Been Obscene, Night o’Mine: Hailing to the Universe

Night o’Mine is the second album through Elektrohasch from Austrian foursome Been Obscene in as many years. Their 2010 debut, The Magic Table Dance (review here), put them in league with a steadily growing ilk of warmly-toned jam-minded European heavy psych acts – bands like Asteroid and The Machine taking fuzz and freedom from Colour Haze and Kyuss and injecting them with the fresh energy of new bands still finding their sounds. Been Obscene (also sometimes written as the one word BeenObscene) were anything but obscene on The Magic Table Dance, and with Night o‘Mine, the same lineup returns after a not insignificant amount of road time with a crisper approach and some more solidified songwriting. Like the first album, the sophomore outing is comprised of eight tracks, but guitarist Thomas Nachtigal – his name translating to “nightingale” befitting the record’s nocturnal schematic – has stepped up on the vocals and the sense of structure overall is stronger for it. Nachtigal is joined in Been Obscene by guitarist Peter Kreyci, bassist/vocalist Philipp Zezula and drummer Robert Schoosleitner, and the four work remarkably well together, the guitarists playing off each other with marked chemistry while the bass and drums solidify and add to the build of a song like “Snake Charmer,” which presents the jammier side of what turns out to be a strong balance between the straightforward and the more openly-approached.

But right away, opener “Endless Scheme” shows a definite increase in stylistic complexity. The song begins with an angular, energetic burst before transitioning into a cymbal-crashing groove that seems held up by guitar leads and Schoosleitner’s steady rhythm and finally shifting into hi-hat taps and contrasting ambience and My Sleeping Karma-esque heavy rock smoothness. There are vocals early on, and they come back at the end for a chorus return, and that works well to show how much Been Obscene have grown; The Magic Table Dance opened instrumentally and felt less structurally aware overall. Likewise, the work that Zezula adds not only through the engaging warmth of his bass, but also with vocals backing Nachtigal during the chorus of “Endless Scheme” is an example of how Been Obscene have been able to develop in just the year since their last offering. Though it starts out quiet, in its latter moments, “Snake Charmer” (7:40) finds the instruments paying off a momentum the vocals helped craft early on, and though “Cut the Rope” is so quick at 3:23 that were it not also as effectively composed and as catchy as it is, it would simply pass unnoticed, “Apathy” follows and finds Nachtigal adding his vocals to a musical drama not unlike that at the end of “Snake Charmer,” and one that works in a shorter amount of time to develop a similar vibrancy, despite a somewhat darker atmosphere. The repeated line, “Breaking down your foolish apathy,” becomes a sort of centerpiece credo the rest of Night o’Mine works around and hits especially heavy surrounded by the start-stop Queens of the Stone Age-isms of “Cut the Rope” and the title-track, on which the speaker cones sound like they’re about to catch fire for the analog push of the material.

Impressively given some of the musical twists – see the outro of “Snake Charmer” or the beginning of “Night o’Mine” – but not necessarily uncommonly within the genre, Night o’Mine was recorded completely live, helmed by Emanuel Krimplstätter and the band. Krimplstätter worked on the debut as well, and here as there, the natural feel is paramount, and whether Been Obscene are thrusting their way through “Cut the Rope” or offering more subdued, pastoral krautrock melody on “The Run,” which follows “Night o’Mine,” that natural feel is never sacrificed to highlight diversity. The result is that Night o’Mine flows incredibly well, the relative bombast in parts of the title cut offset by some piano from Zezula and the quiet guitar that backs Nachtigal’s vocals in the intro of “The Run.” At the 2:29 mark, “The Run” launches into heavier fuzz rocking, Kreyci and Nachtigal’s guitars thickening with the click of a pedal and adding to the swell of the song’s midsection that once again transitions back out to the beginning’s melody just past four minutes in. “The Run” is the tonal highlight of the album, though the instrumental “Memories in Salvation” stands out in that regard as well, and also acts as confirmation of musical maturity to complement that in the songwriting, basking in a dreamy development that’s both natural and immersive. It’s not heavy, and it’s not a standout in terms of pace, but the laid back vibe is well carried across and almost hypnotic as a lead-in for the closer, “Alone.”

The runtime of “Alone” stands at a landmark 18:10, but in fact the song itself is out by 7:20, whereas I’d hoped to hear Been Obscene tackle a real beast of a track and draw together the many varied ideas they present on Night o’Mine – they’re not strangers to epics; “Demons” from The Magic Table Dance topped 14 minutes – “Alone” works more under the same methodology as “Apathy” in that it doesn’t necessarily rely on grandiosity to convey drama or dynamic melody. It is the band’s most linear build on the album, and in that regard a decent summation of their ideas, and Nachtigal seems to finish vocally what he started on “Apathy,” injecting an emotional sensibility into the chorus instead of just reciting lines. His and Kreyci’s guitars offer intertwining noodle parts to begin a jam in the song’s last three minutes, and the build that ensues – made effective in no small part by Zezula on bass and Schoosleitner’s drumming – is both organic and imbued with the personality of its players. Nachtigal adds to the flourish with one last chorus, and the song finishes with open-spaced airy guitar the likes of which made the first two Natas records so impeccably balanced, capping the album as well on a note that seems to suggest the emotional breadth of Been Obscene more than their propensity to rock out. No matter, they’ve already done plenty of that on Night o’Mine by then, and the finale of “Alone” is suitably encompassing, even though the song isn’t 18 minutes long. There’s a hidden bonus cut in the song’s last minute of the piano part and chorus of “Night o’Mine,” essentially goofing on it, and if there’s any real purpose to it, it’s good to know that Been Obscene, after making a mature, stylistically intriguing and well-poised second album, aren’t about to start taking themselves too seriously. What stood out most about The Magic Table Dance was a classy sensibility. That’s present on Night o’Mine as well, but here it’s more about how the band has come together and the maturity of their melodies. These songs are memorable and worth any time you might want to put into hearing them.

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