Black to Comm: Alphabet 1968
Type Records

Marc Richter (aka Black To Comm and head of the Hamburg-based Dekorder label) makes his Type Recordings debut with Alphabet 1968, a forty-five-minute roller-coaster ride of treated samples, field recordings, crackle-drenched vinyl loops, and instrument sounds that Richter melds into slow-moving collages of disorienting design. Snatches of all kinds of music—classical, children's, techno, and drone, for starters—reside at the center of the musical swamp, though often as not smothered under a near-opaque blanket of textures and noise.

Interestingly, in terms of the conceptual impetus driving Alphabet 1968, Richter purposefully decided to step away from the drones-based style captured on releases such as the recent Charlemagne & Pippin (Digitalis) for something more ‘song'-like, and, as a result, the new release features ten separate (and often short) pieces. However, Richter subverts the concept to some degree by having the tracks bleed into one another, with bits of radio static or environmental sounds acting as bridging elements, a move that lends the album an episodic and ultimately trippy character. He apparently stitched the material together from sound sources of various kinds (percussion, home-made gamelan, short-wave radio, etc.) and from loops lifted from decaying vinyl and 78 records.

Though the pieces are connected, they still stand apart due to their differing character: the opener “Jonathan” melds field recordings (water drizzle, rumble, traffic noise, children's voices) and intertwined clusters of blurry piano patterns into a thick pulsating drone; in “Rauschen,” acoustic bass playing swims through a sea of textures; “Void” presents the snarl of low-pitched airplane or train noises at the center of a noise storm ; and the lulling outro “Hotel Freund” speckles melancholy strings and bells with vinyl crackle. “Amateur”  revisits the piano playing of “Jonathan” before giving the string section the spotlight in “Traum GmbH”  for a brief sampling of holy minimalism, while “Trapez” coats its child-like glockenspiel tinkles with dust and distortion. The album's epic is clearly “Forst,” a ten-minute colossus wherein Richter buries a minimal techno track under an immense haze of softly screaming, light-speed tones and granular textures.

December 2009