Tuesday 14 February 2017

Zeitkratzer performs songs from "Kraftwerk" and "Kraftwerk 2" / Christian Bouchard - Broken Ground

Reinhold Friedl's Zeitkratzer start their 20th anniversary celebrations by interpreting tracks from two Kraftwerk albums...but you can tell that from the title - I need more coffee -

No surprise that this is another impressive addition to their canon of covers which have previously featured John Cage and Stockhausen. Friedl's arrangements perfectly tease out the possibilities inherent in the originals, although I have to say that the opener, Ruckzuck, initially gave me cause for concern. It naturally lacks the bite, or edge or Kraftwerk's original rhythm and reminds me of common orchestras covering Rock (you know how awful that usually is). But they're only working, structurally, with what's there and you know that breakdown is coming; so how will they handle that? Brilliantly, with great great piano-smashing chords, before see-sawing off towards the end in fine style. The 'mood' pieces, such as Spule, work best, transforming the original 'ghosts' in the machinery into breathy tension accompanied by scraped strings, cymbal splashes and forceful bass notes. Atem is another treat; what sounds like an extended heavy breathing exercise coloured by minute sounds from other sources. I look forward to things to come this year from Zeitkratzer.

Commissioned by Derek Besant by accompany his 2012 exhibition, Broken Ground, Christian Bouchard's album of the same name features remixed versions of the original pieces and they're exquisite in the attention to detail he pays throughout. You might expect that from someone who studied at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and was awarded First Prize in electroacoustic composition. 

As I've said before and no doubt will again, to these ears, the technical aspect (the science of electroacoustic music) is but one (necessary) step towards realisation that transcends the study of sound to create sonic wonders. Hear Voids Patterns, for example, it's treated bell chimes (?), perfectly weighted against static crackle and electric whine. Throughout the works Bouchard shifts the emphasis from a relatively 'light' tonal palette towards occasionally stable rhythmic patterns along with bursts of guttural noise. The overall balance is towards weightiness but always there are counters, the kind which differentiate this music from, say, simplified Industrial electronics with which you could say this shares some common ground. I might call it 'Industrial music with a degree'...but that could sound stupid. Another superb release from empreintes DIGITALes

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