Review: Kammerflimmer Kollektief – Teufelskamin

Just leave Kammerflimmer Kollektief to jam it out and then see what they come up with. This seems to be the way to coax the very best out of this German group: set the brush kit rolling in pattering beats, and then witness gently effected guitars, skittering woodwind and a delightful plethora of noises scramble untidily over the top. There’s a definite air of jazz about the sleek, minor-key lounging that comprise Teufelskamin’s foundations, while the playful timbre experimentation flecks the canvas with noise and drone, too – croaks of dry wood, messy wheezes of accordion and cumbersome, aggravated scrapes on double bass strings prevent the band from reclining into the drab and inoffensive, forming surprise texture complements rather than sharp and jarring juxtapositions. “Never Collapse, Always Dazzle!” is a fine example, and a tribute to the sound combinations that seem to derive from spontaneous intuition more than careful thought: who would have suspected that psychedelia, cyborg vocoder and a dash of Americana twang could slot together so neatly?

Unfortunately, it’s often when those breathy female vocals take the lead that the band are lured into sickly-smooth “songs” that suck a large majority of the innovation out of their players. “Tuefelskamin Jam #2” is the worst culprit by far – conjuring a dull smoky romance that even the ghostly orchestra waves can’t save – and in fact, its entrance seems to announce a distinctly weaker second half. “A Different Carmic Thermal” is intriguing for its dissonance collapse about halfway through, but loses any interest once it finds its head and plateaus monotonously for the remainder of its duration. Conversely, the 9-minute dronescape of “New Ghosts” could actually do with being reigned in a tad, with the band musically liberated to the point at which purpose and direction are largely ditched also.

“Nearly Able To Fly” is the saviour of the latter five tracks though – sporadic slurps and plods of piano come in chaotic surges, dizzying the other instruments into spluttering, bewildered noises. The creeping grooves of Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble definitely feel like an appropriate point of reference here (for all the right reasons), rich in the ghoulish creaks and sombre shuffles of a haunted jazz café. There’s certainly more good than bad on Tuefelskamin, and it’s worth tolerating those quality lapses to sink blissfully into those occasions that Kammerflimmer Kollektief get it spot on.