Three abstract German musicians walk into a studio and emerge with a heavenly noise that may never age.
German electronic duo Sankt Otten (drummer/programmer Stephan Otten and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Oliver Klemm) shares a label with guitarist Hellmut Neidhart, a.k.a. N. The record label in question, Denovali, is an imprint that has given the music world a great deal of unclassifiable, surrealist masterpieces, and Sankt Otten has been with Denovali since 2009. Neidhardt, meanwhile, has released many recordings across five different labels, at the very least. While Otten and Klemm have a taste for Kraurock and other styles of electronica, Neidhardt likes to go to even more abstract extremes with noise and drone forms. These musical subgenres have a great deal of common ground, so it stood to reason that Sank Otten and N would make good collaborators. Männerfreundschaften und Metaphysik, which translates in English as Male Friendships and Metaphysics, is their freeform result, and it is an indelible mind-bender.
Sankt Otten and N improvised their way through Männerfreundschaften with only a few overdubs added later. With eight tracks weighing in at an hour and four minutes, none of the sounds come and go in any predictable, calculated way. For instance, "Auf drei lassen wir los" experiences intermittent tidal waves of fresh noise, while "Massier die Mashcine" ("Massage the Machine") stays in power for over 12 minutes thanks to an industrial/electro beat that pushes Neidhardt into something resembling a more post-rock neighborhood. The fact that "Massier die Mashcine"'s simmer never quite goes bull boil is inventive in its own little compelling way.
Later, "Manchmal schmeckt nichtmal der Kaffee" takes Eno-esque ambiance to an even more nebulous form, as does the following track, "Helie Welt" ("Ideal World"). Opener "Eigentlich ist alles schön" ("Actually Everything is Beautiful") gets the Männerfreundschaften ball rolling with a disturbingly gothic drone that breaks up in sound before the track reaches its halfway mark, while on the other end "Am Ende der Fahnenstange" closes everything out with a black sheet of guitar noise competing directly with an angelic synth pad for five minutes (it's the album's shortest track).
It's difficult to objectively discuss the individual parts that make up Männerfreundschaften und Metaphysik because what remains with the listener is the overall package. Despite the numbers of fringe styles and musical subgenres at play here, Männerfreundschaften und Metaphysik is of one mysterious mood in the mind and isn't nearly as concerned with capturing your attention with one unmistakable centerpiece. The closest that this album probably comes to throwing down that unmistakable centerpiece is "Massier die Mashcine", but it doesn't take a great deal of curiosity to get the listener to look over that hedge, thereby taking in everything else Männerfreundschaften has to offer. It is, without a doubt, an album designed for headphones. (Too many subtleties are lost when attempting to listen in other ways.) When it comes to Männerfreundschaften und Metaphysik, divinity lies in the details, and the details sparkle the brightest when you're paying close attention.