How to describe the new album from Bruch or indeed the character of the sound the artist behind it weaves and conjures. To be honest we can give mere hints track by track, song after song evolving the adventure of The Fool with individual invention and distinct imagination but for sure we can reveal the captivation and pleasure found with relish.
Bruch is the long-standing solo project of Vienna-based Philipp Hanich and The Fool his fourth full-length. He is a troubadour weaving electronic spun tales within a tapestry of diverse flavours and styles; a crooner wrapped in the dextrous enterprise and textures of pop and rock embracing everything from synth and dark wave to industrial and R&B reared rock. It makes for an exploration within The Fool which surprised at every unpredictable turn and captivated with each twist for one of the most fascinating pleasures our ears have embraced this year.
Listening to the album and Hanich’s enthralling invention and vocal theatre two names came to mind most often, Scott Walker and David Thomas, the first an immediate impression with the latter evolving as a essence as The Fool unfolded. The Trembler opens up the album, a melodic stroll within inviting shadows paving the way for Hanich’s magnetic tones. Not only in voice is that Scott Walker essence revealed, the emotive richness of words and melodies adding to the thought whilst musically the song reminds of British artist Skylephant in some ways too. Even so it is a unique declaration of love which effortlessly captivated, vocal chords and swaying hips in unison with its low but hauntingly rich virulence.
The Big Boys follows, it too slimline in sound but thick in imagination and temptation with rhythmic incitement immediately under the skin, manipulating and increasingly so as bolder endeavour aligns to the electronic threading increasingly entangled around the calm tones of Hanich. Reflective melancholy drapes the catchiness of the song, its breath darker than its predecessor’s as the tale is exposed, hues as magnetic within The Singer. Atmospheric suggestion and melodic ambience brews behind the vocal narrative, synths weaving warm yet again shadowy intimation before finding their energy and erupting in synth pop fertility still within that emotive mist.
It is fair to say that as impressive and richly enjoyable as the album’s first throes certainly were it is a release which only dug deeper under the skin song by song, next up Individual with its industrial seeded instincts and drama tightening the album’s already firm grip. There is something of early Human League to the song at times and a post punk flirtation which enticed and escalated the darkness within the track while its successor, The Underground teased and taunted with rhythmic and minimalistic enticement to only bring greedy ears and creative incitement closer together.
The Painter follows, its skilfully monotonous coaxing soon aligned to melodic and electronic evolution. With vocalist Anna Pü guesting alongside Hanich, the track unveils its richness like a painting, layer upon layer of sound and imagination building up its dextrous character and inventive landscape. At times with a moment of relative stillness it seems to step back to assess its canvas before returning to lay more layers to its fascination.
The release had us drooling from this point, the track Bruch stepping forward with dark captivation, Hanich’s deep tones bound in classic hues of keys and orchestration. All the while though, the electronics are simmering a contagion which builds and builds with synth pop animation, not for the first time a potent Daniel Miller/The Normal-esque simplicity embracing new ingredients to birth a subsequent tempest. It is a discordance which truly reveals its wonderful turmoil across following tracks such as the following Fool The Fool. This is where that David Thomas scented adventure breaks free, the vocals of Hanich not only carrying the wonderfully peculiar traits of the Pere Ubu frontman but the track’s aberrant sounds and unique collusion of them resembling the creative psychosis of the Ohio outfit.
Taking favourite track honours, XY is a gripping fusion of electronic and post punk manipulation with a lining of Yello meets De Staat like devilment to its addictive incitement where again minimal sounds create the richest and thickest skin burrowing adventure, ingredients just as potent within Sweat the Crap Out and Gelotologie after it. If the atypical dynamics and off kilter sanity of the first did not quite tap into the addiction found for other moments within the album it left thick intrigue and a want for more which the seductive and increasingly anomalous croon of the second more than provided with its crepuscular and growingly tempestuous heart and body.
In Relief embraces the haunting essence which underlines so many of the release’s tracks and weaves its own imagination involving ballad within another ever swelling fever of sound and drama. Captivation simply rose in tandem to its escalation, Hanich once again creating a companion you only want to linger.
The digital and CD releases of The Fool, as some other packages of the album, also offer Mandelkern and The Sinner; two tracks which simply enthralled and took the imagination to another pleasurable place.
The Fool is an encounter which has been impossible to shake off even when away from its lures and a pleasure which has only multiplied with every listen. Uniqueness is a drug and Bruch has plenty to tempt you with.
The Fool is out now via Cut Surface and Trost Records; available @ https://cutsurface.bandcamp.com/album/the-fool
Pete RingMaster 01/12/2020