Another Wolfgang Voigt alias, though this time he isn't alone. Mohn is an exercise in slowed-down ambient and techno from Voigt and Jörg Burger (also known as The Modernist, and for having produced a tremendous piece of techno-trance with Voigt under the rather unoriginal name Burger/Voigt, in the ‘Speicher’ series). Judging from the sound, squealing and intense, Mohn is something new and even uncertain for the two of them. It all started with a track they made for the latest episode of the “Total” series on Kompakt (“Tiefental”, in 2011), and another one for the collection “Pop Ambient” (“Manifesto”, in 2012). Pleased with the results and the direction they could take them in, they decided to go ahead and write some more. “Mohn”, their first album, is the generous result: double vinyl + CD, long in duration and dense in contents. If you think you're going to hear the typical weightless and painless ambient of much of the music on the “Pop Ambient” compilations (or even the stuff Voigt made under the name Gas), think again. This brand of ambient is full of ghosts, hallucinations and traps.
Right from the start, “Einrauschen”, gives out a warning that the ground you're stepping on is dangerous, muddy and slippery. When we get to “Schwarzer Schwan” (I suppose it's a tribute to Darren Aronofsky's latest film) - with its pitched-down soprano voices and lethargic choirs floating over a bed of dirty textures - it becomes clear that this record, ambient as it may be, hides more pain than pleasure in its grooves. Although “pain” isn't exactly the right word, because, starting with “Ambientôt”, the damned illusion is interrupted with some euphoric notes. Here “Mohn” enters a new phase, more old school-like, with room for slow techno beats and experiments with German cosmic music from the 70s. The word would be “perplexity”, as Voigt and Burger continuously manage to alter the listener's expectations, taking the music where they want to and mixing the emotions. “Seqtor 88”, with its sci-fi title, seems inspired by Conrad Schnitzler's cosmic experiments, while following track “Das Feld” returns to pure and airy ambient (without instilling any nervous alterations this time). “Ebertplatz 2020” is reminiscent of one of the Klaus Schulze's compositions from his second episode (in the 80s), when trance was coming and he was one step away from entering the dubious field of futurist kitsch. Title track “Mohn” then returns to narcotic but slightly confusing ambient, and the end piece “Wiegenlied” is, of all the tracks on the album, the most reminiscent of the pastoral and anaesthetic sound of the Gas records on Mille Plateaux.
In light of all of this, I would like to add that Mohn manage to beat the expectations of the listener in the field of ambient, so well-trodden and predictable. I can't say it's completely original, but I do believe that they manage to integrate several of the genre's present sounds (the suspense-inspiring textures, the revitalisation of the cosmic currents, the touches of techno, the glorious weightlessness) on a cohesive piece. Furthermore, though all the different directions can be confusing, the album sounds different - at a time when being different or unpredictable is something rather out of fashion in ambient.