Written by: Michael Mitchell
German Army – Terroir Place (Genot Centre)
German Army – Mangas Coloradas (Muzan Editions)
German Army – Vieques (Madriguera)
Peter Kris is one of the most prolific artists in recent memory. He releases albums under the German Army moniker, his own name and a slew of other band names: Q///Q, Final Cop, Burnt Probe, Concrete Colored Paint, etc. When it came time that I was going to interview PK about some of his recent activities, there were no less than 3 GeAr (the shortened version that they will use) albums to discuss; Vieques was released in July, Mangas Coloradas was released in August and Terroir Place was unleashed at the beginning of September and he’s since had another album of GeAr songs released called, Kowloon Walled City.
Let’s work our way backwards through these three recent releases.
Terroir Place begins with the rustic track, ‘A Dream Supplanted’ which sounds like it might have been coming out of a radio at The Overlook Hotel. Haunting sounds of strings, horns and percussion permeate throughout the brief track. ‘Uniformed Landscape’ pulses with an almost tribal rhythm layered with ethereal keyboard to provide a soundtrack to a movie not yet made. A few tracks later, ‘Diffusion of Youth’ sounds like something straight off of Eyeless in Gaza’s 1982 masterpiece, “Pale Hands I Loved So Well” with it’s chiming glockenspiel. ‘Mbum Kpau’ (the name of a tribe in Chad by the way) is one of the few tracks with vocal and typical in GeAr style it is slowed and hard to discern what is being said. That is all part of the intrigue. Toward the end of the album, the track ‘Spatial Expression’ has a playful Residents vibe (PK does subscribe to the Theory of Obscurity) and also incorporates some field recording as distant texture. The album wraps with ‘Undernourished’ which has a more underwater sound than anything. Imagine being asleep in a submarine and you get an idea of the sounds to come.
Of the three releases discussed here, Mangas Coloradas (who was an Apache tribal chief in the early 1800’s) is by far on top of the list. I would even go so far as to say that it is the best overall GeAr album to date. Opening with the stunningly minimal track, ‘A Bedsheet’, we drift like smoke in an opium den. My words do no justice here. There needs to be an extended mix for this one. ‘Vakhan’ reminds me a little of a Trip-Hop jam; smooth and groovy. One of my absolute favorites of the album, ‘Mzab’, would not be out of place on the classic and criminally overlooked early 80’s (and cassette only) album by Kevin Harrison & Steven Parker called, “Against the Light”. This was a wonderfully minimal album with rich, repetitive textures just like this track. You really lose yourself in it. The keyboard only song, ‘The Hindu Kush’, has a wonderful pseudo-Blade Runner feel to it. It’s a very cinematic experience. I’m always a sucker for ‘found vocal’ in songs and ‘Slender’ is yet another example of how masterfully GeAr use it. This is a strong contender for “Album of the Year” for me.
Finally, the earliest release of the three, Vieques is named after the island off the east coast of Puerto Rico that the U.S. of A. had battered and abused for decades. Oddly enough, before the album was released, but after it was recorded, Hurricane Maria blew through Puerto Rico and devastated the place killing around 3,000 people. PK unleashed his frustration about the U.S. reaction in his comments concerning the album on label Madiguera’s website. The music contained within is almost a foreshadowing of the mood vented through his comments, the deadly destruction of the hurricane and its aftermath. This is GeAr at some of their most Industrial influenced music ever. It also shows them at their most textured. On side one, tracks like ‘Abila Al Kafrayn’,‘Supernatural Helper’ and ‘Obscuring Origin’ are dense and brooding with tension throughout. Conversely, tracks like ‘Endangered Occupations’, ‘Hallowed Roots’ and ‘Multi-Theirstic’ could have been pulled off of the beautifully ethereal album by Bill Nelson, “Chance Encounters in the Garden of Light”. The balance of dark and light, hope and fear, beauty and inelegance on this album is masterful.
Order the cassette releases here:
Mangas Coloradas: https://muzaneditions.bandcamp.com/album/mangas-coloradas
Terroir Place: https://genot.bandcamp.com/album/terroir-place
…and for good measure (but hurry…as of now only 6 copies remain):
Kowloon Walled City – https://nullzone.bandcamp.com/album/kowloon-walled-city
…and pre-order the new CD Wakhan Corridor due out in December:
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