Munich, Germany's Couch makes dense yet delicate instrumental rock that reminds me of late-summer coffee-fueled urban quests in search of a gorgeous yet imaginary goth waif. The humid air and desirous undercurrent are a perfect match for the strummed guitars and moody electronics of Couch's new album, Figur 5 (Morr Music), a record as bittersweet as my romantic pursuits.
Together 11 years–and comprised of Michael Heilrath (bass), Thomas Geltinger (drums), Stefanie Böhm (keyboards), and Jürgen Söder (guitar)–Couch's sound is wistful and unhurried. This attitude could have to do with the band's homebase in Munich, a city whose relaxed feeling is a far cry from the manic energy of trendy Berlin, where Morr Music is based. Munich is a city full of beer gardens, where people sit outside beneath huge trees at wooden tables drinking tall pilsners and Hefeweizen in the shadow of the Austrian mountains. "We kind of prefer the outback to the place in the middle where everything is supposed to happen," remarks Söder of their surroundings.
A comfortable environment and their camaraderie with acts from the nearby Weilheim music scene (which includes Notwist, Lali Puna, Ms. John Soda, Console) has shaped Couch's simmering, complex, indie-electro brew (think My Bloody Valentine guitar riffs with clicky IDM drum programming). Like neighboring bands, Couch mixes indie rock and hardcore influences with electronic music, jazz, and pop, creating music that's amorphous and malleable, unrushed but sonically urgent, in the vein of classic sonic experimentalists Big Black, Bailter Space, Spacemen 3, and Mogwai. The group is also touched by the members' history in the music industry: Söder has worked for Munich electronic labels Disko B, Chicks on Speed, and Gomma, and other bandmates have toiled in everything from music distribution to record mastering to label relations.
Figur 5, the group's fifth album, is the sum of all these influences. It was laid down over two years and culled from 30 original tracks down to nine. Songs like "Alles Sagt Ja" ("Everything Says Yes") are crisply recorded, with each sound–guitar, synth, drums, electronics–surfacing and submerging in an aural ocean. "We mostly use computers to build the songs," says Söder of their recording process. "There might be something of a programming aesthetic remaining in the songs even if we end up playing them rock-band style."
Figur 5 reveals something new with every listen, an attitude reflected in Söder's current multifaceted playlist, which includes Mocky, Morrissey, Gnarls Barkley, Console, and Gonzales. "I am really bad at top-five lists," he admits. "We work around so much music every day–new stuff coming our way from so many directions–[that] lists are hard to form... 90 percent of our time is taken over by music."