The Safety Net: Kammerflimmer Kollektief – “Absencen” (2005)

The Safety Net, a Bird is the Worm series which highlights outstanding older albums that may have flown under the radar when first released.



German outfit Kammerflimmer Kollektief has put out a series of albums that pretty fairly mixed jazz, electronica, and post-rock with some admirable success.  Their 2009 release Absencen is the standout of the discography, of which they released a few albums both before and after Absencen.

Notably different from the rest of their discography, Absencen has an exceptionally relaxed stroll, one which conjures images of shady Summer afternoons enjoying a cool breeze, and which effortlessly tames the occasional bursts of free jazz saxophone wails, percussion revolts, and avalanches of electronic effects.  The cohesiveness of sound on the album keeps it tethered, and creates a sense of layering of one song atop the other, ultimately making a rich sonic experience by the time the last note is achieved.

Your album personnel:  Dietrich Foth (alto & baritone sax), Johannes Frisch (double bass), Christopher Brunner (drums, glockenspiel, percussion, vibes, marimba), Jurgen Galli (trumpet, flugelhorn), Thomas Weber (guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, autoharp, zither, percussion, electronics, E-bow), Heike Aumuller (Harmonium), Martin Siewert (lap, pedal steel guitar), Heike Wendelin (violin, viola). and guests:  Marco Preitschopf (noises), Pirmin Ullrich (baritone clarinet), and Helmut Dinkel (soprano & tenor sax).

The various woodwinds set the tunes on fire, interspersed skronking and screeching, expressing their freedom from the confines of the hip groove that the rhythm section lays down.  Trumpet typically strolls through tunes, while lap steel guitar draws long luxuriant arcs overhead.  Electronics and effects either simmer underneath or wash over everything in sight.  The various strings and harmonium accentuate the chilled atmosphere, sometimes driving it ahead.  Odd bits of percussion burrow through the songs, then suddenly burst from the soil and provide dynamic color and texture.  Many of the tracks are only a couple minutes long, giving the sense of interludes orphaned from the songs they were meant to be transition points for.  But for an album this cohesive, it’s perhaps a mistake to consider anything an interlude; it all is just music that falls between beginning and end, and the point of “tracks” loses its meaning as well.

I discovered Kammerflimmer Kollektief at the tail-end of 2009 when I happened upon this album.  It was one of those evenings when I followed new music like trails of breadcrumbs from artist to artist, the tv on mute and turned to Sportscenter or Law & Order, and the hours ticking away late into a night filled with new names and new sounds.  Three years later and still enjoying it immensely, I wanted to put something down in print about Absencen.  It’s the reason I created the Safety Net series.

Released on the Staubgold label.

Jazz from the Karlsruhe, Germany scene.

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