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Sankt Otten Hitches the Organic to the Synthetic on 'Zwischen Demut und Disco'

Publicity photo via Bandcamp

The German electronic duo Sankt Otten capture a new kind of pulse on Zwischen Demut und Disco.

Zwischen Demut und Disco
Sankt Otten

Denovali

25 May 2018

The electronic duo of Stephan Otten and Oliver Klemm, collectively known as Sankt Otten, have quietly been gaining some momentum. In 2015 they released Engtanz Depression and immediately followed it up with a collaboration with guitarist Hellmut Neidhart, who goes by the stage name N. Two years later, they're helping to maintain Denovali's reputation as an unpretentious yet wholly unique record label stuffed with metal, electronic, and other genres that have a hard time fitting in between.

Hearing sound artists like Sankt Otten apart from Denovali's roster has the possibility of being a heavenly revelation to some. If you're already familiar with the likes of Bersarin Quartett, Sankt Otten runs the risk of being just another day at the office. That, of course, doesn't make their new album Zwischen Demut und Disco (Between Humility and Disco) any less stellar. If you think you've heard it all before, it's worth it to take another listen.

The late Jaki Liebezeit of the legendary Krautrock band Can was known for his mechanically precise drum performance. Sankt Otten naturally reached out to him for their for the sessions that became their album Messias Maschine. A handful of tracks with Liebezeit on drums have recently resurfaced, helping to give some of the music on Zwischen Demut und Disco that analog-meets-digital feeling that always goes down much better in practice than it sounds in theory. In trustworthy hands, a musical paradox can be a lovely thing, and Zwischen Demut und Disco is well-equipped with passages that will allow you the luxury entertaining the idea that you hear a live band while being aware of the fact that Sankt Otten are nothing of the kind.

The album opens with "Das endgüeltige Scheitern der Melancholie" ("The Final Failure of Melancholy"), an upbeat piece of retro electronica that maintains its built-in dreaminess with synthesized leads that don't quite sound in tune sometimes. "Einmal grosse Ernüechterung bitte" also takes you back in time to when young acts like Depeche Mode and Yaz couldn't quite see the future despite standing on the very edge of it. The title track lasts nearly 12 minutes, giving Otten and Klemm ample time to manipulate the established components of the sequence ever-so-slightly and ever-so-subtly. The album's closer "Der Abend ist gelaufen" ("The Evening Is All Over") is longer still, taking up more than 14 minutes to blend the seemingly organic and synthetic. Sure, it repeats itself, but this is what hypnotists do, isn't it?

"Wir sind die Guten" ("We are the Good Ones") doesn't show the iconic timekeeper for Can in the flashiest of light, but hearing such a simple pattern being tapped out by a now-departed and much-beloved musician can really land a blow to one's emotional gut. Here was an old man doing what he did best, keeping a pulse so that the listen may know when to nod his or her head -- a way to make the music more danceable and accessible. He may be gone, but the tick-tock he gave us all is as everlasting as the human race. Sankt Otten's preservation of that simple, minimal groove is a gift from beyond, a bright and wonderful edition to an already convincing catalog.

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