More of a congregation of like-minded musicians than a ‘band’, Metabolismus is a moniker centered on Stuttgart-based personalities of Thilo Kuhn (guitar, organ), Werner Nötzel (guitar, strings) and Thomas Schätzl (bass, guitar). They began taping their musical trial and error in early 1990s, occasionally publishing the fruit of their sessions on limited series cassettes, vinyl and, more recently, mini-CDs.
Purposefully or not, their records usually juxtapose sessions realized years apart – in slightly different line-ups and certainly different stages in their musical and non-musical lives. Their early attempts trod all over the ground – from Kim Fowley to Beefheart to folk, but by late 1990s, Metabolismus found their own voice. In constant (metabolic) evolution, they successfully transformed the myriad of influences into an appealing, non-schematic eclecticism. Although experimental in intention, the music proves to be quite relaxing in its impact, not least thanks to intoxicating, syncopated rhythms.
Michael Paukner and Dietmar Köhle regularly show up on Metabolismus’ recordings. Samara Lubelski appeared on at least two records in the late 1990s.
The record begins with a host of sonic ephemera: hyperreal drumstick gouache, speed-reformulated vitreous effects, equidistant from sprints and molasses. An energy-transforming modulator looms, exhibiting a range from sizzling to wooly to ghoulish. This rather detached display of associationist electronics comes packaged with some acoustic guitar strumming.
Schnee von gestern
From this spatiotemporal domain originates a rhythmic pattern. Twined with a quaintly non-resonant electric guitar it yields to a concatenated metric evolution, mostly aptly assigned to the heritage of Karuna Khyal. As it snakes surreptitiously, a sarod-like vibration condensates along the metric line. The dosage of rhythmic subpatterns becomes effortlessly self-looping and quasi-periodic. Thin veneers are overlaid – an eerie string here (Werner Nötzel), bird chirping-like whistling there. Gradually, the increased dynamic begins to carry a heavier ballast, but in a controlled fashion. An overloaded guitar gasps and, finally, the rhythm breaks down into micro-buzz.
We are treated with wind effects and gnarled ”clavinet“ notes shinning up and down the scale. Very dovish, discrete distribution of percussive sounds clicks and clocks behind. We can detect a broader, almost larval rhythm figure here, unconsciously recreating what should be an electric bass line. Alternatively, we may be falling victim to auditory illusion generated by the highest note that the keyboard obsessively repeats, spawning (usually rewarded) metric expectations. When it fails to do so, some analog synthesizer deposits a feline complaint. The woozy synth magnetizes the overall effect with a very 1970s hue, traipsing in and out of audible space.
Temple blocks make a premonitory call. More elements will disambiguate East Asian memories – summer night crickets and distant ‘Buddhist trumpet’ (probably keyboard-generated). Not only has the foggy melody a form of an East Asian song, but so does the string tuning. Glassy overtones submerge everything else, but a stealthy, abiotic entity intones again a vague theme.
Walzstrom aus Partikeln (Dies tat er besser nicht getan)
An augurious, Epicurean melody dipped in 1980s geri reig sauce comes all complete with electro-guzzle and hollow, purposefully amateurish drumming (Andreas Pintore). A text is half-sung – almost murmured, making a mockery out of German Sprechgesang tradition. Horns, pseudo-cosmic bleepery and celeste tinkle enrich somewhat the texture of this NDW nostalgia. But the tardy, impassive pace does not make it melancholic enough to evoke Legendary Pink Dots – the ultimate epigones of the era.
Mehr genuß durch Stereo
Here Metabolismus goes buffoonish. With a sense of humor worth of Tony Tani, Daevid Allen or Fontaine-Areski, they tackle the epiphenomenalism of “stereo”. After an innocent intro scored for a saxophone, children’s voices, and a circulating Flugzeug, a grown-up girl asks an imperturbable Expert about the difference between stereo and mono. Her sonic virginity is open to learn, provided the exposé is not too “scientific”. The “professor” politely thrusts forward, challenging the girl to identify the sounds panning between the left and right channel. The ‘sounds’ in question are electronic in a way that Luc Marianni’s or Dominique Lawalree’s electronic organ tales were – playful, melodic, downy, viscuous, nostalgic, infantile…
A pleasant nursery tune, performed on keyboards with rhythm box that (surprise!) does not annoy. The benign, comforting flow is further softened by chirping larks, buzzing swarms, after-sunset amphibians and nocturnal orthopera. An unassertive, candlelight theme flows from the organ (Thilo Kuhn). Flat bell cymbals and a singing aviary close this impromptu.
A miniature littered with gurgling rocket lift-offs, gyromagnetic reverbs and stop-go cosmogenetic circuit effects. A dig to Louis and Bebe Barron, maybe.
A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing
Can’s Idealtyp towers high above many German artists. From snippets sneaked into Wim Wenders’s movies to panegyrics formulated by pop stars (Grönemeyer) – the band from Köln has been engraved on the firmament of the “decade that good taste forgot”. And yet, Metabolismus’ tribute to the legendary Can-styled propulsion rises above the bastardizing (and very global) competition. On this track, the familiarity effect stems from Karoli-type guitar phrasing, murmured vocal and understated, iterative pulse. But the planar keyboard appears more potent than Schmidt’s and there is more chroma added to the appropriately blunted mix. Acoustic guitar repeats a simple figure and glockenspiel insolates the upbeat atmosphere. As far as homage to 1974 goes, Metabolismus ranks among the very best – up there with esoteric SYPH and dusky Circle.
A short intro on ‘celeste’ brings on another metric run. It chugs along like an old, reliable locomotive with its crankshafts lubricated by bass guitar, a very basic drum kit, and guitar hitches. Intriguingly, the melodic contour is delineated by the bass (Thomas Schätzl). Keyboards punctuate the engine’s heavy breath and ramp up inorganic sonority. Then the ‘vibraphone’ notes return, mounting the entire scale until a rather digital sounding Yamaha closes the record.
Literally each of Metabolismus’ records is peppered with output from various sessions. The recent reincarnation is promising and new Tonträger are apparently in preparation.
METABOLISMUS: “Rauchzeichen anstelle einer Quietschneente” (1991-96)
METABOLISMUS: “Wonderful, Dangerous, Confusing, or What” (1994, 1996)
METABOLISMUS: “Terra incognita” (1996)
METABOLISMUS: “Sprießwärtsdrall” (1995-98)
METABOLISMUS: “Von Anker” (2006)
Reportedly, there exist many other positions of questionable availability.
Metabolismus should not be confused with British post-punk avant-garde legend Metabolist.