KUHLMANN - ZWO
Reviewer Score: 7 out of 10
This is what we've all been waiting for... Ok, maybe not we all, but the editors of NDH FM for sure! After the release of numerous singles, the second album of a young (at heart) NDH-project called Kuhlmann saw the light of day with the laconic title "Zwo" ("Two") with a portrait of the band's frontman, Walter Kuhlmann, on the cover. Moreover, judging by the photo, Walter did not assume that he was being photographed for a cover art, but the visual part of Kuhlmann requires a separate discussion, which we will move on to a little later, but for now let`s focus on the music. Moreover, Kuhlmann have not yet acquired a solid fan base and I think it makes sense to talk more about the fundamental moments in the band's sound.
And here I have to go back to the personality of the vocalist and founding member of the project, because his deep, velvet bass-baritone will not leave you indifferent. I will not sin against the truth, saying that it is Walter's voice that can be considered the biggest plus of the album and the sound of the band as a whole. Thanks to the tone of his voice, you can even close your eyes to the fact that you will never hear singing on it in 17 tracks of the album… only sprehgesang, only hardcore. Of course, you can sing praises to Walter's voice for a long time, but this is not an audio book that we listen to, so we'll analyze other components of Kuhlmann's sound. In general, it is as concise as the title of the album. The band plays a straightforward, mid-tempo NDH with clear rhythmic structures, old-school synths and a simple and understandable compositional structure.
From this description, as a whole, several weak points of the record follow. For example, rhythmic monotony. Practically all tracks have the same tempo. The presence of Tim Nightpain from Nebelhaus as a co-author of one of the songs does not save the situation, although the collaborations of these musicians usually turn out to be quite successful. I even remembered one of the performances of Alexander Pushnoy (famous Russian parody songwriter and showman), where he, portraying Rosenbaum (famous Russian songwriter and balladeer), explained why he constantly plays the same chords like this: "I’m no longer a young kid to run back and forth on the neck of the guitar!". And Kuhlmann are no longer young kids, but mature men, sometimes with an unhealthy sense of self-irony. This is the exact reason why I will not dwell on specific songs in my review, because they do not have so many distinctive features. Of course, some songs are remembered a little more, some a little less, but in most tracks it is rather difficult to single out some features that are characteristic only for them. We have already spoken about the absence of "vocal" parts, so we will not focus on this twice. But it is in the development of vocal abilities and the variety of rhythmic structures that I see growth points for further development of the band. And I hope that the project will continue to develop as "Zwo" can already be considered a step forward compared to the band's debut album.
But I would like to pay attention to the sound of Kuhlmann, not to the rhythm, not to the arrangements of their tracks, but to how "alive" the album sounds. Walter and the team did not pursue mainstream trends, and this was perhaps one of the most correct decisions of the band, thanks to which "Zwo" acquired a very appealing analog, so-called "tube" sound. It evokes a warm feeling of nostalgia for the times when albums weren't recorded on MacBooks and didn`t sound plastic and polished. Kuhlmann released one of the most soulful albums in the genre this year, which personally captivates me so much that for myself I rank the "Zwo" album as the 3rd one in the top full-length releases in the genre for the outgoing year.
Well, I told you about the music, sang the praises of Walter's voice tone; it remains to say a few words about the visual part of the band. I have mentioned above that the guys from Kuhlmann sometimes have an unhealthy sense of self-irony. By this, I just meant the entire visual part of the band. The fact is that throughout the year, Walter and the company regularly posted singles every month and, worst of all, videos for them. I am begging you not to watch this "work of art", or at least, first to try to listen to the entire album and evaluate it in isolation from its visual part, and then to risk to look at the band's video clips at your own peril (forewarned is forearmed).
In the end, I want to emphasize the main thing: listening to the album, you really understand that the guys are really into what they do, and you just want to share this feeling with them, instead of seriously analyzing some weak points, allusions or borrowings.
I'm sure that old NDH fans will enjoy the record, and new listeners of the genre will be able to feel the vibe of the second half of the 90s-early 00s thanks to the sound of Kuhlmann.