Photo by Manuel Miethe
The uneasy shuffle that opens the new album from Guido Möbius reminds me of two things. My immediate association is with the heavily processed noise-guitar style of Krautrock. A genre that could exist only with the aid of dozens of guitar pedals. But it could also be the furious tremor from Steve Reich’s Different Trains: the mechanical determination of each staccato stab accelerate the music into full speed. The angular voice of Cambodian singer Prak Chum adds another layer of turmoil, and the cacophony of percussion pushes it into overdrive. Batagur Baska takes its name from the scientific classification of a genus of endangered turtles, found in Southeast Asia. A name that is perhaps befitting, as this is an album teeming with life and has a vitality that is rarely found.
The interplay of opposites is this album’s central motif, and not an easy one to pull off. On ‘Windsurfing Chile’, the dry blow of a child’s recorder presents itself side-by-side with chromatic Jazz guitar and free-form scat. On ‘Rowno Malin Ternopol’, acid synths weave around traditional plucked string instruments. This is a playful record: an album buzzing with excitement and joyful experimentation as Möbius darts from one style to another. Indeed, there are few moments on Batagur that seem to make coherent sense. But don’t let its seeming incongruence fool you. Instead, the trick is to step back and let it wash over you in all its cheerful chaos.