Release Date: May 8, 2012
Record label: Kompakt
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, widely considered the first work of gothic fiction, begins with a massive helmet dropping out of the sky and crushing the hapless heir to the lord of the castle, wicked-witch-of-the-East style. As in much English literature before the rise of the novel, it’s a thrillingly alien event, its narrative logic resounding of prophecies, sworn oaths, and alliances long, long ago smashed and put back together a thousand different ways. The sonics of Mohn’s self-titled debut have a similar epochal gravity, all massive fallen objects, eroded edifices, and stone surfaces multiplied by echo.
Wolfgang Voigt and Jörg Burger have worked on many projects for the Kompakt label in the past -- both as a duo (on the series Burger/Ink and Burger/Voigt) and separately (with such entities as Mike Ink, Triola, Cologne Tape, and Kafkatrax). Now recording under the name Mohn, they have produced a truly strange and unsettling program of electronic music that could conceivably be called "goth ambient," except that "goth" implies a morbid self-seriousness that is nowhere in evidence here, and "ambient" implies a mood of restful contemplation that also has nothing to do with Mohn's agenda. The mood communicated here is more along the lines of understated dread -- by the end of the album you feel more disquieted than anything else.
German techno heroes Wolfgang Voigt and Jörg Burger have recorded too many records, in too many idioms, to easily summarize their virtues. Their respective discographies cover everything from grinding, amelodic house to cheery synth-pop. But one thing they specialize in, together and separately, is ambient music that both fulfills the genre's requirements (sounds designed to wash over you as much as be consciously listened to) and subverts them (they might be demanding, however gently, that you actually pay attention to them).
As is typical of Voigt & Burger, the former one of Kompakt’s founders and the latter one of electronic music’s most aliased veterans, Mohn isn’t their first collaborative LP but it is an excuse to try something a little different than before and think of a new thing to call themselves. This go around finds the pair in a plainly contemplative state, a nine-track collection of which only one song avoids the six-minute mark and begins very dreadfully, though in the reserved fashion that’s come to typify Kompakt releases. “Einrauschen” and “Schwarzer Schwan” (“Black Swan”) feel barely there at times, communicating a sort of delirious ambivalence about sadness that would be wrong to declare straight up ambient but feels so emotionally detached from any other sort of musical statement it’s hard to decide on anything else.
Wolfgang Voigt and Jörg Burger, the electronic duo known as Mohn, are at their best when at their least conventional. "Schwarzer Schwan" manages to be simultaneously entrancing and unsettling, with drum beats booming at the pace of incoming thunder while voices drift in and out like unboxed specters, and "Einrauschen" finds a dark crossroads between Throbbing Gristle and Kraftwerk. .
Under the guise Burger/Ink, Jorg Burger and Wolfgang Voigt unleashed their seminal techno collaboration Las Vegas in 1996. Released on US label Matador, its well-trodden concept of an American road trip soundtrack, via pop-culture references to Roxy Music in song titles like ‘Do The Strand’ and ‘Love Is The Drug,’ marked the LP out as something of a global gateway into the ascending Cologne techno scene, blending trans-Atlantic influences to great effect. Beyond that though, it also echoed what British acts like The Orb had done with house music in the wake of the acid-house boom: even as Burger/Ink were introducing the outside world to their party, they themselves were already looking towards the bleary light of the morning after.
Long-time friends and Kompakt regulars Wolfgang Voigt and Jörg Burger collaborate as Mohn. Over nine tracks, the seasoned producers create a darker, more gothic take on ambient techno; Mohn comes off like a dysphoric interpretation of Kompakt's Pop Ambient series. The craftsmanship of the album is impeccable, synonymous with the Cologne sound Kompakt has become so well known for.