The “jam” is one of those musical devices that walks a delicately drawn fine line. On one side are classics like Can‘s “Halleluwah” or The Velvet Underground‘s “Sister Ray,” both of which are defined by an embrace of improvisation, interplay and gradual evolution that keep the song fresh throughout a roughly 20-minute run time. But on the other side, you have endless journeys of gratuitous musical masturbation that create a significant imbalance of enjoyment between the players and their audience. Walking this line is obviously difficult; though defined by higher tier musicianship, an effective jam band can’t venerate their abilities as musicians at the expense of songcraft, particularly in terms of defining the genres and styles from which the extended composition is being drawn out of. All of this makes it that much more impressive that Mother Engine have not only mastered the “jam” formula, but excelled at replicating that equation fourfold on their third full-length outing Hangar, which we’re stoked to be able to premiere for you in full.
Before venturing any further, it’s important to note that Mother Engine deserve much more than just a “jam band” label. The trio—Cornelius Grünert (drums), Christian Dressel (bass) and Chris Trautenbach (guitar)—lean heavily on krautrock from their native Germany to form the backbone of their carefully unraveled compositions, which unfold with an alluring blend of post, psychedelic, space and stoner rock for an incredible quartet of instrumental epics. The songs comprise an underlying sonic narrative of the journey undertaken by a spaceship and its crew, which itself is representative of the trio’s own career trajectory through various stages of songwriting, DIY recording and production processes. As such, the band individually and collectively aimed to challenge themselves on each of the 20-or-so-minute tracks on Hangar:
“We tried to use a lot of classic music figures and styles to create that more robotic and unnatural sound. The use of staccato, dissonance, diatonic, monotonic, homo phonic, unisono playing, dynamic metrum and tempii changes and dynamic volume changes attempt to create a new style of songs, that won’t end up with melodic, harmonic or simple understandable dramatics, but instead stay as a simple combined rhythm and sound part.”
Even musically illiterate listeners will feel every complex compositional approach the band took throughout each of the four chapters of Hangar‘s narrative. The album operates in its own bubble of time and space that captivates the listener from the moment “Prototyp” opens until the last note of “Weihe/Leerlauf” rings out. It’s remarkable how well these tracks work as a cohesive unit given their run time, a testament to Mother Engine’s careful focus on song development and cohesion. Every track revolves around memorable motifs that venture off into different galaxies before returning home to roost. This is, at its core, a clear mastery of the “jam”—as the listener soars along with whichever path the song chooses, there’s never a moment where the journey feels aimless or their attention is lost. Whenever that might occur, the band brings the track back full circle before beginning the voyage anew.
Each track overall maintains an intergalactic psych rock vibe, as if My Brother the Wind broadcast their music amid the expansive stage of space. This road map includes its fair share of detours, however, as the heavier stoner rock moments effuse strong fumes of Torche‘s hotboxed celestial tour bus. Furthermore, the shades of post-metal on “Tokamak” and “Weihe/Leerlauf” bring to mind the black metal-tinged work of Sannhet, and the pleasantly surprising saxophone and trombone on the former of these two tracks certainly warrants comparison to Pink Floyd, both in their well-executed arrangement and execution as well as the similar effect they have on elevating the collective performance.
There’s truly something for every rock fan on Hangar, an incredible psychedelic treat that offers a life-altering journey that’s guaranteed to keep you coming back for more. And on top of that, Mother Engine earns points for the greatest streaming embed I’ve seen in recent memory. So do yourself a favor and prepare to launch into a transcendental trip through the art of the “jam.”
Hangar is available 9/20 via Heavy Psych Sound Records and can be pre-ordered here.