First of all, in the sake of full disclosure, I haven’t taken a German language class in about 15 years. While Sankt Otten‘s latest album, “Sequencer Liebe,” is entirely instrumental, I feel that the song titles are important to understanding the album. Unfortunately, my linguistic limitations have forced me to rely on Google Translate, so take my translations for what they’re worth.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about Sankt Otten and their new album. Sankt Otten are an electronic/ambient duo out of Germany. Their music is one of those things where, as I listen to the album, I feel like there’s a kind of unspoken narrative going on, like the entire album is telling some sort of futuristic love story. I’m not sure if I’m getting the futuristic thing because it was intended, or if it’s because the music kind of reminds me of Vangelis’ soundtrack to “Blade Runner,” but it’s there.
The song titles, too, kind of conjure up a sort of future-noir atmosphere for me, with titles like “Kann denn Liebe Synthie sein? (Can the love of his synth?),” the particularly noir (in title and in the music itself) “Die Stadt riecht nach Dir (The city smells of you),” and “Gestern fand ich alte Tränen (Yesterday I found an old tear).” These all sound like things characters from William Gibson‘s Sprawl Trilogy would say.
The band describes themselves as “ambient” (amongst other things) on their MySpace page, but I don’t think I would call “Sequencer Liebe” ambient. It might be a personal definition, but I feel that ambient should kind of fade into the background and be somewhat minimalist. This album, while not overly complex, definitely has very steady beats and melodies going throughout it’s 39 minutes. In fact, I feel like Sankt Otten are trying to straddle a line between complexity and simplicity here, and I feel like it hurts the album a bit.
I really like their sound, but many of the songs seem to take one line of melody and repeat it for 4-6 minutes. While there are a lot of instruments, both real and synthesized, playing over each other, I feel like the songs themselves lack a dynamicism that could have made this a great album. As it stands, “Sequencer Liebe” is a very good album that hints that it could have been even better.