Kraut Rock, is that you? Have you been at this party? It’s amazing — not many people seem to reference you. I mean, you were the little blip in between disco and new wave, and with this entire ’80s revival it’s amazing nobody’s been claiming you as an influence. I guess we’ll just have to let the high-heeled, designer-jean-wearing clan lay you to waste. Oh, wait. Is that the A Frames over there guzzling gin as if it were water? I think they told me about you once.
In the midst of this post-punk/new wave ’80s revival, the A Frames are a tall, cool glass of water in a bar cluttered with wine-spritzer imitations. Black Forest is a thirteen-song collection that either keeps your head pounding in time with the almost German rhythms or makes you cringe slightly as the off-kilter high-treble guitars screech in time with the drums. A bridge between prog-rock and post-punk, the A Frames have carved their own little niche in the world of punk/experimental music. With Sub Pop stepping out of their typical indie-rock niche to release the band’s third album, it’s good to have a new kid who knows his algebra.
Black Forest has only a few down moments. There are three incarnations of the title track on the album, but it’s “Black Forest II” that sums up the album’s attitude. The high pulsing drums, tin-like guitar chords and Erin Sullivan’s cold vocals deathly speaking over the tense rhythm paint the picture for the entire album. It’s a dark, cold hole that keeps you warm with its constant rhythms. The other two versions are subtle instrumental hints throughout the album, reminding you what type of journey you’re on.
Other highlights, including “Galena,” “Memoranda” and “Death Train,” are equally as golden. The melodic female back-up vocals on “Death Train” accompany Sullivan’s stoic reports of “death train rolling on its final ride,” and those two minutes just aren’t enough. These little touches of melody throughout experimental-noise-punk twitches create a warm cooling only known by the kraut-rock genre, something unspeakable that lets you understand and love the complex rhythms.
It’s clear the A Frames have found a distinct sound in this mixed world of pounding rhythms and clashing noise-ridden guitar. It’s comforting to know there’s a place I can go when I don’t feel quite right about myself, but cocksure nonetheless. That place is the Black Forest.