Berlin is known for many things – vibrant streets, a turbulent past, film, art, music, a multicultural foodie scene, a bustling night life and much more besides. Kendall is known for a high sugar content mint cake favoured by climbers and adventurers. Worlds apart perhaps but it is in the space between these two existences that Def Robot fashion their sound. Perhaps it is this wandering between arch-sophistication and a wilder, more rugged place that informs their music…perhaps that is taking things a bit far.
But Makers of Mountains, the debut album from this duo though certainly not the first time its creators have collaborated, does wander between some sonic extremes. Like their stateside counterparts, Wilco, they blend alt-rock with more rootsy sounds and come out the other side with music which is similarly as expansive, exploratory, surprising and unique. And, as if by osmosis, it is the less tangible things, a vibe, a sense of place, and outsider feeling, as much as the music itself, that gets drawn into the musical weave. A sense of Northern directness, a genre-hopping, post-punk aesthetic, a dark European film noir soundscaping vibe.
There are moments, such as Gordon From Gordon, that sound right out of the US 90’s college rock circuit, Pieces of Me suggest that they have listened to more than a few Bunnymen albums in their time and then some songs which don’t seem to fit in anywhere specifically, except to be generally European and from any time in the last 40 years. And not only is there a depth and broadness to the songs musically, lyrically they address such themes as global ignorance of the destruction of our planet, relationship breakdown, guilt and hope, arrogance and censorship. Clever music topped off with smart, thought-provoking comment and communication.
It’s a remarkable debut for the band, it follows a thread that has run through the underground of music from Pavement to The Bunnymen to The Pixies to Wilco to Radiohead and beyond with all manner of tangents being explored and drawn in along the way. Bleak, boisterous, brooding and brilliant!