08 Oct 2021 - Thorsten
Denovali | Release date: 24 Sep 2021
How elegant and appealing can an album be without aiming for popularity and the mainstream? When listening to Jason Köhnen’s latest project, The Lovecraft Sextet, and their debut full-length, one finds a clear answer: Very elegant and highly appealing without sacrificing the overall idea of the record. In Memoriam is really good at exactly that!
Jason is a miracle. He’s been part of the European scene in many different incarnations and part of many amazing projects, let me give you a short list only: Mansur, Bong-Ra, The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, Death Storm or Servants of the Apocalyptic Goat Rave to name only a very few. Now he adds another Darkjazz / Doomjazz incarnation to it with The Lovecraft Sextet and their debut out on Denovali Records.
The record is basically divided into two suites, ”Funebre Macabre” and ”De Mysteriis” and each of these is again divided into ”[Vocalis]”, “[Musicorum]” and ”[Ambientum]”. The second suite ”De Mysteriis” is a reference to Mayhem’s classic black metal opus ”De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and also slightly longer than the other suite.
When listening to the record for the first time, one cannot but notice a certain warmth underneath the tracks, a somewhat silky presence which might represent the one side of the idea of a memorial or a memory. Through memorizing the presence of the deceased one can make sure that the dead person doesn’t really leave you as you still have these (often very vivid) memories of him or her. You can always refer back to these memories as your own way of keeping that one “alive”. In that way, In Memoriam is like the warm touch of the person you loved lingering on your cheek.
The record opens with a church organ, some opera-like vocals and the typically shifting jazz-inspired Doom Jazz drums using a brush instead of sticks. This is Doom Jazz in the vein of Bohren und der Club of Gore playing behind a classically-trained opera singer. Here the grief becomes all too apparent, but never too much to take in. A quality that is rare in modern music, with songs often overpowering the audience with sad emotions. Each track has a certain color to it, some brighter, some darker, some painted with strong strokes, some rather hushed up. When listening to the record over good headphones the intimacy between each instrument and one’s ears is bridged all too quickly. The clarinet used in ”Funebre Macabre [Musicorum]” displays a magical lament one will not easily forget, especially when the piano keys are hit harder than necessary every few notes so that the darkness grows even denser and all-consuming.
The second track featuring vocals is ”De Mysteriis [Vocalis]” and here Köhnen incorporates classical Gregorian chants into his music at a level of artisan-ship that is really breathtaking, because the combination of Doom Jazz and Gregorian chants is a rare one, indeed. That both tracks featuring vocals use these harmonies like yet another instrument should not come as a surprise as most Doom Jazz songs do not easily display their own meaning. They shall not dictate one’s own Memoriam.
In the end, a track ”De Mysteriis [Ambientum]”, an amalgam of slowly trickling piano notes, faint bells, and very minimalist percussion, features another side. The bells one can hear in the background are reminders of the funeral one should not forget to attend – a reminder that it’s about time to leave the warmth of one’s own home and confront the pain and grief you feel. Because in this confrontation lies an important step towards coping with grieve. ”Do not forget to attend the memorial” is its message.
With this record Jason Köhnen proves to be the master of disaster for this kind of music once more as it is difficult to come up with anyone close to the masterclass displayed here between the dark synths and strong organs, the slowly shuffling drums and the perfectly embedded vocal harmonies!