Present Paradox - A Trace To Keep Control (Album Review)

The problem with the present is that you can never really see it. According to NPR: "When you look at the mountain peak 30 kilometres away, you see it not as it exists now but as it existed a 1/10,000 of a second ago." While enough to induce disassociation, the realization of this is the driving concept behind the hypnotic and slow-burning excursions of Dortmund-based artist David Kleinekottmann, A.K.A Present Paradox. 

On his sophomore album, A Trace To Keep Control, Kleinekottmann addresses the "often opaque nature of the present" with flair, employing timeless alternative rock for his stylistically abstruse approach to songwriting and singing. There are hints of Radiohead in the ultra-pensiveness, Velvet Underground in the indifferent bohemian attitude, and Pink Floyd in the vision-inducing atmospheric psychedelia. There's also the earnestness of Scott Walker and the unhinged performances of Captain Beefheart. More contemporary are the vocals, which fluctuate between War-on-Drugs confidence and the snarkier post-punkisms of a more sadcore Idles.  

The opening track, "The Crack", introduces the album's stunted rhythms, offbeat instrumentation and dramatic singing before crescendoing in sonic intensity. This balance between the grounded and the transient marks this album; you go nowhere until you. Tracks like "The Boxes", an acoustic chant that postulates towards pressurized moments and "Gurus Circel", a math-rock-meets-cabaret cut that is deliciously experimental, get by on this dynamic.  

The driving "Denial, Denial" is the heaviest on this otherwise subdued album. While many songs lack acidity or bite, resting more on the sedated, they benefit from fun and abandon, such as in "Ready To Hide", where contributing saxophonist Antonio Necchi dances around the jubilant arrangement. 

Highlight moments include "An Avatar On A Black Surface", where the addictive bassline and melancholic songwriting merge with swinging rhythms and moody synths. "A Lens To Find The Trace" includes a delightful tenor clarinet by Michael A. Grant blended with soothing synths to create a dreamy atmosphere. Another endearing quality is the straightforwardly effective guitar riffs found throughout the album. For example, on "We Need To Take Control" or the more menacing "Ephemeral Ghosts", that uses imagistic lyrics and sultry sax lines of Necchi to impressive effect.  

Elsewhere, the polyrhythmic backbone of "After The Rain" features flugelhorn from Flippo Tungo and more personable and straightforward singing and songwriting from Kleinekottmann, who laments on leaving his western-Germany town, alluding to but never achieving an air of hope. "The Flood" trods along just fine, and "Distorted Mirror Images" is a more innocent and accessible song, though nowhere near as interesting as Present Paradox's more profound moments.

Created with an obvious intention and focus, A Trace To Keep Control by Present Paradox spends its forty-nine minutes stewing in saturnine idiosyncracies. However, it always keeps one eye on the absurdity of the human experience.