Field Rotation: Fatalist: The Repetition Of History
Denovali Records

Christoph Berg's latest Field Rotation full-length, Fatalist: The Repetition of History, is an even more satisfying collection than 2011's Acoustic Tales. Five years on from the project's inception, the new work reveals that Field Rotation has matured into a fully-formed and refined outlet for the electronic music composer's classically oriented compositional and production talents. The fatalistic notion of history endlessly repeating itself is the underlying concept, but no one need be acquainted with the philosophical works of Hegel and Nietzsche (and a related idea such as Eternal Recurrence) in order to reap the recording's rewards. For the six electroacoustic settings, Berg augmented his violin and piano playing (plus, based on the aural evidence, field recordings and samples) with contributions from vocalist Mari Solaris on one piece and violincellist Aaron Martin on two.

The forty-two-minute recording's dramatic tone is set by the opening strings-heavy drone “The Uncanny,” but Fatalist: The Repetition of History really begins to distinguish itself with the advent of the second piece “Valse Fatale.” Solaris brings her haunting vocal presence to the piece, and her wordless singing deepens the music's mournful tone, especially when it's coupled with Martin's violincello playing and Berg's sparse piano accompaniment. Part of the pleasure involved in listening to Berg's music is that the means of production never intrude upon the pure experience of listening; though an undercurrent of vinyl crackle running through “Fatalist” suggests sampling, the listener's focus is rarely diverted away from the music into pondering how it was assembled and to what degree the elements in play are acoustic or electronic in nature. Outdoors field recordings figure heavily into “The Repetition of History,” though not so dominantly that the gently cascading piano and violincello phrases are drowned out.

At album's end, the dream-like “The History of Repetition” makes good on the album title and concept in using loops to fashion a softly undulating base of dust and mist over which a celestial choir can be heard intoning ever-so-faintly. As should be patently obvious by now, the recording's prevailing mood is, of course, melancholy, with Berg shaping the elements into oft-hypnotic soundscapes of fragile and serene character. That it makes its case in such concise manner also enhances its appeal.

April 2013