Long Distance Calling are a post-rock band from Germany and are well into their second decade of existence. I was introduced to them by my son-in-law, an ardent death metal and doom fan, but I was immediately interested when he played me a track from their second album, Avoid the Light. There was something distinctly proggy going on here, and further investigation was very much in order. They play largely instrumental pieces, often lengthy, based around quite deceptively simple, repetitive riffs and motifs, and they are pretty heavy. They’ve made half a dozen albums to date exploring this kind of sound world, with occasional experiments with vocals and other instruments, but always returning to their roots.
It was catching them live which was the real clincher though, their sheer tightness and power combined with the almost hypnotic drive of the music and their enthusiasm made for a memorable experience indeed. In fact, as good as their studio output is, and it is classy, it is in concert that they truly come alive, so to speak. So the prospect of a release documenting a live performance was quite exciting, and this package doesn’t disappoint. It was recorded live in Hamburg and comes as a double CD set, you also get the film on Bluray. The sound quality is excellent of course, and being an entire single show provides a genuine concert experience and atmosphere. For those familiar with the band, the first disc gives us a good chunk of music from their most recent album, Boundless, plus a smattering of older material, the second half features almost the entirety of Avoid the Light. That’s a bonus for me as that album was my introduction to the band, and it’s still a favourite.
The song structures are both simple, minimalist even, and yet imbued with a level of complexity with the interweaving guitar lines from David Jordan and Florian Fontmann ebbing and flowing and building in intensity, only to recede again. Janosch Rathmer and Jan Hoffmann, on drums and bass respectively, are a powerful rhythmic entity, hardly existing separately at all, and the overall effect when in full flight is a wonderful wall of sound. I defy anyone to listen to this and not move; it demands some physical reaction, even if it’s limited to toe-tapping or head nodding. My reaction is a little more extreme, but whatever, you will succumb.
There is a fair bit of experimentation in evidence too, it’s not all progressive guitar rifferama by any means. The band are augmented by Luca Gilles on cello on several songs, being particularly effective during On the Verge from Boundless for example, adding a lovely melancholy texture to the piece. Aaron Schrade also provides additional percussion and ‘e-beats’ throughout, adding colour and stabs of modernity to the traditional rock palette. The Avoid the Light set begins with the restrained guitar intro of Apparitions, with a gentle backbeat easing us into the song, before dissolving into an atmospheric ambient section, then gradually building again, becoming heavier by degrees, driven by drummer Rathmer’s relentless rhythm, rising in intensity before collapsing under its own weight in a series of crashing chords. It’s a perfect example of what Long Distance Calling are about, a masterclass in building and releasing tension and textural exploration.
Black Paper Planes continues in this vein, but with more of Luca Gilles’ subtle cello providing colour and shape before sawing along with the climactic riffing. He provides a similarly crucial contribution with the melancholy melody played at the conclusion of 359°. During the epic and energetic I Know You, Stanley Milgram! there is a delightfully wonky middle section which could almost be from a spaghetti western soundtrack, but this soon transforms into one of the band’s heavier workouts.
The band are clearly better known in their homeland, as the enthusiastic audience give this recording a terrific atmosphere. The whole package makes for a wonderful summation of everything they have achieved so far, and perhaps marks the end of this phase in their development, who knows? We shall find out with their next studio adventure no doubt, but in the meantime, we can revel in a band who have carved out a niche for themselves and are seemingly at the height of their powers.
01. Into The Black Wide Open (10:02)
02. The Very Last Day (10:57)
03. In The Clouds (6:42)
04. Like A River (5:59)
05. On The Verge (6:17)
06. Interlude (3:39)
07. Out There (9:14)
01. Apparitions (14:27)
02. Black Paper Planes (7:57)
03. 359° (9:34)
04. I Know You, Stanley Milgram! (10:54)
05. Sundown Highway (7:41)
06. Flux (14:31)
07. Metulsky Curse Revisited (9:59)
BluRay | Vinyl – same track listing
David Jordan – Guitars
Florian Fontmann – Guitars
Janosch Rathmer – Drums
Jan Hoffmann – Bass
Luca Gilles – Cello
Aaron Schrade – Percussion & e-Beats
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Catalogue#: IOMLTDCD 539
Country of Origin: Germany
Date of Release: 1st November 2019