Over the past few years, Exile On Mainstream have consistently put out fantastic albums with little to no fanfare and while some, like Beehoover and Conny Ochs, have continued to develop their fanbases through these releases, many have undeservedly fallen through the cracks (Rising should have been huge, dammit). Friedemann will likely fall into the latter camp, particularly outside of the German-speaking world, which is a real shame as there is a skill and brooding depth to ‘Uhr vs Zeit’ that should really put them up there with Ochs and the ‘hoover boys.
Better known as the vocalist for Rügen-based hardcore band COR, Friedemann Hinz works with the sparsest of setups, his voice, an acoustic guitar and a stompbox his primary ingredients in an album that quickly proves itself to be incredibly varied, both in style and in delivery. Friedemann is capable of great tenderness and expression but a background in punk means plenty of bite behind his words, even if the direction is more inwards and experiential than a violent kicking out at the system. It’s folk, rock, blues and bluegrass as run through the eyes, ears, throat and hands of a lone German with a lack of restraint in gradually unravelling his inner workings.
In truth, the punk-gone-acoustic thing is no longer the novelty that it once was, Scott Kelly and, more recently, Harm Wülf having both worked the phenomenon with plenty of heart and songwriting nous, but Friedemann excels because yes, they are obvious works of personal import, but they are damn catchy to boot. A few tracks may fall by the wayside but the toe-tapping groove of ‘Nichts Können‘, Friedemann delivering his rapid-fire vocals with a sneer and a smile, is an immediate source of pleasure, while ‘Freiheit‘ has the air of a dirt-poor Pavement, crooned from the gutter with everyman charm, sold with a flighty solo to see the misery out the door.
The album’s greatest anomaly, though, comes with ‘Anders Gedacht‘, one of the only ‘full band’ songs on offer. It’s a dirty, punky ditty that represents the spirit of every nicotine-stained bar in every 80s action movie ever made, unhinged and screaming as a steady bassline prowls the floorboards with greased-back cool. It’s an odd inclusion, but it’s a worthy one, a remnant of COR that rose up to kick ass once again. Even when sticking to his acoustic baseline, though, Friedemann is capable of throwing constant curveballs, even if they are more subtle in their contrast. Accordion and synth are woven through the delicate melodies of ‘Lied aus Stille‘ like buttresses, gently supporting its breezy nature with their solid, unobtrusive presence, while the sharply muted strums of ‘Nackenbrecher‘ give it a noticeably darker vibe than what surrounds, impressive given that ‘Uhr vs Zeit’ is hardly the cheeriest of listens.
If you’re a COR fan, it’s likely that this release will be on your radar already but, if not, ‘Uhr vs Zeit’ should really be checked out, especially if you’ve already become aware of the Conny Ochs school of musicianship and are wanting to explore further. They share not only their nationality but also an understated method of musical expression, a focus on the rawness that anyone can, and will, find themselves a victim of and a nonchalant presence that hides great depth but, despite the similarities, Friedemann retains a unique presence that burns strongly throughout these thirteen tracks. Whether it’s due to his punk background, or whether it’s just the freedom that comes with choosing his native tongue as the vessel for his thoughts, Friedemann’s debut is an honest, unflinching work that will hold ample appeal for anyone, regardless of their linguistic capabilities, as long as they give it the time it so rightly deserves.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes