Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Sturmpercht - Geister Im Waldgebirg

Geister Im Waldgebirg

AOTM #80, January 2007ce
Released 2006 on Percht Records
  1. Wir rufen deine Wölfe (4.33)
  2. Der Knabe im Moor (3.08)
  3. Riesenbrüder (2.07)
  4. Kaiser Carl (4.28)
  5. Des Feuers lichte Strahlen (5.20)
  6. Waldeslust (4.22)
  7. Allerseelenreigen (3.10)
  8. Sterbelied (2.37)
  9. I bin da woid (4.50)
  10. Durch Berg und Tal (3.54)
  11. Im Jahreswandel (4.10)
  12. Vom toten Schnee (5.53)
  13. Waldheimat (6.21)
  14. Bergsturz (4.46)
  15. Der weiße Wurm (3.49)
  16. Was rauschet und was brauset (2.41)
  17. Lebewohl (4.04)

An Everyday Story of Freefölk

Here at the gateway between the years, in that mysterious psychic hinterland between X-Mass and the straight world’s return to their 9-to-5’s, it’s been a joy to find this amazing musical reconciler of all things traditional and novel, deeply serious and humorously jovial, archly-clichéd and yet shockingly brand new. That this Sturmpercht album is all of these things simultaneously makes their statement something approaching the divine, for its grooves contain an all-purpose psychic poultice with which to soothe our aching and overworked 21st Century heads. With its bizarre cover depicting two snow-covered forest folk straight out of the German faerie tales, GEISTER IM WALDGEBIRG plays the role of the Saxon wyrd, not only to city dwellers but also to those of us who inhabit the more remote villages of the West. Like the unfathomable Cornish massed accordians-and-drum music of Padstow’s Obby Oss parade, and the massed bombard bands of the Breton Kelvrenn Alré, the music contained herein inhabits its own singular worldview with such a vigor that we outsiders can do no more than scratch our chins, suck in one or two sharp intakes of breath and hail these truly rural imps of the perverse. Sturmpercht’s highly entertaining tales of Germanic little people (Wilde Frauen, Seligen fraulein, Schneefaulein, hillfolk, Skogsnuffvar and their Underworld ilk) are all self-consciously delivered in overtly thick ‘local’ accents, displaying that same confident style that Walter Wegmüller employed for his Cosmic Courier-backed ‘70s epic TAROT. Futhermore, Strumpercht’s musicians support all of these highly attractive archaic and pseudo-archaic melodies by deploying a wide arsenal of traditional, orchestral and semi-marching band instruments – harmoniums, flutes, recorders, bass drums, pipes, reeds, clattering percussion, bandonians, plucked 12-strings, bowed violins and violas, etc – that pitches the mind of the listener deep into an unfocussed occult netherworld. So thorough is the execution of this so-called ‘Alpin-Folk’ project that this, Sturmpercht’s first full-length album, has truly provided us with (at last! oh joy!) an alternative and genuinely heathen Christmas soundtrack with which to play on endless rotation while roasting chestnuts, installing the tree in the living room, incongruously (though inevitably) doing the advent calendar, and reducing the overly-stocked pantry of its Yuletide fare. Fans of Nico’s THE MARBLE INDEX and DESERTSHORE, Witthuser & Westrupp’s TRIPS UND TRAUME, and Sand’s GOLEM, will flock to this record with their arms outstretched as though ready to embrace a long-lost old friend, as will anyone who has ever cherished the more traditional and nostalgic moments on albums by Kevin Coyne (‘Are We Sleeping?’), Sergius Golowin’s LORD KRISHNA VON GOLOKA, the occasionally tragic sentimentality of Ivor Cutler’s mid-70s Virgin albums, and the acoustic side of Cadaverous Condition (especially the more traditional moments of their THE LESSER TRAVELLED SEAS or the wonderful shared 10” LP with Robert Taylor and Nicholas Tesluk’s immaculate duo Changes). Those younger listeners among you who have no knowledge of those aforementioned ’70s-‘90s references are sure to love Sturmpercht’s Kelto-Germanic ‘lost in ancient oak forests’ sound if you have ever felt an affinity for such inimitably eerie and beautifully pagan neo-folk as Waldteufel’s HEIMLICHES DEUTSCHLAND (see Album Of The Month 2002CE), Allerseelen’s many albums (see Allerseelen Sampler at Album Of The Month September 2005CE), BARBARA CARMINA and PATRIA GRANITICA by Sangre Cavallum and Werkraum’s masterful KRISTALLE. Indeed, as members of all these last mentioned ensembles have contributed to this Sturmpercht album (Werkraum’s own Axel F appearing here appears as a full Sturmpercht member), it quickly becomes clear why this particular album is so chock full of deeply mysterious and magical moments. It should also be noted that none of these mainly Austrian artists and musicians are hung-up on that dreadfully Luddite idea of ‘Authenticity’, which has hindered so many equivalent American folk artists (with the exception of the superb Changes). Instead, all of the members of Sturmpercht and their many contributors clearly feel confident enough to bring in the big guns of modern technology to play on GEISTER IM WALDGEBIRG whenever and wherever they so choose, adding samples Allerseelen-style at will, and even – on ‘I bin da Woid’ - drifting slightly off their own self-imposed and highly restricted metaphor into a kind off acoustic take on early Harmonia. In light of the extreme length of this album, the material only gains considerably from this approach and makes the overall project infinitely stronger. To itemize each track in this review would be a bore and entirely unnecessary, for this record’s magic is in the manner with which its seventeen songs/tracks conspire to create a richly varied tapestry of experience. In my umpteen repeated plays during this long holiday period, part of the album’s joy has been the manner in which the music causes time to disappear. Those martial drums, those richly sonorous but stentorian voices, those timeless almost hackneyed minor chords played on reedy organs or heartily-sawed bowed string instruments; everything is essential to sustaining the great sonic crockpot which the members of Sturmpercht keep on stirring. Make every future X-mass a heathen one AND make older relatives feel at ease round your log fire by playing Sturmpercht from here until Doomsday. That’s my judgement, anyway, kiddies.