" Ambient rock" sounds oxymoronic, like "hot-water heater," "military intelligence" and "Rush Limbaugh." But in the collective hands of Couch, a Munich-based band that records for the German label Kitty-Yo, the term actually makes sense. The instrumental music that's heard on Profane is evocative and atmospheric -- but it also happens to move.
The group's work is frequently compared to that of Tortoise, but that's not quite right: Whereas Tortoise's compositions tend to utilize jazzy key signatures, strange juxtapositions and unexpected instrumentation, Couch's cuts are comparatively straightforward, with drummer Thomas Geltinger infusing many of them, including "Plan," with a convincing boom-thwack. And even though Stefanie Böhm's cool keyboards are the most important textural ingredient on efforts such as "Was Alles Hält" and "12 Sind Nur 4," they're frequently heard in tandem with Michael Heilrath's percolating bass and Jürgen Söder's sometimes rough-hewn guitar. "Meine Marke" is quiet and introspective, with Söder contributing delicate plucking, but it's followed immediately by "Kurzer Punkt," a propulsive, aggressive slab of sound that still manages to feel strangely contemplative, and "Doch Endlich," whose deliberate build gives way to a crescendo that lasts for several bracing minutes. Afterward, "Farbe" offers an inviting way to chill out, bringing a listener back to earth as gently as a padded elevator slowly descending from the clouds.
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Most contemporary performers try to achieve such effects using electronics -- an approach that requires them to humanize their techno-gear in ways that are seldom easy. Profane's sound, in contrast, feels more organic, yet just as trippy. This is one inviting Couch; sit down, sink in and stay a while.