Every city has its own special sound. But how do you, for example, capture the special atmosphere of Berlin in sound? The Berlin band Conic Rose, led by trumpet player Konstantin Döben, has found an answer and poured it into the twelve songs on their debut album. Imagine cruising through the streets of the capital city on your bike at two in the morning, alone in the sparse flickering neon light, no one on the road, every now and then a fox shyly crossing the road. And yet there is this permanent background noise, this hidden murmuring and whispering, this clinking of glass and the whirring of flowing electricity, the furtive rustling of the trees, the sound of your tyres on the pavement and one’s own heartbeat, which, in the supposed silence of the night, shows itself to be a driving groove. Occasionally this harmony is disturbed by the squeak of a car taking a bend too quickly on the empty road, the agonised cry of a cat in heat or the empty sneer of a drunk. It is precisely this mood Conic Rose captures, without allowing itself to be limited by it. Amongst the intoxication of the metropolis, there always remains a longing for faraway places. Places like La Palma, Hamburg, or Braunschweig were equally formative for the atmosphere of the band’s debut album, on which gloomy journeys through the city are interspersed with more relaxed moments flooded with light.
Trying to place Conic Rose’s music into a standard formula is almost impossible. Depending on your perspective, you could describe it as indie pop, jazz, ambient, electronica, or as a soundtrack evoking its own images. It is all of these things, and yet much more than just the sum of the listed styles. Konstantin Döben describes this phenomenon as both a blessing and a curse. But that is pure understatement, because it is precisely the unmistakable sound of his husky trumpet that gives the album its special aura, floating on the tranquil soundscapes of electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards, bass — and stoic drums, which bring together the influences of J.S. Bach, Krautrock, Thom Yorke or Bonobo into a sound aesthetic that generates associations with Jon Hassell, Nils-Petter Molvaer or Toshinori Kondo’s unforgettable band IMA. „Conic Rose” does not need a catchword, because the music describes itself.
The magic formula for Döben and his crew is unhampered openness in all directions. Already after a few bars of the opener, the band’s signature reveals itself, nevertheless being enriched from track to track with new melodic arcs, contractions, noises and diversions. Originally coming from the jazz tradition, Döben found his way into the backing band of pop singer Clueso, which showed him completely new perspectives. „In the Clueso band I met the pianist and keyboarder Johannes Arzberger“, recalls the trumpeter, “and I started trying out new things with him. He has a very good producer’s ear and notices every little detail immediately. While producing together, I discovered that we could quite quickly get close to our collective sound concept. I was able to throw off the ballast of what I had learned intellectually and trust my intuition completely. Through my experiences in pop music, I was able to gather the courage to search for depth even in less complex things.“
Rounding out the band is Bertram Burkert on guitar, bass and synthesizers, Franziska Aller on bass, and Silvan Strauss on drums. For each individual member there are reasons why Döben brought them into the band. Johannes Arzberger’s strengths have already been mentioned. Bertram Burkert is a close friend whom the trumpeter knows from their time together in the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Germany, and who brings concentration and depth to the ensemble. Döben sighs happily when he says, that he has no choice but to work with Burkert, because the guitarist would never do anything that he did not support one hundred percent. In a way, he provides the corrective in the band. He had not heard a single note from Franziska Aller before he invited her to join the band, but he was so overwhelmed by her personality and presence that he felt compelled to; the decision has proven to be spot on. Finally, Silvan Strauss brings in his very own vision of how the drums can sound.
As focused as the sound cascades of Conic Rose may be, many of them came about through improvisation: they were recorded, enriched with the other instruments, and finally produced. Nothing was prepared. The band surrendered to inner moods that they could only make audible by playing them. The process was a perfect mixture of intuitive calculation and calculated intuition. With this band, it was important to Döben to let go of everything that he had been carrying around with him. Conic Rose is not least the happy act of an individual and collective liberation. “Coming from a jazz background, I had to work up the courage to write something simple and accessible. But that was what I felt I could stand behind. Like a rock band, we sit together in the studio, someone records something, the others put in their two cents, and suddenly it becomes something. Sometimes you have to leave something for a week before you can continue working on it. And at some point it grows into a whole sound. It was the search for an essence that we approached, without ever completely touching it.“
You often hear from musicians that they don’t like to listen to their own productions. With Konstantin Döben it is exactly the opposite. With this album he has created something so fundamental for himself and the world that he wants to listen to it again and again, play it for others and share it. But precisely because so much has remained open in the music — the question marks outweigh the dots and exclamation marks — listening to the music is also a process of constant approach that always reveals something new. “We are our first listeners when we play and produce,” exclaims Döben enthusiastically. “We play exactly what we want to hear. Why should we lose this desire for our own sounds later on?“
This delight in one‘s own sound is palpable in every single moment on „Heller Tag” (Bright Day). It translates into images, haunting yet casual, which come to rest on the inner canvas of the listener and linger on long after.
“★★★★ Worked up via Bertram Burkert’s mournful guitar improvisations, the cut and thrust of city life seeps through this Berlin band’s teary debut. From the wistful vistasof Honeylake, filmic heartbreak of Uli to the wispy, held-in Chopin Rosé, its progressively playful tracks dabble with Hassell, Bach, Radiohead, hip-hop beats and woozy electronics, providing a masterful showcase for the mazy trumpet melodics and forlorn flugelhorn of Konstantin Döben.”
“Mind Blowing, elegant and technically superb.”
– Martin Atjazz, UK
“Sometimes playful and rugged, sometimes sleepy and fragile, it is music that pushes forward and outward beyond the borders of jazz.”
– Kat Frankie, AU
“[One] of the most talented and ambitious young groups from […] Germany.”
– Jazz Montez, DE
“If there was to be an award created for ‘brilliant band that sound like no-one else ever’ then Conic Rose would win it hands down. They have a unique sonic signature that they maintain effortlessly over 12 varying tracks […] all of which are aural gems. “Heller Tag” is a remarkable achievement […].”
– Nick Titchener, UK
“Conic Rose’s debut album […] is one of those ‘WOW’ moments […].”
— Gerry Hectic, UK
– Vince Watson, UK
“Conic Rose baffle: Because they do not fit into any genre box. Because they create worlds of sound that are scarcely perceptible and then again overwhelmingly massive. Because they fulfil expectations, only to break with them again. Because they ensnare their listeners with sounds and then leave them with the desire for more.”
– Heilbronner Stimme, DE