FIT+ LIMO Terra Incognita (September Gurls)

Fit + Limo are a Bavarian duo, and all that tethers this, their fourth album, to the world of conventional rock music is the fact that it’s released on a record label that shares its name with a Big Star song. Owning up to their Incredible String Band and Pearls Before Swine influences, Fit + Limo deploy an astonishing range of unconventional instrumentation (glockenspiel, Mellotron, cello, Indian banjo, tamboura, Chamberlin, sitar, gopichand, clay drums, bells, autoharp, bongos, gothic harp, banjo, harmonium, tabla, maracas, accordion, jew’s harp, phonograph and the theories of granular synthesis all jangle and jostle for space) and score guest appearances from members of such out there ensembles as Black Forest/Black Sea, Iditarod, Stone Breath, Mourning Cloak and Witthüser Westrup.

Quite possibly a significant summit meeting for enthusiasts of the progressive Krautfolk school, the bemused outsider is likely to latch on to those PBS and ISB comparisons, although the more ambient stretches also suggest Popol Vuh. The vocals are often strongly reminiscent of Robin Williamson’s work, but musically Fit + Limo are a far more languid proposition, bereft of the ISB’s ramshackle, happy clatter. And therein lies the problem: although some of the intros are utterly tantalising – for example the bejewelled and glistening “Lasst Uns Auf Die Reise Gehn”, “Wende Dich Her” or the sepia orchestrations of “Cantiamo” – they don’t develop at all, but just sit between the speakers in a puddingy heap. Rarely steered by structure, these wispy, drifting non-songs can stretch out for what seems like a Jurassic age – the nine cavernous minutes of “In Den Gärten Salomos”, for example, are like listening to hills eroding or icicles melting, never threatened by anything as crude as a melody.

In strictly controlled doses “Terra Incognita” could be fascinating, but unless you’re enchanted by the idea of 50 minutes of apparently random strumming and plunking you’d probably be better off giving this album a wide berth.