After four years of silence, the Leipzig band Love Is Colder Than Death are back with a radically sacred album. On “Atopos” the band around multi-intruments musician Maik Hartung has almost exclusively replaced their electronic equipment with Arabic and African folklore instruments. “With the best will in the world, I couldn’t hear any synthesizers,” explains Hartung.
The insight meant hard work for the trained classical guitarist and percussion autodidacts. He listened to the folklore sounds of different cultures, be it from Persia, India, Bulgaria, Russia, China or Japan - “but in the originals”, he makes clear, “not in the poppy sounds you hear in every kebab stand”.
The second part of his studies: He got the beloved, exotic instruments and learned to play them with difficulty. Apart from a 12-string guitar, an accordion and a cello, newcomer Ralf Jehnert, lyricist Sven Mertens, singer Manuela Budich and Hartung on “Atopos” have now recorded and recorded all instruments themselves. “That took some time”, he calls one reason for the extremely long break since the 95-er EP “Spellbound”.
Another reason for the extended time-out: After repeated disputes and a breach of trust with their long-time record company “Hyperium”, Love Is Colder Than Death have now left them in favor of the Deine-Lakaien label “Chrom Records”…
But it was worth the wait: on “Atopos” the quartet now captivates with a stylistically appropriate reproduction of the deep melancholy of music history long gone by. Nevertheless, the new, purely classical CD will revive an old and sad stereotype for the band: their often quoted musical proximity to Dead Can Dance. “It’s like comparing some Spanish guitarist to Jimmy Hendrix just because they both play the guitar,” says Hartung. Not that he doesn’t like or find the music of the recently dissolved duo undemanding. Rather, he seeks the motives for the recurring comparisons in principle. “That we were often compared to them is probably due to the fact that there are otherwise few possibilities of comparison for our music and that Dead Can Dance and we assimilate some common influences.
The consequence of the regularly cuddled brotherhood between the two groups: The Love-Is-Colder musicians now only listen to Dead Can Dance to avoid any real parallels. “We already have a phobia, not sounding like it.”
An equally annoying cliché for Hartung is the eternal connotation of her sacred sounds with the Middle Ages. “Yes,” he admits. “There are medieval aspects to our music, but they are not as strong as is always propagated from the outside. “Atropos’, for example, does not sound particularly medieval.”
Instead, the quartet with the polyphonic songs of the new song “Nostalgie”, for example, is oriented towards a stylistic device of the Renaissance. Their opulent, ecclesiastical choirs are now humming mainly in Latin. The texts are the responsibility of Sven Mertens, a student of philosophy and computer science in real life. The singer Susann Heinrich and the keyboarder Andy Porter left the band already in 1995 after the release of the 4-track-maxi “Spellbound”, because both favored the pop-oriented songs in the style “November Morning”, which on the 94-album “Oxeia” were banned to the end of the CD. Hartung, however, generally got an increasing problem with pop music over the years. “Our music has more content, strength and energy,” he claims. “None of our current cast is a fan of pop music.” Heinrich and Porter have meanwhile launched their own, logically pop-oriented project. The remaining or newly reformed remainder of Love Is Colder has realised its approach of merging cultures in a traditional way on “Atopos” as decisively as possible. The title, Hartung said, also stems from this. In Greek, it means that something is not in its original place. “This is also true of our music. A Greek bouzouki or an Indian instrument has nothing to do with my culture. But when I listen to things and like certain aspects of them, I just take them out and put them together with my own classic European influences.”
No less fundamental thoughts are concealed behind the motto “Not the questioning, but the listening is the specific gesture of thinking” printed in the CD booklet. “Our music is primarily intended to evoke emotions and images,” Hartung wishes. “I don’t want people to question everything, I want people to take an interest.”
Timo Hoffmann, Zillo 6/1999