Heribert Friedl: Trac[k]_t

Asmus Tietchens: h-menge

trac[k]_t is the final chapter in a multi-volume series ( ataraxia, bradycard, trans ~, and back_forward issued previously) by electroacoustic composer and nonvisualobjects label head Heribert Friedl that uses the hammered string instrument, the cymbalon, as the sole source material. Not surprisingly, given the singular sound source and the label on which the recording's released, the results are intimate, explorative, and extremely focused on fine sonic detail—not only the instrument's natural sound but processed treatments of it too. In fact, so rich and varied are the sounds coaxed from the cymbalon that the recording's singular instrument status is a non-issue—the kind of recording, in other words, where each carefully considered sound assumes heightened significance. The natural and amplified ping, pluck, and strum of the instrument is heard alongside ripples, rattles, scratches, static, and assorted other textural microsounds. Friedl purposefully ensures that the natural sound generated by the instrument when played is present in equal measure to abstract transformations that reveal how completely that natural sound can be altered using digital techniques. Metallic chimes shiver and flutter throughout “0.1.3” while starbursts explode over an urgent rhythm base in “0.2.1” in a manner that suggests a Raster-Noton connection but, generally speaking, trac[k]_t is free of such direct associations and instead stands alone as an engrossing record of Friedl's intensive exploration of an instrument's possibilities.

h-Menge (Eta-Menge, which means “eta quantity”) is also the last installment in a series, this one produced by renowned German electronic artist Asmus Tietchens. The series' works are based solely on sine tones and white noise and include the Ritornell/Mille Plateaux chapters Alpha -, Beta -, Delta -, and Gamma-Menge and the Line releases Epsilon -, Zeta -, and, finally, Eta-Menge. Sounds unfold unhurriedly in seven, longish tracks (five to nine minutes in length) that allow ample room for exploration. Phantom tones drift through most of the settings with intermittent scrapes and rumbles instilling tension and providing contrast. “Teilmenge 47” appears to smother the unearthly mumble of a low, distorted voice in a jetstream. In “Teilmenge 45,” Tietchens overlays ambient tones with convulsive ruptures that suggest the amplified groan and cry of an exhausted animal. The concluding "Teilmenge 48" is noticeably more upbeat, even jubilant in its way. The overall approach isn't dissimilar to Friedl's—both artists obsessively concentrate on the sonic possibilities associated with restricted sound generators—but Tietchens' ghostly release exudes a less “natural feel” on account of the cool, electronic character of the source materials. Even so, headphones listening still proves rewarding.

March 2008