Bunsenburner – Poise Review

My students all suspect I spent some time with the “ganja.” They say, “Wow, Mr. Hollow, you’re so chill. I bet you were a stoner in high school.” Unfortunately for my street cred with today’s “skrt skrt” youths™, no, I “fr fr” was not. I was way too stuck up to do anything besides the daily Red Bull and Bible study jig, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating some good stoner doom well into adulthood. While my strain of choice falls closer to sludge on the swampy spectrum, I can appreciate acts like Sergeant Thunderhoof and Weedeater for reverb- and fuzz-soaked riffs with killer groove. What does tickle me pickle is jazz and ambient, which are what Bunsenburner says they fuse with stoner doom.

Bunsenburner is a German sextet conceived and actualized by bassist and producer Ben Krahl,1 and featuring his long-time friends, most notably drummer Norman Lonhard of Triptykon and guitarist Martin Fischer of Fear My Thoughts and Long Distance Calling. Debut Poise is an improvised and instrumental session, twelve tracks and fifty-six minutes of swampy brutality balanced with lush and jazzy ambiance. Filtering a good ol’ fashioned jam sesh, complete with mammoth riffs, wild solos, and powerful drumming, through the stoner aesthetic of haze and fuzz, with passages of ambiance and crystalline synth interludes. Ultimately, for all the interest and potential that Poise carries itself with, weak song structures, lack of variety, and its colossally wearisome runtime keep this Bunsenburner on low.

Poise’s best songs rely on bass to drive the songs and build tension. In particular, “Witchcraft” and “Siriasis” build from simple driving basslines to punchy stoner riffs, feeling like fleshed-out realizations of stoner greatness, with riffiness reminiscent of Black Tusk or Sergeant Thunderhoof. Revolving around a single riff, their structure and melodic palette evolving and breathing organically over three-and-a-half to five minutes, these tracks expertly balance the more metal elements and abstract ambiance. Speaking of ambiance, tracks “Permeare,” “Mouches Volantes,” “Wallow in Dread,” “Spiegelkabinett,” and closer “You Could Be Happy Here” all embrace the synth sprawl, accurately allowing ominous, crystalline, or uplifting tones in a way that guides the album along. Perhaps counterintuitively, riffs do not make this album tick, but central licks in tracks like “Lights of Jupiter,” “720,” “Ascent of Sap,” and bonus track “Meanwhile 22” have a fun-loving groovy vibe about them.

However, Bunsenburner’s most glaring issue is track length. While the aforementioned tracks have their moments, too many iterations of the same riff with minor variations lead to unbelievable monotony, while the ambient tracks simply drone on for too long to make the impact that they are intended. Case in point, the longest track here is ambient track “Mouches Volantes,” which sticks with an uplifting and slightly mysterious mood with no variation, aside from the hollow drum lines that pick up near the end – nevertheless ending on the same note as it started. Every track, even the highlights, feel about two or three minutes too long, which make Poise feel nearly unbearable to sit through. The simplicity of Bunsenburner’s approach is appealing, simple stoner riffs with patient ambiance, but the improvised attack of Poise does not lend itself to fully fleshed-out songs. This is nothing more than a jam session between friends plus a guy who plays synthesizer, so the album’s very premise does not promise much. Furthermore, the promo promises jazz alongside its ambiance, but only the weakly comprised “Cast Off” features a jazzy chord progression among its noisy tremolo and poor man’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor-inspired ambiance presence. Suffice it to say that Poise’s highlights throughout its fifty-six minutes could be distilled into an EP.

Bunsenburner has potential and a pedigree cast, but they’ve got to start actually writing songs instead of relying on their group chemistry to compose an hour-long album. While I didn’t miss the vocals, I found myself neither enveloped in the ambiance nor enthralled by the riffs. Jazz is virtually nonexistent, the ambiance goes on for too long, and a single riff is the only foundation upon which overlong songs are built. Ultimately, Poise feels like a VW stoner bus stuck in icy mud and the dudes inside start jamming: you can appreciate the vibe, but that doesn’t mean it’s good.

Rating: 1.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 319 kbps mp3
Label: Bensnburner Records
Website: too busy smokin’ fr fr
Releases Worldwide: December 9th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Also owner of Bensnburner Records.
« »