Felix Kubin & Ensemble Integrales: Echohaus (Dekorder)
My only previous exposure to Felix Kubin was back in the early 00s when he released a 3" CD of weird German pop songs, put through the A-Musik electronic glitch filter. It was a beguiling mix of cuteness, shrillness and cleverness… but not something that begged repeat listens for me. Fast forward to 2010 and Kubin has released this full-length collaboration with new chamber music collective Ensemble Integrales. Anyone expecting even a vague similarity to Kubin’s previous output is in for a surprise, albeit a pleasant one… this is about as far removed as can be. Instead of experimenting with unusual takes on pop song structures, Echohaus is a much more elusive creature, concerned more with timbre and nuance than with songs. In fact, only occasionally does Echohaus take on the shape of something immediately rhythmic and electronic; for instance, “Smiling Buddha” is full of clattering, chugging rhythm and an undulating bassline, recalling the more structured, more recent output of Einstürzende Neubauten. However, many of these tracks are explorations of texture and timbre, such as the breathing, groaning organism that is “Uncanny Valley,” or the microtonal drones and staccato noises of “Zerchalge mein Herz, dreifaltiger Gott.” “Fluchtweg” sounds like a full-on eruption, all grinding strings and crashing percussion, a nice counterpoint to the more organized semi-jazz of “Vögel ohne Specht” or “Nahtlos Glücklich.” The album definitely falls on the new music side of the spectrum, not the goofy electronic pop that Kubin can sometimes be associated with. It’s not necessarily casual listening, but the combination of talents affords enough cleverness and intrigue to make Echohaus well worth a listen.