reviewed the first Hinterlandt record in our archives (Sitting, Going Places) on a complete and total whim. I can’t even tell you the rationale behind selecting it. But apparently it got back to someone, as a promo copy of Australian based multi-instrumentalist Jochen Gutsch’s new album appeared in my mailbox. Of such tenuous connections are, occasionally, devoted followings born.
One thing you can’t necessarily tell from that review (found here) is that my fondest wish after hearing it was for Gutsch to indulge his pop instincts, displayed on ‘Oslo’, more fully in the future. And while the Hinterlandt project is described thusly: “Hinterlandt produces popular music with a strong experimental edge”, on Sitting, Going Places it could have done with a lot more of the former. Apparently Gutsch can read minds. This time out, the experimental aspect is still there, but the pop aspect is stronger.
Poprekordt consists of three lengthy (from fourteen to seventeen minute) compositions plus the short, negligible title track. The opener, ‘Le Verhor Impossibile’, begins the trend of making compelling music out of simpler ingredients than Gutsch used on Sitting, Going Places, subsisting for long stretches merely on drum machine beats and a great bassline. Amid this sparse backing, a vocal melody (based around the refrain of “I would if I could but I can’t so I won’t”) drifts in and out for long stretches, accompanied by a spacey guitar part. It’s remarkable, mainly because it’s able to retain its focus and shape for all fifteen minutes. Like the other two songs, it feels like an off-kilter pop song left to melt in the sun, languidly spooling out for the middle section, before returning to focus.
Where ‘Le Verhor Impossibile’ is playful, ‘The Wit! (Waiting Around For More Waiting)’ is tense, building a groove vaguely reminiscent of a harder-edged Tortoise. At nearly thirteen minutes in, the bass finally starts circling and the last four minutes become enveloped in a mournful jam, Gutsch sighing the same phrase over and over while things slowly fall apart around him, ending the track in a style closer to King Cobb Steelie than the Chicago jazzsters.
‘Guardando La Luna’, the last real track (the title track being a few odd sounds and some computerized voices for a minute and a half) enlists Emanuela De Angelis for the vocals, using static-laden drums and subtle keys as a canvas that stretches out a hazy summer afternoon feel for nearly fourteen minutes. What makes all three major tracks of Poprekordt as a whole, so entertaining and intriguing is their ability to be taken as pop songs. My mind winds up focusing on the hooks of each song when I remember them, but when listening the other sections flow naturally; it’s not that I’m impatient to get to ‘the good bits’, it’s that (to quote Gutsch’s site again) the “abstract sections… evolve out of and into the straighter parts”.
As fascinating as this approach makes Poprekordt, which has been on endless repeat in my stereo for the past week (and it does hold up well to repeat listening), I still hope that at some point Gutsch decides to go full-out pop. I wouldn’t want him to abandon his more experimental instincts, but if he can make an album of shorter pieces that focus solely on those wonderful moments, it would easily be a classic. I can only hope he’s still reading my mind.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2003-12-10