The past decade has seen electro post punk outfit Das Fluff release a host of ear gripping, imagination stoking records but with their tenth anniversary upon us they have celebrated with their most compelling and striking release yet. Maximum Damage is the band’s sixth album and a venture in the darkest depths of their inimitable world which in a time of global distortion organically echoes the character of the shadows we are all being challenged by.
The brainchild of Berlin/London-based vocalist/ guitarist/writer/producer Dawn Lintern, Das Fluff has persistently challenged and seduced through their songs and releases. From the release of debut album Would You Die for Me? back in 2011, it has persistently provided a creative protagonist for ears and thoughts and an aural theatre for the imagination to play with. It is fair to say that as potent and enjoyable as that first encounter was each subsequent offering as seen the band strongly grow and blossom in every aspect. As their sounds has explored ever evolving soundscapes and flavours so Lintern’s songwriting has bloomed with greater fertility just as her vocal prowess has grown with richer drama and enterprise. Previous album, the glorious Anxiety Dreams, when released in 2018 breached a new plateau for the band but fair to say has now been put firmly in the shade by the startling proposition that is Maximum Damage.
As usual, the electronic and artistic ingenuity of long-time collaborator Christian Ruland is alongside Lintern as too guitarist Joe Dochtermann who alone weaves manipulative sonic intimation within those spun by his colleagues. With its breath, heart and lyrical tapestries, Maximum Damage explores the darkest textures and reflections of life and love, their intimacies lying easily alongside broader social and political reflections. Every track is born of the shadows within their themes and an echo of the challenges each thrust upon the individual, each bordering on the Tartarean as they challenge the fragility of thought and situation but bringing a certain beauty to the surface of their exploration. They also all embrace a fresh minimalism in the sound of the band yet manage to be some of their biggest and boldest adventures yet.
Offering a bumper fifteen tracks which all stake a rich claim on attention, Maximum Damage immediately had attention enslaved with opener Whatever. The alluring tones of Lintern caress ears first, her coaxing swiftly surrounded by a portentous bubble of electronic suggestion though from its realm a lighter catchy canter breaks. Even so there is a claustrophobic air to the track, its shadows a senses crowding embrace within which melodic reassurance dances. It is a stunning start to the album, a superb encounter bearing an early Human League like hue at times though as across the whole album it is Frank Tovey aka Fad Gadget which keeps being teased as a strong hint to Das Fluff’s certain uniqueness.
The album’s title track follows, Maximum Damage resonating on the senses with immediate effect as its electronic pulse finds its own infectious saunter through ears. All the while vocals flirt and entice, the song’s own coquetry rising to match the devilment within Lintern’s come-on. Again there is an eighties electro/post punk hue to the song, one which is just as tempting within We Want Love and its own magnetic darkness. Dochtermann draws a fine hook within the electronic shuffle cast by Ruland, the song’s gait ebbing and flowing through calm and eager urgency to match the salaciousness in the ever drawing tones of Lintern. As with all songs, drama soaks every note and breath, it adding to the addictiveness which we easily succumbed to especially with the brass scented flames which erupt.
Joykiller is next; it’s tempting a taunting incitement as it dives under the skin, its physical animation agile and effervescent though again every aspect is bound in tenebrosity ensuring the senses feel like they are being stalked. Magnetically minimalistic yet rousingly spirited, the track proved swiftly and increasingly irresistible, an inexorable enthralment which is echoed in the far more feral Lovebites. Darker and more intense than its predecessor, it brings the Krautrock-esque side to the band’s sound to the fore, its oppressive stroll draped in menace and rhythmic molestation. That relentless hounding is ridden by the just as intimidating tones of Lintern, her threat bound in captivation and like the sounds boiling up to eruptions of senses ravening trespass.
Already the album has staked its claim for Das Fluff’s finest moment yet, the following One Day, with its rhythmic momentum akin to colliding atoms within another electronic kaleidoscope of suggestion to match the tones of its singer, and Anno 64 straight after only escalating the strength of that declaration. The stunning second of the two is a crepuscular seduction; its beauty and elegance swathed in caliginous melancholy as Lintern casts her own shade bound vocal radiance.
Lazers and Pills sizzles on the senses from its first breath, its electro rock heavy yet again pure temptation even as rhythms stalk and guitars and electronics frequent the darkest realms of their enterprise while Sad Fuck taunts with a more electro punk seeded demeanour with a psychotic edge to its otherwise relatively controlled agitation.
Over is a dark serenade, Lintern an arcane seductress within its noir lit midst, though its jazzy swing feels more reflective of a twisted nursery than a smoky lamplight lit club. It is another song which simply beguiled; the singer a siren and the sounds around her sinister wonder as it placed its own firm hand on favourite track though Apocalypse immediately had its claws out through its dystopian trespass, one brewed in an inescapable landscape of impending destruction. Even so again there is an inherent delirium to its dark rapture which effortlessly seduced.
Ears and imagination again could not escape the romance of the dimly lit ballad Wake Up, vocals and sounds a snare of radiance in the song’s somnambulistic serenade with the industrial breath of Time Machine straight after a post punk bred waltz of simple yet intense intimation, the writing of Lintern alone a book of suggestion.
The final pair of Thee and Out of Time bring the album to a thrilling close, the first again intense in every breath and touch as its rich theatre of sound and intimation calls like a thick clutch of peril bearing sirens, Lintern the dark Queen at the centre. The last track is simply captivation; its skeleton a slim nagging bassline and flesh the poetic tones of Lintern with just sighs of electronics to wrap the minimalistic wonder. Bauhaus like in its darkness, the track is another moment of sheer beauty to leave ears so greedy for more.
Rarely in recent times, if ever, have we been beguiled as fully as we were with Maximum Damage, a release which Das Fluff will have to go some to top and one which should thrust the band to the wide spread recognition it declares they deserve,
Maximum Damage is released September 14 on Sohappymusic digitally and on CD with pre-ordering available from September 2nd @ http://dasfluff.com
The band will also be live-streaming a FLUFF TV special on September 2nd (8pm BST / 21.00 CEST) from their Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/dasfluff/
Pete RingMaster 21/08/2020
Thank you so much for this extraordinarily wonderful review – with heartfelt thanks from Das Fluff.