Stefan Goldmann: 17:50

How to describe Stefan Goldmann's music? It is techno, of course, but it's also a particularly distinctive techno variant to which one might affix words like art, avant-garde, mutant, even bizarro. No matter the label settled upon, the music Goldmann produces has his fingerprints all over it and no one else's. The music on 17:50 presents a particularly unusual re-imagining of his sound, since it's rooted in the idea of de-tuning and the overthrowing of the strict pitch system associated with Western harmony and its even-tempered chromatic scale. With pitch-bending the foundation upon which its nine tracks are built (pitch-bending rooted in the Chalga musical tradition to be precise, with Chalga a blend of Bulgarian, Balkan, Arabic, Greek and Turkish influences), 17:50 opens up sonic possibilities that prove both fresh and ear-catching, and it's a move that comes perhaps naturally to Goldmann, given his mixed German-Bulgarian identity. Eschewing conventional sampling, he built the material's sound design from the ground up and used synths, the Vermona DRM1 analog drum machine, and hardware guitar and distortion pedals as primary sources.

The pitch-bending effect first comes most arrestingly to the fore in the central theme animating “Carrion Crow,” and the bluesy twang of its hook lodges itself solidly within one's cranium as Goldmann fashions a slippery funk-house backdrop around it. “Adem” (issued on EP earlier in 2012 and apparently named after a ‘90s gangster buried in Sofia next to Goldmann's grandparents) likewise exploits the pitch-warping idea to maximum effect, with in this case a wheezing techno groove kicking up dust around its its incessantly warbling melodies for eight exuberant minutes. Elsewhere, “Manila Grind” seemingly has its feet in multiple continents as it blends Western organ riffs and detuned plucks of some possible Arabic origin, and though the pitch-bending concept informs the fifty-two-minute album as a whole, tracks like “Rigid Chain” and “Empty Suit,” with their respectively insistent bounce and locomotive shuffle, remind us that 17:50 is just as much a techno set as anything else. One of the other things that make its tracks so appealing is that they're original and imaginative but also a pleasure to listen to. Listening to them, one hears Goldmann enjoying himself, taking great joy in the sounds he's bringing into being. He's of course serious about the album's productions but not so serious that a refreshing sense of playfulness doesn't go missing during the production process.

October 2012