with such a distinct sound and feel, there’s a surprising degree of diversity within the form. These aren’t just recycled beats; there’s nothing repetitive about any of these tracks. Lyrical tracks like “2000 Elefanten” lend themselves to an almost Neubauten-esque feel, what with the controlled chanting and spoken vocals which deploy the human voice as though it were an instrument itself.
Other instrumental tracks like “Fremde Welt” are reminiscent of Laibach in their electronic phase. The guitar strumming of tracks like “Kreuzgang”, on the other hand, draw closer to electronic rock in form. “Ginsterblut”, another vocal track, becomes the closest thing to a rock song on the entire album, and the friendliest-sounding piece on an otherwise ominous soundtrack, but the deep, tribal drumming and expertly deployed background samples (radio, chanting) keep it firmly embedded in the dark and eerie of night.
Musically Philipp draws on a diverse range of sources indeed: mandolins, Georgian choirs, krakebs (a North African type of iron or steel castanet) and more. Medieval European church music is blended with field recordings from the Portuguese wilderness. All this and more is stitched together over an inspired electronic soundscape.
The tracks are long – half of them range between 10 and 16 minutes – but never monotonous; it takes them that length of time to emerge and develop their distinctive form, and the constant and subtle evolution of each piece renders them infinitely interesting and immensely enjoyable. Die Wilde Jagd have managed to create an album which perfectly balances the eerie menace of dark electronics with the playful glitch and groove of ambient dance. Integrating samples from night’s dark forest with electronic soundscapes has resulted in an album of impressive rhythmic imagination.
Uhrwald Orange is certainly one of the most interesting releases of the year, and a rewarding listen for anyone who appreciates the groovier side of dark electronics.