Review: Sankt Otten – Eine Kleine Traurigkeit

Back in the mid-90’s, trip-hop provided the intelligent alternative to the tiresome Britpop brand. Like so many sub-genres though, it had a shelf life which seemed to expire around the turn of the Century but a few of the survivors from that era continue to bring out new material in sporadic form: Massive Attack and Portishead being the most famous examples. This brings us neatly on to the still active Sankt Otten whose debut arrived in 2000 and now gets a deserved reissue on Hidden Shoal Recordings. Blessed with a welcome sense of space and noirish atmosphere, it’s aged very well indeed.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that Sankt Otten record their vocals in their native German tongue. Although, the thickly enunciated German language doesn’t lend itself to romantic notions, here the precise and cool delivery of Carsten Sandkaemper has just the right amount of gravitas; the singer only really baring his soul for the angst-ridden title track (its title meaning “a small sadness”). As with most trip-hop, the controlled percussion is a key element as are some choice brass and string samples.

Though it’s hard to pick out a real killer track, ‘Eine Kleine Traurigkeit’ is a proper album, whose moody, chilling demeanour runs consistently from beginning to end; where even instrumental interludes like ‘Das Juengste Geruecht’ are crucial in maintaining the atmosphere. However, the almost gentle single ‘Fernfahrer’ and classy piano ballad ‘Ende Gut’ deserve mentions for deviating from the rich, filmic formula.

Sankt Otten have been labelled as the “the German Portishead”. This only tells half the story since this band are far more subtle in their approach and they offer something like an antidote to the over-familiar sounds of Portishead’s ‘Dummy’.

Web Sites:
Sankt Otten Official Site
Sankt Otten MySpace
Hidden Shoal Recordings Label and Shop Site

Further Listening:
Portishead, Bohren und Der Club Of Gore

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