C.A.R. aren’t quite the new CAN, they have their very own drive

Foto: © Frederike Wetzels (Bimba)
C.A.R. don’t give a damn about the academic rules of (European) jazz. They’re much more interested in guests from other musical genres. With their new album, they’ve made it clear to everyone what they’ve always been: a vehicle.

Even after thirteen years, the band’s name can’t really be explained, but C.A.R. have come closer to it than ever before in recent weeks. For a long time, the quartet seemed to be defined primarily by their undeniable closeness to the monumental Cologne krautrock band CAN, or so it appeared, but now they’ve become a vehicle.

A development that suits the four musicians very well, and one that corresponds to their need to remain flexible, to be able to move away from familiar places they’ve long since conquered and to take their music in new directions.

Their fifth album »Gästeliste« was released at the end of 2023, and you can hear the invitation to climb aboard. Three musicians, who could not be more different, but who are nevertheless coherently connected in the context of this LP, accepted the offer to participate and share. The credit for this goes to the four gentlemen who make up the regular crew of this musical train: Johannes Klingebiel, Kenn Hartwig, Christian Lorenzen and Leonhard Huhn.

They are all graduates of Cologne University of Music and Dance, and during their studies they all turned their backs on the jazz concepts praised there to varying degrees. Klingebiel, who has always been active in the field of electronic dance music, DJing and producing, founding various labels and now living in Berlin, is originally a drummer—and he developed an aversion to the dictates of jazz early on: no desire for the strict (and of course arbitrary) criteria of what good jazz is—at least according to European academic thinking—and the same old pattern of »the band lays the foundation and someone comes along to nail a solo on top.«

Nothing is impossible

For his graduation concert, he and bassist Hartwig—now owner of the jazz-non-jazz label Anunaki Tabla—looked for accompaniment and found it in saxophonist Leonhard Huhn and pianist/keyboardist Christian Lorenzen. But instead of splitting up, the band stayed together. They bonded in jam and invented an idiomatic sound that combines different influences without ever getting lost in one: sometimes the krautrock influences are more present, then a civilised romantic sound comes to the fore, which cannot conceal a certain closeness to Bohren & der Club of Gore. At the same time, they maintain a dreamlike transparency of elastically gliding through the pieces with their instruments (synths, bass, drums—also electronic-digital—and saxophone). To use the train metaphor again.

Which in turn is a welcome transition to the new album, where singer Pegelia Gold grabs the microphone on the opening track and puts her stamp on the glockenspiel-based piece. In careful, almost whispered phrases she steers through the hook line. »Pegelia and Niklas Wandt, who feature on »Major Step in Your Career«, have been members of our musical circle for a while and we have always liked what they do,« the band writes. And they continue: »It almost came naturally when we had the idea to make a record featuring guests.«

The band itself provided the framework that held everything together, while still leaving plenty of room for the guest musicians’ characteristic approaches.

Max Loderbauer joined the band when they met in the studio kitchen: »We met Max while recording our previous album »Any Percent« at the Candy Bomber Studio in Berlin. He is a studio neighbour there and we had a good vibe right away.« His otherworldly voice, the percussion-centred approach of jazz and wave nerd Wandt and the more electro-avant-garde compositional sound that Loderbauer stands for didn’t need to match for C.A.R.. The band itself provided the framework that held everything together, while still leaving plenty of room for the guest musicians’ characteristic approaches.

So you can recognise the different approaches without the album threatening to fall apart. On the contrary: the long-proven quality of this sometimes overlooked band from Cologne (and Berlin) is its elegant elasticity, its very own drive. Sound on, music on, slowly release the brake—and the train begins to roll.