Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore—
Gore Motel

Released 1994 on Epistrophy
The Seth Man, March 2020ce
This first album by German quartet Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore is one severe and austere meditational instrumental device uncomplicated and uncompromised by space, silence, and a severe economy of notes. Almost too fully-formed and complete, “Gore Motel” is a mesmerising work where the music is surrounded by so little that it winds up becoming the largest part of the music. This is audio pointillism on a canvas of silence as Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore proceed as slowly as possible from 11:59:59PM (or 23:59:59) towards that space preceding the final second before midnight, grasping it totally and only then reflecting on it for hours on end. With one half of the band name in German and the other half in English, all of it together speaks of dark mysterious depths as Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore use a sundial in darkness as their metronome, doling out unbearably slow measures with twangy reverbed guitars that echo into forever, ponderous plonk bass lines where you can practically hear the wood of its instrument resonate, and Bataan death march drums that keep slow and mercifully bereft as they hammer under every supernatural twinkling of late night.

There was a recording device mentioned in a King Tubby CD booklet called Der Zeitdehner. Translated from German it means ‘time stretcher’ and although its existence was never fully corroborated, if anyone else had ever used one, it would’ve been Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore. They don’t create a mountain out of a molehill, but a world in a grain of sand. From molecule into drifting continents, their persistent nudging, excessive spatial awareness, and overall gloom ambience are singular and vigourously upheld throughout the album, which could be categorised under several sub-genres that took root in the early 21st Century -- If not for the fact this record dates from 1994. Way too early, way to go, and away we go through this eternal time tunnel transit...

Opening with “Die Nahtanznummer, Teil 2” a bass enters at a confidently slow stride while guitar skittering and ominous organ fills ring the setting, reminding one of the minimal Hooky bass intro of Joy Division’s “Exercise One.” But there the comparisons end and in fact: there are many moments on “Gore Motel” that sound like the slow reflections found in front of “The End,” “Hand Of Doom,” “I Remember Nothing,” or the quietude of Jimmy Page’s violin bow solo in “Dazed And Confused” from the film, “The Song Remains The Same” (1976). But that’s not to say that Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore sound remotely like any of those bands, per se. But if you took the quietest parts from those aforementioned tracks, clustered them out into six minute songs dense with minimalism, vibe, crawling intent and where every vantage point from those songs’ introductions are fully and psychically experienced then expanded outward, you’re approaching a general sense of der Bohren’s obsessive methodology.

What’s German for “Black Sabbath Highway,” anyway? Well, that would be the title of the following track, “Sabbat Schwarzer Highway” and little wonder as it’s also the slowest patch on the album. The speed limit is marked in negative kmph so the pace is agonizingly slow, slow, S-L-O-W as it follows the bass’ anvil-tugging passage. Here, a minute feels like a lifetime because Bohren UDCOG balances their playing on such a narrow knife’s edge that it would induce nerve-wracking exhaustion in lesser mortals.

The title track “Gore Motel” gradually re-assembles as a somnambulist’s dreamtime stroll through the halls of Morricone-tremolo’d guitar, creeping Farfisa Compact Duo organ, reverberation bass and drum hits at the speed of corpse fall. A fever dream deluxe.

With an intro bass line that a.) Geezer Butler would die for and b.) continues its unabated crawl for the entire song, “Dandys Lungern Durch Die Nacht” comes on as some super-slowed persistent caterpillar trudge magnified 100,000 times through a nighttime forest path littered with fallen rock, debris, and quite possibly: luminescent corpses. Following in its none-too-quick foot tracks is the bizarrely-entitled “Dangerflirt Mit Der Schlägerbitch.” Featuring echoey surf guitar (but only in the manner Stacy Sutherland handled it on the first Elevators album) that is a draggier, druggier cousin to “Kingdom Of Heaven”, but only if it had a “Sleeping Village” vibe and ever-obscuring vapour fog organ.

Quietly psychedelic and highly meditative, the greatly titled “Conway Twitty Zieh Mit Mir” opens with lightly gossamer guitar accenting juxtaposed by bass brooding and light drumming into a place where all is lost in thought. Random dust from Jefferson Airplane’s “Spare Chaynge” or the quietest opening moments of “Bear Melt” reassembles in a darkened attic where shadows are green, violet, pink and remain undetected for decades.

The spaciest track of the album, “Die Fulci Nummer,” opens up the Messerseite (‘Knife side’) of the album lightly dusted with vibraphones as it approaches the slowest beat possible ever mustered forth from a Maestro Rhythm King drum machine this side of the Kraftwerk B-side, “Kohoutek – Kometenmelodie.” And as those vibes continue to pulsate and twinkle in the background, so does the rhythm machine continue its slowburn game of Pong as it gradually burns the goal marks into the screen of your mind’s gone.

The beat speeds up to a mere crawl on “Der Maggot Tango” (no, really) as it crisscrosses the twang-guitar diagonally with drums at their most prominent on the album. Prominent? Fuck, they’re beating a pathway through solid rock to Meddio and they call it a tango?! Are these Deutsche slowpokes from an alternative universe?!!!
If they are, then it’s probably an alternative universe where the autobahn is just one extremely elongated parking lot and the next song, “Texas Keller,” would be the deranged byproduct of “Reuters” by Wire as played by “Psychedelic Jungle”-era Cramps if not for the alternating stabbing/bitty 2-finger organ runs and complete lack of vocals. Luckily, in this universe it’s Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore’s most rockin’ moment and just when you think the next track has to be the pit stop where nothing happens...wrong. “Thrash Altenessen” is a psychedelic wonderment and a mystery to behold. A distant, echoey guitar riff enters, soon blossoming from a Randy Alvey-esque garagepunkengymnasium into riffing of the forgotten sixties West Coast variety that combines into a strange Twilight Zone’d out version of memories of Alice Cooper’s “Apple Bush” colliding and merging in freefall with Quicksilver Messenger Service’s “Gold And Silver.” Both are missing a majority of its respective chords and beats -- and as a result, rhythms -- but somehow it still burrows onward. It’s missing so much that it’s strange to assess how much exactly is there, or just imagined. Late sixties organ swells in the background as the guitarist approaches the build up as a skeletal version of John Cipollina – not there in notes, but in spirit only. During the “breakdown” (as it were), Robin Rodenberg’s bass clambers up the wall as do the swells of organ sustains and refrains, until it finally winds down into nothingness.

As hinted at earlier, “Cairo Keller” begins with sounds that are remarkably akin to of in the quiet intro of the violin bow section of “Dazed And Confused” from the film “The Song Remains The Same” (1976) in all its creeping malaise. Otherworldliness quietly ensues with the distant resounding of thunder, hissing cymbals, bass punctuations and soon, guitar riffing reverbed and perched on the edge of time amid the layers of echoed signal remains and soon -- that’s all that remains, alongside the opening wraith theme and eventually casting into a pit of silence.

The finale comes with “Gore Musik.” Not so much an audio summation of the group’s trip as it is a La Brea tar pit submersion into silence accompanied only by bubbling and super slowed stream engine percussion sounding off at a couple of beats per minute. Sinking slowly beneath, all is diminished entirely, nothing is remembered, and everything has dissipated into the void from whence it came. Aufgenommen am 2.8.94 in Duisberg.

Note: Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore continue to record up to the present while maintaining their vice grip hold on the passage on time. Three years after “Gore Motel” they followed up with the excellent “Midnight Radio.” While maintaining the same sparseness and shadow-fall dread, saxophone and Fender Rhodes soon appear to align the proceedings more with jazz than “Gore Motel” ever could, due to the influence of new member, Christoph Clöser who replaced Reiner Henseleit and his Link Wray in reverbed isolation guitar. With that said, there are many fantastic moments throughout their subsequent eight albums that retain the out-there characteristics of their first album. For the more carefully inclined, there is a 2CD set called “Bohren For Beginners” that judicially chooses 17 tracks, including the beautiful vibe instrumental “Karin” from their 2008 album, “Dolores.”