Von Südenfed is one of those projects that had a whole heck of a lot of music fans and critics drooling. Mark E. Smith has been a critical darling for nearly three decades (and more than 25 studio albums) now as the lead singer and songwriter in The Fall, and Mouse On Mars have consistently delivered (and occasionally knocked things out of the park) in their ten plus years creating electronic music. If you combine the output of all three members (including solo and side projects), you'd easily have fifty plus releases worth of material, with enough variety to truly split heads open.
In all honesty, though, I will admit to never having been a person that can get into The Fall at all. This will probably destroy my reviewer credibility to some, but I've always found their music far too sloppy and shambolic to really grab me. That reaction to their music is largely due to the vocal delivery and lyrics of one Mark E. Smith, and well, you probably know where this is going...
Instead of hearing a slamming electro-pop track with off-kilter vocals, tracks like "Fledermaus Can't Get It" instead make me feel like I'm listening to the ramblings of a drunk hobo who has stumbled into the middle of the rave, then finds himself moved to ramble out whatever comes to mind. I suppose that's part of the absurdist point of Von Südenfed, so I have to give credit for the trio for trying something a bit audacious. This is nothing like Mouse On Mars working with quirkly vocalist Dodo Nkishi on Radical Connector, it's more like high-camp weirdness, and in places I have to admit that they do win me over.
"The Rhinohead" starts out with some delicious piano tickling and power electronics while Smith again adds some of his casual mumblings, but soon the track bursts forth with a stomping beat and some filtered vocals that all blur together in a sort of electronic-washed dance punk sheen that's a heck of a lot of fun. "Flooded" nearly falls into some of the things that bother me about a lot of the rest of the album, but the chunked-out two-step krunk-ness of the track is so overpowering that the spoken-word style vocals can't knock it off course.
Mostly, though, Tromatic Reflexxions (right down to the title) deal in sort of broad caricatures that it's hard to get into. For every section that locks into something juicy (the end of "Serious Brainskin"), it's offset with three others that are just plain bad (or close to it). The squiggly hick-hop of "Chicken Yiamas," the field-recording/feedback drone of "Jback Lois Lane" and the overlong, bland reworking "That Sound Wiped" are perfect examples of the latter. If you're a fan of both of the artists on their own, you'll probably find a lot more here to love than I did. Others will likely feel a bit discombobulated.