Thursday, January 14, 2010

Black Alphabet To 1968 Comm

Look, it's not like I've given up on rock or guitars or anything like that. For some reason, I'm just in a dense wave of electronics, ambience, and drone. What can I do?

"Hotel Freund" from Alphabet 1968 (2009)

At this point, if I were to suggest one album for people to check out, see if they might take to the dark ambient/drone... it would be this one, Black to Comm's Alphabet 1968 (2009). According to the label, where you can also stream the whole album:
The mission statement for 'Alphabet 1968' was to write an album of 'songs' for want of a better word. Short tracks which represented genre points, the milestones which stuck in Richter’s mind when he thought back to his favourite records. The scope of the album is admirable but ignoring this it is simply a shockingly arresting collection of experimental oddities, with references ranging from Moondog to Basic Channel by way of Bernard Herrmann.
And that's the strength here, digestible capsules with a variety of the genre's possibilities. Like an awesome sampler compilation that just happens to be made by one artist as one album.

"Jonathan" is fairly minimalist modern classical - soft piano drone, transmission static and vinyl pops, smooth waves and synth burble. It's downright pleasant, in a lulling electro-acoustic ambient way. It drains away, and "Forst" begins building. Forst, Germany is where Harmonia (Cluster duo plus half of Neu!) had a studio, and they worked there with Brian Eno there in the mid-'70s - coincidence? Coincidence?!

"Forst" from Alphabet 1968 (2009)

Chopped and looped noise gets overtaken by a bedrock foundation of synth waveform, which continues amassing over a heartbeat pulse. Things move glacially but perceptibly, eventually including earthy bell-shaped tones and reaching a subdued frenzy. The source of which is indistinguishable... amplitudes or something. Great relief when the cavalry arrives, trumpets set to stun. It's by far the longest piece here, and the next couple of tracks decompress from there. "Trapez" is mostly chiming bell clusters, with magnetic tape clutter, and eventually something almost xylophonic with slow-mo tape-loop viola-mimickry becoming "Rauschen." The ghost of a stand-up bass haunts a decrepit juke joint perhaps. Robert Rauschenberg was from Port Arthur, TX, was an abstract expressionist collagist, and was famous for his Combines.

"Musik Für Alle" from Alphabet 1968 (2009)

Music for all! The musicality comes back strong with some hammered dulcimer (maybe) and a recurring noise loop. Modern classical in maybe the Wagner vein? It's definitely got distinct parts, more than straight drone. Two more bite-sized experiments follow. "Amateur" leads with radiophonic noise collage, then converts to a randomized piano rag, then splits the difference briefly - before the organ and singing saw (maybe) duet of "Traum GmbH." I love this last one, and could have gone with 10 minutes instead of two.

After the claustrophobic metal-on-metal clanging percussion festival of "Houdini Rites," the expanse of "Void" is a physical release - which works in the opposite direction of most tension/release dynamics. It's more like capture/release dynamics. And the record ends with the fantastic "Hotel Freund," with the awesome Night of the Lepus video, embedded at top.

Alphabet 1968
Adventures in record-shopping: So here's what happened. I've been reading about this record recently, because it's been showing up unexpectedly in a bunch of year-end lists. Well, multiples... a few. And last weekend when I was way out north, buying Woods, I happened to see the cover but didn't make the connection.

Earlier this week, the recurrence had me listening on the internet, and ultimately looking to buy. Only then did I realize that the vinyl edition was "strictly limited" - and OOP, and the only one I could find was $50 on eBay. So, given all the parameters of the variables of the scenario, I could either wait until this weekend (99+% that the LP is still there)... or drive way out of town, in rush-hour traffic, to make sure I got the only sub-$50 copy I knew of. Yesterday, I made the right choice!!

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