released October 6, 2013
The second release in attenuation circuit’s Vinyl Series of split LPs in unique hand-painted covers brings together US experimental music icon and long-term label activist Al Margolis aka If, Bwana and German audio artist Gerald Fiebig. Their shared method of arranging recorded acoustic sounds into digital compositions led them to also share some of the sound material used on the respective sides of this album, which offers a richness of textures from quirky improv-style passages to calm drones and processed field recordings.
If, Bwana interweaves two tracks based on the sounds of very different wind instruments: Recorders, played by himself, and sounds of a church organ played by Fiebig at Mecklenburgisches Orgelmuseum, a former church turned organ museum in the North German town of Malchow. “Recorders in Augsburg” is a complex layering of several short melodic phrases played on the recorders, exploiting their higher registers in a way that makes them sound almost like lo-fi electronics although the sounds are not heavily processed. A very rhythmic, mercurial piece which eludes any attempt on the listener’s part to settle onto one continuous ‘beat,’ “Recorders” fades into “Fie’s Big Organ.” This piece layers pitch-shifted excerpts from the original organ session to create a rather tranquil, drone-ambient feel in the spirit of If, Bwana’s recent releases on his own Pogus label as well as Mutable Music and the live album “crossgrained” on attenuation circuit. ((Hier bitte Link setzen))
Gerald Fiebig’s piece “Sustained Development” combines other excerpts from the acoustic organ and recorder material and combines it with both acoustic and electric guitar samples, provided by Mathias Huber and Jesus Jackson, Fiebig’s colleagues from his pop trio Jesus Jackson und die grenzlandreiter and processed by labelmate EMERGE. Other ingredients are electric organ sounds and field recordings made with an “electric recorder.” Fiebig’s subtle, quiet drone/ambient piece is mainly based on slow loops fading in and out, like breath or groundswell. Even more than the If, Bwana tracks, the sound processing on this side of the LP constantly plays tricks on the listener who wants to pinpoint whether any particular sound is ‘acoustic’ or ‘electric’ in origin.
Normally known for CDR and digital releases, the Attention Circuit label has begun expanding into the world of vinyl. This split 12-inch, their second wax release, features Al Margolis (as If, Bwana) and Germany’s Gerald Fiebig, is limited to 100 copies and provides both artists sixteen-odd minutes of ambient stretch room.
It’s worth mentioning that this split sees the two artists sharing source materials across their tracks. The If, Bwana track “Fie’s Big Organ/Recorders for Augsburg” takes organ recordings made by Fiebig, and overlays them with recorders played by Margolis. Fiebig’s “Sustained Development” uses parts of the same organ recording, with the addition of other samples supplied by the artist’s bandmates in the Jesus Jackson trio.
If, Bwana’s track begins promisingly: there’s sustained tones overlaid with shrill piping recorder notes. The ominous wavering pedal notes from Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo soundtrack appear, and the whole affair has a very Hermann Nitsch/H.P. Lovecraft feeling to it, and the woozy sawing of recorder pitches provides an intriguing sense of movement, until there’s a natural breakdown around five minutes, where the limits of human breath bring quietude.
The second part of the track – reminiscent of a group of waterbirds on a lake, of some kind of grouped, anguished calling – is more effective. Problematically, it doesn’t develop much from the seven-minute mark until track’s end. The conclusion is slightly weak – the doom-tinged soundscape peters out – but it’s also neither innocuous enough to be background, nor considered enough to be foreground. A shame, considering how striking parts of the track appear.
Gerald Fiebig’s ‘Sustained Development’s features the same reedy organ tones, but with more organisation. They’re constructed in waves, creating a feeling of motion, of tidal drift. It’s a slow-burn piece, but seems more at home in the ambient Nurse With Wound part of the world; its slow iterations and feeling of bobbing, rising waves would sit well with any fans of NWW’s Salt Marie Celeste.
Around the nine-minute mark there’s a subtle, higher-pitched noise, a tremulous beckoning that’s answered with a larger, rounder, response. There’s the sense of communication between intelligences, of interstellar gaps. And then, weirdly, it turns very zen. Slight organ swells, higher-pitched tones and a feeling of expansive nothingness – but not in the same, oppressive way as before. It’s contemplative and ends with the introduction of field recordings of birds in a move which brings a real sense of completion, of journeying.
As ever, the split release risks highlighting a difference of quality. Here, the quality is with Fiebig, for sure.