Three prestigious members of the contemporary German-speaking Kraut Rock scene met in January 2023, set up their stuff in Hanover (So please read all this in the voice of either Klaus Meine or ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder!), pressed record and just went wherever the moment would take them.
And there you already have my problem here: Improvised music naturally is a rather ungrateful subject to write about. Don’t you want the creator of the music thinking about it more than the recipient? Isn’t it unfair? You guys just do what comes to you in the blink of an eye and I’m expected to analyze that, while there isn’t any deeper background I can refer to? Am I not more or less left with my thumb pointing up or down? And of course the expectations and prejudices which come with the respective genre in which you’re jamming has to be considered. It being Space Rock makes it an easy sell for fans, both of the genre and the specific musicians involved. But outside of that bubble? Let’s be real: If your picture of Psychedelic Rock is that you just take some mushrooms, step on all your echo/delay effects and senselessly noodle around for an eternity, it’s pretty unlikely that you’re even reading as far as this. Unless of course you don’t speak German and you’re just curious what the title means and hope for a translation somewhere along the way.
So ok, there you go: Bügeln translates to “ironing”. The band name is a word play on “Mineral” (same in English) and “All” (“space”). And the band members are Dave Schmidt, also known under his moniker Sula Bassana, long-time guitarist of Electric Moon and current member of Zone Six and Interkosmos as well as label owner of Sulatron Records on bass, effects and synthesizers, Marcel Cultrera of the Austrians Speck on guitar and effects, and last but not least drummer Tommy Handschick of the prolific Kombynat Robotron and Drone Doom weedians Earthbong. Even if you’ve only had surface level contact with the German/Austrian Psych scene so far, you will probably at least have heard one or two of these names. It’s pretty unavoidable.
So we have established that all members of this gathering are used to improvising and have put out plenty of studio and live jam releases in the past. So why should you specifically care for Minerall? The threefold answer is feeling, timing and lack of ego. You may also summerize those as sheer quality.
A common workflow for albums like this is to record the spontanous jam itself and then add more layers in post and edit the best parts together and tweak it with as much studio magic as necessary to achieve the best possible outcome. Nothing about that is out of the ordinary or objectionable. Bügeln however only saw minimal edits at the very beginning and end - and obviously the fades to split the forty-four minutes into two tracks called “Bügeln/Unerforscht” (“Ironing/Uncharted”) and “Sachebene (“Factual Level”). But everything else is there as it was.
I’m not saying it doesn’t sound like it, but if you told me this album was a meticulously arranged work of a Psychedelic Post Rock band, who crafted it over a long period of time, I wouldn’t deem that implausible either. Without context you really can’t tell whether you’re hearing on-the-spot composition or not. There’s just no unnecessary fat - let alone those occasional phases in jam music, where things go a bit off the rails for a while and need to find themselves again. No, you really must look extremely closely to detect rudiments of that.
Instead everything flows in a perfect natural pace and progression without anyone overpowering the other players or forcing drastic changes, while on the other hand no part overstays its welcome either. And when the trio dwells upon an idea longer, this idea simply is just worth the time. That goes especially for the “Unerforscht” Ambient phase where tripping guitar, hypnotic bass and the Space Echo effect, which puts its stamp on the whole session, blend together in dreamy escapist perfection. Everything sounds dynamic, rich, rounded, sometimes a little mean on the guitar side - and of course we want that! If you can get together and create such a stylistically coherent and above all complete album on the spot in one continuous take you’re either very lucky or very versed in this discipline. With these guys obviously both applies.
Sorry, what? I’m ignoring the elephant in the room? No, not me! I mean, of course it’s ridiculous that this beautiful odyssey bears such a mundane name. But come on: The cover artwork is absolutely worth it!