Annabelle’s Garden, Time’s No Measure (1987-1993)

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 12.31.13 in Reviews

Post-punk obsessives are beginning to realize what funk and soul crate-diggers have known for years now: There will come a day when every last rarity, bootleg, demo and private-press LP has been unearthed. Every genre eventually reaches peak wax, and that day will come even for goth, coldwave, industrial and their kin. Fortunately, the well hasn’t run dry yet, as Dais Records demonstrate with this 90-minute compendium of Annabelle’s Garden, a German band, active from the late ’80s until 1997, whose penumbral, atmospheric music staked out a position somewhere between Xmal Deutschland and Death in June.

An unusual balance between slow, brooding post-punk and sparkling acoustic instrumentation

Releasing most of their material only on cassette — much of it on the German label Progressive Entertainment, run by Markus Detmer, who would later found the experimental label Staubgold — the Hamburg group remains largely unknown outside of Germany, even to many hardcore goths. But Time’s No Measure makes a strong case for the legacy of a band that struck an unusual balance between slow, brooding post-punk and sparkling acoustic instrumentation. On “In ein Morgen,” Derek Richards snarls and declaims in German over a swirl of creaks, clangs, foggy synths and minor-key bass melodies; it’s followed by “My Unknown Child,” a far sweeter (albeit still plenty gloomy) song suffused in feathery acoustic strumming and tambourines. For the most part, the 16 cuts here don’t stray far from the templates laid out in those two examples, but they don’t really need to; the band hones in on its minor-key mood pieces with laser-like focus. Throughout, you can hear the influence of the Cure’s mid-’80s run in the German band’s airy atmospheres and ruminative bass lines, sturdy as bridge cables.

Swans’ presence also hangs like an exquisitely embroidered shroud over Time’s No Measure. Rather than the brutalism of early Swans, however, it’s the gentle, limpid sound of Children of God and The Burning World that shines through here — particularly on the graceful Winter Moon Descends, with its elegant mixture of tribal drumming, piano, and diaphanous female vocals. It’s a wonder Annabelle’s Garden went “undiscovered” for so long.