Caspar Brötzmann Massaker – The Tribe and Black Axis (2019 re-issues)

Review by: Graeme J Baty

I make an effort to check out everything that comes in, I love hearing new music, even if it’s stuff that I probably won’t like. On some occasions, something comes in and I’m left wondering why the hell have I not heard this before? Those moments are golden! The first two albums by Caspar Brötzmann Massaker arrived and that golden moment happened. This immediately stood out and sounded fantastic to my ears. A few days later I’ve had the albums on repeat for some time.

Southern Lord Recordings are adding to their hugely impressive catalogue with reissues of the first album; The Tribe 1987 and second album Black Axis 1989. Southern Lord seem incapable of releasing a duff record. So I decided to give this a shot. Certainly ahead of their time in the 80s, perhaps the time is finally right for CBM to find a wider audience.

Title track The Tribe brings with it Birthday Party/Grinderman type vibes and some admirably outrageous riffs. Grinderman style noise meets a more restrained and focused Sonic Youth SYR noise. There’s real live performance sound to the mix, played at the appropriate volume it sounds like you’re in the room with the band.

The guitar sound sits quite high up in the mix, eclipsing the vocals. Instrumental but never minimal, the guitar takes the lead role. It shouldn’t work but it does and it does really well on Blechton. Caspar’s vocals channel sounds not to dissimilar to John Cale in tone, delivering simple vocal lines perfectly executed to accompany the music, yet not overshadow it.

Primal chants of Massaker juxtapose the seemingly untamed guitar wail. Clocking in at over 9 minutes, it takes a primitive Krautrock like rhythm and pummels you with it for the entire duration. Unlike the standard Krautrock, it doesn’t subdue or bore you with endless repetition, I find myself on the edge of my seat for the entire song enthralled in the noise. Quite an exciting journey.

Black Axis sees the band move into more avant-garde direction. Songs elongate into Swans like compositions clocking in at up to 16 minutes. Hunter sounds like the sonic equivalent of an anxiety attack with its finger tapping drilling into your skull.

The albums are enthralling and sometimes challenging. The Tribe acts as the perfect soft landing introduction to the music of Caspar. The avant-garde approach ramping up for the follow-up album Black Axis which is a trend that continues into following work. Two remarkable albums from a band that deserve much greater recognition than they have experienced.

The reissues are out now on Southern Lord Recordings.

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