The Room Of Plenty






The best live album in an Ambient or even wider electronic context is The Orb’s Live 93, that is if the listener prefers a certain dose of British humour coupled with a kaleidoscope of beautiful samples. It is neither entirely wise nor plausible per se to approach this review – any review even – with such a sentence of devotion, but one band, while entirely different, still encapsulates the dynamics of improvisation and couples it with the raw, very specific kind of a nihilist’s humor. Enter the German/Swiss trio Centrozoon (stylized as centrozoon) and their latest effort which turns out to be a retrospective view onto their 2011 tour We Will Tongue You. The album couples eight performances of the trio, but is itself titled The Room Of Plenty. Released on the band’s own Iapetus catalog and available to stream and purchase at Bandcamp as usual, touch guitarist Markus Reuter, synthesist/percussionist Bernhard Wöstheinrich as well as electronic programmer and music scholar Tobias Reber venture into rufescent-rusty riots.


Centrozoon’s energetic compositions are occasionally on the threshold to flimflam, but I am more than sure that the band takes such an ascription as a compliment and appreciation in value. You’ll never know what you receive when you’re listening to a Centrozoon album, unless of course you’re in that band, which you aren’t, but if you are, then congratulations for making my point moot. The humor of this Ambient/Drone/Shoegaze critter manifests itself in the track titles and their doubled vowels. More subtler instances of witticism occur in the concurrency and ubiquitousness of placid, amicable and pleasant melodies and tone sequences which are then mercilessly terrorized by their antipode, Reuter’s touch guitar. This kind of desolate humor is not apparent to everyone, but believe me, it is baked into the aural recalcitrance alright. So in other news, here’s an in-depth review for a change.


The opener Paalm, recorded in Bielefeld, is so unlike the rustic metalization extravaganza as depicted on the front artwork, at least that’s what the band wants you to believe in the first place once the warm orange-colored hue of Markus Reuter’s guitar drones comes into existence. Naturally, the mellow soporific soon enough transforms into a taciturn thiazide. Increasingly helical, traversed by bit-crushed jitter retrojections and harmed by portentous interstices in chlorotic minor, the circumambience grows increasingly mephitic, but hey, it’s still an Ambient piece after all, one whose tension is not yet asphyxiating. The opener, while clearly a mere finger exercise for the band, still superimposes the cajoling and frequently iterated titration process of the things to come: saffron strings, liquedous lanthanoid and polyfoil portent alloyed in potassium. The adjacent Dooom is spawned at the same gig and location, with the band concocting another ploy by caulking the pressing darkness with a tawny amethystine aureole. Languorous steel guitar chords evoke the warped exoticism of Hapa Haole, but something is awry, as the rotatory parallax layers are way too eldritch for this growing turmoil to be perceived as a peritoneum of the Hawaiian isles. As Dooom crosses the threshold of its apex, coldly glistening Space-Age hoarfrost is dropped, pulverizing the formerly earthbound mood. Markus Reuter’s powerful guitar chords cauterize Bernhard Wöstheinrich’s glaucous uncanniness until there is only an array of prismatic bleeps left.


Leaving Bielefeld behind, the band ventures to Dortmund. Although this is the wrong conclusion to make since the trio works its way backwards and has visited Dortmund prior to Bielefeld, the sequence of the tracks is what ultimately counts. Exclamation mark. Aarooma is the antrum of choice, one of two epicenters that runs for a very long time. 15 minutes of bliss my arse, Centrozoon deliver one of their serious trademark artifacts. Shapeshifting, transmogrifying, metamorphosing, Aarooma’s gateway is based on Tobias Reber’s viridian vesicles and mellifluous mica which are sooner or later elbowed away by Markus Reuter’s scrimshaw chords. The forceful decortication eventually grinds its way to the pericarp which funnily enough features ornamental syrtaki sinews and a rather oriental fusillade of pluvial licks. The simultaneity makes for a bewildering verve. There are dulcet bubbles enshrined in here, but alas, they are worth nary a mention. It is to no avail: once the diaphanous luminosity of the Gothic crystal organ comes into play, the path to madness – itself an autochthonous force in Centrozoon’s works – is paved. The additional gimcrack is added for your entertainment. In the meantime, Woortex is nigh. Made in Gütersloh, it is as mild-mannered as can be, a truthful tryst where Ambient meets soft-boiled Shoegaze. In lieu of histrionic chords, Reuter, Wöstheinrich and Reber genuflect before the cross-linkage between sound, sustain and silence: worshipping the darkness, injecting faux-ligneous protrusions as illuminants before the thallium-covered guitar chords serve as the vanillarific outlook to the misperceived verdured lavabo, Woortex is filthy and walloping, but ultimately tame.


Next on the agenda: western Austria’s Innsbruck, capital of Tyrol, home of love and kindness, mutual friendship and help. And for a moment or two, Centrozoon. Celebrating the power of Baal, methinks, Hoorn is dropped. Yet again anything more than a mere streamlet, it becomes a powerful cataract later on. The gustatory aura is awash with murky viscidity. Reuter’s granular guitar chords whirl around Reber’s popcorn-evoking boobam-like droplets, their pingpong effect being the playful vestibule to sanity before the band’s Hauntology excursion unfurls screeching guitars, Grunge globs and spermatocystic demons all at once. This reticulation is not clandestine, it is borderline iniquitous. The following Plaan – a Gütersloh original – is drenched (a)qua its viscoelasticity, but otherwise remains wonderfully soothing. The efflorescence of calcined chords, ascending sunshine motifs and stuttering Glitch hisses overall creates a nebulous undercurrent that is unexpectedly rustic. The bucolic rurality is most welcome, but ultimately a misstep, breaking the evil spell, preventing the glabella’s bursitis. Meanwhile, Brooom sweeps through the same hall for almost 15 minutes, again keen on displaying a countrified-pastoral braiding. That’s the plan. It goes wrong. Honky Tonk pianos from the silent movie era, crassly staggering electric current cascades and tumular wood clicks multiplex anxieties. The latter part with its enigmatic Angkor Wat bells however is the greatest awe-inspiring moment of this movement as it augments both the spaciness and Lovecraftian meaningfulness. Once the perniciously pulsating bass guitar comes to a halt, the endpoint Tooong is reached. Played in Berlin, the vertiginously dungeoneered ambience is eminently uncanny, but in a guileful way: instead of Shoegaze madness, sermonic organ braidings become serrated with aerose lactalbumin streams. The dark guitar chords stumble like a drunken sailor while the heterodyned cannelure of the organ ascends to the Tartarean purgatory. The end.


There are belittling and minimizing words to describe Centrozoon’s echopraxia of evil spirits, desiccate funnels and faithful doubts: these eight tracks could be called raggamuffins, guttersnipes, scapegraces, space goats. What all of them have in common is a genuinely mellifluous starting point that is almost frilly. This horticultural cotyledon cannot prosper in the caustic solution, but neither is it prone to be destroyed. The comparatively mellow opening phases unsurprisingly serve as a focal point for the listener to absorb the overall feeling, the textural variety, the polyhedric surfaces. During this process, however, it becomes apparent that these good-natured wisps never leave. Even if a texture is coupled with tones in major and these tones then mutate into mercurial mayhem, the texture itself remains the same, tricking the brain into thinking of it as harmless. Maternal instincts in a male reviewer? How uterusly embarassing!


The Room Of Plenty, as its title openly suggests, has enough room for the trio to improvise, depend on each other, surprise one another. The energetic vibe is still perceptible even in the purposefully calmest and most beguiling moments. The sequence of concerts may resemble the metallic front artwork, but there is one particular thing amiss, a curious omission in the given context: polyrhythmic structures. It needn’t be a classic drum kit, let alone a pair of bongos, but the instances where various clicks, blebs and tendrils (tentacles?) alternate between drowsy deliriousness and sylvan schemes are too few and far between. Imagine the paroxysm, the convulsion, the utter protuberance once a cataclysmic cymbal coruscates consistently! Centrozoon’s Boner (2012) remains the towering instance in this field, expectorating bellicose underwoods, celebrating extirpation before extinction. And The Room Of Plenty? It is subtler, a friendly foe, merging ill-natured gradients with emaciated sine tones before the oomph of the touch guitar translates the half-prospering panoramas into putrefaction and atrophy. But hey, you cannot spell atrophy without trophy, and this is probably what Centrozoon’s collection of concerts bequeath in one’s mind.


Further listening and reading: 


Ambient Review 391: Centrozoon – The Room Of Plenty (2014). Originally published on Nov. 19, 2014 at AmbientExotica.com.