Cranioclast | Cract On Sail
It’s hard to imagine, but it’s here, the first new album by German duo Cranioclast (Soltan Karik and Sankt Klario) in twenty-five years! The two, active since the 80s offer Cract On Sail which contains two lengthy tracks with a near identical run-time of twenty-seven and a half minutes each. The record itself is released on grey vinyl in a limited edition of 300 copies which they designed themselves. Cranioclast has added soone (guitar & bass) for that added frenzied kick between tracks, though this mostly abstract record is quite accessible for most contemporary listeners.
On side one there’s a balance between low-grade thumping and a static-fueled gently lapping wave. So it begins, this collection of works bound into one: Coriolis Spectres / Congress Of The Space Archeologists / The Arrival Of The Space Frog. We are at sail, but it’s not a race, more of a foggy exploration, grounded by a hearty percussion that breaks with traditions of minimal techno, however with its own understated tribalism. It only vaguely reminds me of their former selves who I only discovered in the late 90s and though they’d been already at it for a decade or more at that time, still manage to maintain this slippery timelessness that is very much in the now. The play between rock and electronic sound themes are tempered by the contained (and heightened) ambient sensibility. It’s impossible to categorize, but completely open to interpretation, and ready to immerse yourself into.
The cracked codes of industrialism is paced and collaged so smoothly into the urbane mix of bass reverb, and percussive wizardry — all exhaled like human breath. They cast a spectrum of faded colors throughout this record, as well as manipulated radio waves and terse announcements. Things get woozy, weary, and a bit suspect at the midpoint, as though these navigators have spun off course and are beyond radar detection. The atmosphere is thick with these queasy post avant jazz wails, as we begin to see the detritus in the belly of this craft. You begin to question if you are upon water, or floating in the atmosphere. Either way they have done a bang-up job allowing the listener to be afloat, just hovering, weightless. Yet the final four minutes holds within, a surprise as they render a bloated drone with a touch of funk-rock, awakening the weary.
The flipside has as many unexpected moments and continues the blurry shimmy left in the wake of the earlier passages. Here on The Return Of The Space Frog / By Ferry To The Event Horizon / Les Abeilles De Crac’h the pace is steady, the effects uniquely broken into abstraction, contorted with a delightful vibe. This harkens back to the largess of the EBM era, yet has the fortitude to, after six or so minutes, to break it down by offering a simple string reverb and sassy drumkit. Minimal and understated they play their best rhythms, similar to those classic ‘tween hive-like moments offered by early Spiritualized. Ready to pounce, adding layers, but keeping under the aforementioned radar, even when eclipsed briefly by the threat of radio transmissions, they trudge along, only adding higher pitched guitar licks with fuzz, buzz and an Asian-inspired twang.
When this cerebral jam devolves, a watery world emerges again, this is likely the journey home, but it sounds much unlike the place they originally vacated. Here’s where the recording, even with crunchy bass intact, takes its most ethereal turn into electronic music. The use of samples, textured vinyl pops, and other effects – this becomes a repetitive mirage of sorts. The space has a clean echo, and a dirty bottom end bass that really pair well in contrast. The voice that spouts about ‘remotely piloted aircraft’ leaves us with this uncertain sense of inertia. This is one of the best signature impressions of Cranioclast, and it’s impossible to explain. Even though this whole array is a experimental deep listeners dream, they managed to up the ante and save the very best bits for last. Stick around if you want to get lost.
This just may be the record of the year in my humble opinion.