CMDR RIKR - The Bright Below

11 Jun 2021 - Thorsten

Doomy Chambermusic Post-Rock Post-Metal | Release date: 26 Mar 2021

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What is that? A band that sounds like some 70s dropout coming back to life? Or a new incarnation of the Leitmotif-phase Dredg? A chamber music ensemble meeting a triphop producer who shows them some Canterbury meets Doom records? It’s much simpler than that - it’s CMDR RIKR.

The quartet from Northern Germany might be an absolute insider tip but that should not keep one from giving their new and second full-length The Bright Below a thorough listen. Why you ask? Okay, let’s gather some arguments:

First of all: I like Prog-Rock (also the 70s variant) but I detest some of those old bands which use a Moog or synth too much like a whiny, cranky baby, or when it dominates the mix too much. CMDR RIKR have some synth-passages and yes, they sound like typical 70s prog-rock, but there is something fresh about them, some kind of uplifting moment – the kind of key-work that made Dredg one of the most interesting bands 20 years ago. Or the wonderfully vibrating Moog sounds in ”Algieba”, when the keys are reverberating like in some good Krautrock moments.

Second, the way they construct their songs around some semi-acoustic guitar passages, for example in ”Pwnrshp”: Here they use these lines to lead us into the song and some brilliant, single-note piano melody which is the harmony instrument in this song. After a little while they add some simple stoic drumming, some spherical keyboard passages and (after nearly 2/3 of the song) give the guitar free reign. The good heavy riffing doesn’t seem out of place because the keyboards give the song that whole heavy Canterbury feeling, one might even throw King Crimson into the ring. But due to the great melancholic guitar and trumpet outro give it some kind of Respire-feeling. Can a band really be prog-rock and crust? Maybe.

Third; if there is one thing a band should never be – it is pretentious! Because if they pretend to be something they are not, then everything turns into a charade or it becomes laughable. CMDR RIKR are anything but pretentious: They take their music very seriously but no member wants to be the dominating part. When the longest track ”Warp 0” (talk about some serious Star Trek worship!) goes into action with several noisy elements plus the mentioned reverberating synths plus some heavy riffing then that never sounds like a band trying to outperform their own fans. They play to their audience not against them, they try to embrace us not roll over us. The song is definitely a great combination of a good variable post-rock-educated rhythm section (always on point, even in all the stop and go’s) and some really heavy riffs. The song is really heavy, but still staggeringly coherent. If you think about The Mars Volta – if there is one thing that might bother you, it could be sheer too-long-outros of jamming which take more than 10 or 15 minutes. ”Warp 0” might be the band’s longest track (by far) but it never feels incoherent. Also because they repeat several elements cleverly, for example the short keyboard part which sounds like rain dropping on our heads while the rest of the band riffs and rocks our Doom off.

Fourth; sheer daring: If a band dares to give an imaginary triangle of “Omega Massif, Tortoise and Nils Frahm” in their EPK or when they connecting their own stuff to German specialist label Denovali Records – they better deliver. And this wonderful hydra of a record – when thinking you got it all figured out, another head comes along and tries to seduce you – never stops to deliver.

The Bright Below is my secret insider tip for 2021, that’s for sure. Only randomly do I come across a total newcomer band that really, deeply impresses me with all their musical ambition but at the same time not trying to outshine each other (or their own songs) and always being able to surprise me. CMDR RIKR – please bring us up to Warp 5!