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DAS ICH (Buy CDs by this artist)
Die Propheten (Ger. Danse Macabre) 1991 (Etherhaus) 1996
Staub (Ger. Danse Macabre) 1994 (Etherhaus) 1996
Stigma EP (Ger. Danse Macabre) 1994
Feuer (Ger. Danse Macabre) 1995 (Etherhaus) 1996

Das Ich plays hard, hard-hitting industrial music, with strictly German lyrics adding to the harsh, foreign atmosphere. The band's bombastic, strident music is not some industrial-by-the-numbers exercise in Nine Inch Nails faux-miserabilism: Das Ich means every howl of anger and estrangement. Stefan Ackermann's alien vocal stylings are the centerpiece of the unsettling Die Propheten, with programmer/keyboardist Bruno Kramm's intense, mind-numbing non-melodies crashing in the background. The din lets up only on the final track, "Freuel," which features Ackermann's almost gentle-but spooky-singing over simple carnival-like piano.

Stigma offers more of the same raging, futuristic industrial noise. The EP is composed of the sinewy, hypnotic "Der Schrei" and three versions of "Von der Armut" ("from poverty"): one robotically cold, one that starts off in a dirge-like sequence before latching on to the melody halfway through and a "reverse edit" that makes the band sound like it's playing in a wind tunnel.

Incorporating more orchestral touches and spacious intros, the barrage continues on Staub. The band's evolution is especially apparent on the furtive "Gier" and the bleak title track, but not to worry: the clanging "Im Ich" and the reappearance of "Von der Armut" end any fears that Das Ich might be mellowing. Ackermann's vocals are as freaky-creepy as ever.

Feuer, a live album recorded around Germany in early '95, has amazing sound quality and overwhelmingly intense performances of numbers from every Das Ich release, including "Kain und Abel" (from Die Propheten) and "Von der Armut." "Jericho," a new ballad, is strongly reminiscent of the first album's fragile "Freuel." Incredibly powerful stuff.

[Katherine Yeske]