It is interesting how a movement in music and art like Minimalism can create such fertile ground for artists to explore new ways of approaching their craft. It’s as if setting what could be construed by an outsider as limitations or restrictions actually causes the opposite to occur. Having self-imposed parameters within which to work can lead to results that would have been impossible to obtain by any other means. German dual bass duo [ B O L T ], who hail from the Ruhr area of Germany, manage to do just that. The influence of their Industrial environment is very apparent in the grinding, industrial sounds they summon. At once heavy in an early Godflesh/Swans style, but also somewhat pastoral, despite the gritty palette of tones they draw from. Their exercises in measured motion, while often being stoic and solemn, can occasionally also be epic and grand, something rare in the genre of experimental drone and doom. Miasmic swells turn to blistering scorched waves of distorted drones—white noise with a throbbing undercurrent of bass, floating around a tonal centre whilst never quite settling. One massive bass chord crashing into the next, but not without being allowed to first ring out into space. A sense of dislocation and isolation permeates their music; it is a striving for solace that inevitable falls short. However, for all of its melancholic timbre, there’s a sense of Baroque melodicism to their compositions—just enough resolution to inject a very emotional and, indeed, human presence.
Across their four-year history, Andreas Brinke and Thomas Kempka have refined their language and musical style into something powerful and unique that revolves around two bass guitars, which are only occasionally augmented with subtle electronics and other instruments. Through this spartan approach to crafting long-format compositions based on the subtle interplay of their guitars, they’ve created a unique approach to drone doom. Their most recent release, ( 0 3 ) continues to build upon the foundation of their two previous full-lengths—the similarly titled ( 0 1 ) and ( 0 2 ), from 2011 and 2012 respectively—as well as a sizable collection of collaborations and a remixes. All of the songs in the [ B O L T ] catalogue so far are assigned a number, rather than a title, which allows the listener to be free of any preconceived notions about meaning, making the experience personal and appreciated in a more formal and abstract way.
( 0 3 ) opens with the track ‘[ 1 5 ] – Beginning’, which I can only assume is a kind of opus number. The vibe is solemn; a lonely dirge-like bass progression emerges from a field recording of rain (which sounds like it could have been recorded in the window of an abandoned factory). It isn’t long before [ B O L T ] kick in the distortion, playing the same progression that a moment ago felt distant and isolated, but is now is transformed into a crushing Industrial riff. Out of the blistering feedback an electronic piano takes over, playing a claustrophobic and atonal progression that clearly shows the influence of black metal in its eerie dissonance. Layers of high bass distortion slowly fade in and soar high above darkness, sounding something like a crashing jet spinning through a blackened storm. That this massive wall of sound is created with only two bass guitars is quite remarkable—nearly the entire sonic spectrum is filled.
The songs on ( 0 3 ) flow effortlessly together, connected by static-like field recordings and dark ambient atmospheres. The control of dynamic range and layers of gothic intervals within the minimalistic universe of [ B O L T ] is admirable to say the least. Snarling ambience, ringing tones, and monstrous changes leave little doubt that there’s room for any other instruments in this Maximalist approach. Each triumphant change and chord dominates the listener’s space. The reappearance of piano midway through the album acts as a kind of oasis of darkened calm amidst the tenebrous sturm und drang, yet even the solo piano manifests the chugging apocalyptic pace the album’s heavier moments expand upon.
( 0 3 ) becomes a bit more reflective during ‘[ 0 1 ]’, which confusingly opens the second half of the record. The same slow-motion approach is present, with the same precise attack, but this time accompanied by the haunting drones of an accordion. The power summoned and then built up over the song’s duration is truly epic, with a construction that, when stripped of its distorted veil, falls more closely into the realms of post-rock. This course continues into the more restrained and electronic approach of [ 1 9 ], but not to worry: after a few minutes, a gigantic wall of droning noise forms and rises, sitting perfectly in the mix over deep ambient textures. Slight ringing synth—possibly granular in origin—phases out into a droning spacey tail.
The longest track, ‘[ 2 6 ]’, begins in much the same way as the album opens, but is given thirteen bone-shaking minutes to evolve and pummel. It’s crushing, always teetering on the edge of implosion, and it utilizes a meditative approach to create a trance-like state for the listener to get lost in. The album closes with a return to the opening motif of ‘[ 1 5 ]’, this time subtitled ‘End’, which bookends the album and gives it an almost conceptual context.
( 0 3 ) proves itself to be a wonderful work that should definitely be sought out by fans of drone doom and early industrial metal. Fans of the more experimental side of post-rock/metal would find it a moving and powerful listening experience as well. If you like your metal slow, crushing, and with occasional epic flair, then do yourself a favour and check these guys out. Just be sure to play it loud on a decent system or headphones to fully appreciate the weight.
01) [ 1 5 ] – Beginning
02) [ 1 1 ]
03) [ 1 4 ]
05) [ 0 1 ]
06) [ 1 9 ]
07) [ 2 6 ]
08) [ 1 5 ] – end