Die Kombination – Signale CD / 7”EP Endangered Species / D-A Tonträger 2020
Although Signale is the second full-length album from Die Kombination personally I have not heard the 2017 debut. But as per the saying ‘first impressions count’, Signale immediately makes a heavy impression based on the packaging and presentation alone. The standard edition* is anything but standard, being reminiscent of the lavish and sophisticated packaging of the early works of Der Blutharsch and Les Joyaux De La Princesse (LJDLP). As such the CD and 7”EP are housed in a black cardboard box with the project symbol and title printed in silver foil blocking. Additional insets then include: a photograph; stamped information card; and 16-page booklet held together with coloured twine. This beautiful presentation gives an immediate sense of dedication and attention to detail which absolutely sets the tone before any of the musical content is heard.
As for the music, Sopimus opens the album with a tone of bomb-blasted and ash-strewn landscapes, where sweeping winds and tensile sustained synth line are the main elements underpinning a lengthy Finnish speech sample. Brooding and intense, it immediately captures a tone and atmosphere often attempted but rarely achieved. A similar mood follows with Tali-Ihantala, where the stilted rhythmic synth elements have been over-processed to replicate the sound of exploding bombs. Narvan Marssi then comes as quite the musical surprise by featuring rolling martial snare drums and strident organ melody. The short track Interludium recedes into a furrow of deeply brooding slow synth melody, which functions as the introduction to Gefechtsverband Kuhlmey, which elevates into a grinding, mid-paced heavy electronics track of muted swirling tones and heavily echoed textures. Unternehmen Silberfuchs reverts to an atmosphere of minimalist battlefield atmospheres (again with lengthy dialogue samples), where synth and layers elements are added and subtracted over the course of its extended length. Playing out as a largely instrumental album, vocals then do appear on a single track Poltetun Maan, and are an absolute standout element. Here the track is based around atonal shuddering loops and sweeping widescreen textures, where the heavily processed vocals are of the classic-sounding heavy electronics type (treated with echo and distortion), and while unintelligible they sonically articulate a sense of baying anguish. The main album concludes with the short piece Erinnerung, an ambient industrial soundscape which in its features an achingly beautiful musical motif that carries through to the dying moments. To then mention the 7”EP, while it contains a further two tracks these feel to be more aligned with rounding out the thematic context of the set given they are original songs (1936 & 1942 respectively) from the period the theme of the album relates. With further reference to the theme, as titles and samples are not in English it makes it difficult to grasp the concept overall. Yet based on the title of one track (Operation “Birke”), it appears the theme relates to a conflict between Finland and Germany towards the end of WWII.
Musically speaking, clearly, there are passing shades of LJDLP, but perhaps a greater influence and homage to early 1990s German heavy electronics material such as early Predominance and Dagda Mor. Yet while such linage and inspiration are clearly noted, in no way does Signale sound to be a mere copyist as there is ample individual flair and considerable sonic and musical variety across the album. Likewise, when then sonics are appreciated in combination with the content of the lavish packaging, it ensures Signale is a mandatory album.
* – a private edition of 15 copies also exists, with the album on a cassette, with it and the 7”ep and other inserts housed in a vintage German metal ammunition box with the Die Kombination symbol sand-blasted into the paintwork.