Review ·

They may be performers, recorders and, clearly, admirers of post-rock, but the members of the German quartet Couch are surely not beholden to one of the genre's most common characteristics: the climax. Couch's stoic rock is about as likely to illicit a seven-guitar, five-violin Wagnerian flourish (a la Godspeed You! Black Emperor) as my poor reader would dare fixate on any fleeting sexual union with those chilly Canadians. Figur 5, the band's appropriately titled fifth offering, is a restrained affair that's full of post-rock's calling cards: its voiceless melodic repetition, its textural depth, its limitless tension, its graceful guitar -- but none of its bombast.

 

On paper, such discipline anticipates great things. Sure, Mogwai, Tortoise and a few of their post-rock peers have dabbled, but none have taken self-control so seriously. In practice, though, things aren't always so thrilling. Much of Figur 5 hangs listlessly in pleasant 4/4 time, propped up on grumbling synths, languid guitar and groovy bass without coalescing into much worth remembering beyond the last note. The textures are nice -- even engaging in a safely post-modern way. But I've heard it all before, somewhere between the Can record in my headphones, the Cure album blasting out of my neighbor's window and the ambulance whining past.

 

Opener "Gegen Alles Beriet" is Figur 5's one satisfying statement -- the only pure distillation of that measured, post-rock masculinity. Dropping in with nary a note of introduction, the quartet instantly finds its purpose: a simple four-measure melody hammered to perfection by Michael Heilrath's fuzz bass and Jürgen Söder's insistent guitar. Over four and a half minutes, the song ebbs and flows cunningly, never breaking into a gallop or slowing to a jog. The effect is nearly worth the come down.

 

Couch's genre of choice is a busy one, and though the band's been in the business for more than a decade, Figur 5 fails to distinguish itself as it should. There's nothing here to offend, but there's nothing much to scream about, either. An epic may not be required, but a little daring just might.

 

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