Nekropolis 23 - "Tidal Shift"
(GEMA 2005, NDVD01, PAL format DVD)
From Aural Innovations #32 (November 2005)
The follow up to the Nekropolis 23 "Vol. 1" CD (see AI #24) is a DVD release featuring 105 minutes of in-studio improvisations (no overdubs) recorded in April 2004. The band features Peter Frohmader on 5-string bass and fretless bass, Udo Gerhards on piano and synthesizer, Holger Röder on drums, Matthias Friedrich on violin, plus Amon Düül II's Chris Karrer on violin and guitar. The band appears in various configurations, starting with the quartet of Frohmader, Gerhards, Röder and Chris Karrer on violin on "The Yellow King", an excellent dark and doomy progressive rock and jazz fusion jam. Röder's drums and Frohmader's trademark bass create an intense, almost Zheul-ish pulse. Karrer's manic, screechy violin takes the lead while Gerhards plays foreboding, orchestral keyboard lines. All the musicians eventually take turns on lead, with the end result being a very cool blend of structured progressive rock and high powered jam. "Heliotrope" featues the same lineup, but with Karrer switching to guitar. This seems to have been a strange choice for inclusion as it's the only weak track of the set. There's lots of good ideas but the end result is just a lot of noodling that lacks direction and is never fully developed, unlike the fully cohesive and almost composed feel of the other tracks.
Things get nicely back on track on "Nameless City", a very good piece of music, with the band focusing more on sound and atmospheric development. "Cosmic Break" is a good title for a track that has Karrer back on violin. It's 10 minutes of ambience and atmospherics, created mostly by Frohmader and Karrer, with Gerhards playing double duty with soundscapes and melody. The rhythmic pulse builds ever so gradually and the mood is dark and quietly powerful throughout. And the track ends with the camera zooming in on Karrer, whose violin just broke. The band switch gears a bit on "Reanimator", which is the quartet of Frohmader, Röder, Karrer on guitar and Friedrich on violin. Without Gerhards' keyboards this is the most purely rock based of all the tracks. Bass, drums and violin get a rocking pulse going that allows Karrer to take center stage and show us his hot guitar chops. On "Shamblin' Bear" we get the full quintet, and right away I could tell this would be a hot one. The band lays down a heavy fusion groove and Karrer is smokin' on guitar. The intensity level is high while guitar and violin trade licks. A monstrous blend of progressive rock and jazz fusion, with doses of funk and a sense of power and urgency. After a while the band eases smoothly into a quieter ambient jazz section. I love the screechy yet melodic sound of the violin, and Karrer adds tasteful and sometimes freaky guitar bits that add the rock to the dreamy jazz feel.
"Heavy Psychedelia" features the trio of Frohmader, Gerhards and Röder. Frohmader's bass takes the lead on this one, going for pure atmospherics and creating a tripped out but doom laden brand of psychedelia. And along with the Mellotron sounding keyboards we find ourselves in a strange but wondrous prog-doom-psych realm. A killer track. Standard No.#23" features the same trio doing a short 3 minute jazzy piece. And "Sketches of Kadath" is a prog-fusion jam with jazzy piano and drums and Frohmader ripping off monstrous bass solos. Finally, "Apokalyptische Tempelmusik" is performed by the quartet of Frohmader, Gerhards, Röder and Friedrich on violin, and is 13 minutes of pure soundscape edge-of-your-seat intensity, with rhythmic drive and vintage progressive keyboard sounds. I don't hear a lot of music these days with the kind of awe inspiring power that this band is able to conjure up and it amazes me that this is all improvised.
Overall, this is a smoking set and fans of the earlier Nekropolis 23 CD will be delighted. The video is very nicely shot by Frank Fiedler (from Popol Vuh). And as a bonus the DVD includes an experimental film called "Seelenwanderung" that Frohmader made in 1983. It's interesting to watch but the real treat is his accompanying spacey gothic soundtrack music. And of course we get the usual beautiful cover art painting by Frohmader.
For more information you can visit the Nekropolis 23 web site at: http://www.nekropolis-23.de. Note that the DVD is in PAL format so fans in the USA should be sure they can play it first, though most newer computers have software that can read just about any format in the world.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz