Stefan Goldmann: Live At Honen-In Temple

Amiable provocateur Stefan Goldmann once again challenges expectations, this time by issuing a live set of decidedly non-dancefloor material. Recorded on June 29, 2012 at Honen-In Temple (situated in the slopes of the eastern hills of Kyoto, Japan), the release sees the Berlin-based producer moving through fourteen experimental soundscapes before a small audience (press notes clarify that “only a handful of listeners were present” and that the concert was presented as “daylight faded into the dark of night”). Goldmann's material is as carefully tended as a Japanese garden, and the meticulous music he created for the performance makes for a natural complement to the setting, which is documented in photographs within a full-colour mini-booklet. Electronically assembled, the music, new and unreleased material that Goldmann created as part of an artist residency at Goethe Institut Villa Kamogawa, suggests connections to Japanese culture and its musical tradition, with Goldmann attempting to balance bold experimentation with austerity and reserve.

A vocal choir warms the cool surfaces of “Lunatic Fringe / Markers of the Black Lit Path,” but Live At Honen-In Temple is for the most part an instrumental excursion of constantly mutating character. At times, the metallic electronic design is softened by the faint chirp of birds (whether site-specific or Goldmann-generated isn't clear), and its transformations occur unhurriedly and smoothly, with Goldmann generally opting for languid flow rather than jarring transitions—though he's not averse to dramatic cut-up treatments, such as the ones liberally applied to Tuomi's voice during the cool shimmer of “Mourning Eyes.” The sound design draws from acoustic and electronic realms, with ample arrays of percussion, synthesizers, bowed strings, electric guitars, and electronics dotting the stereo spectrum (a beat pattern, too, in the penultimate track, “Turning Point - Parts I & II”). Spurred on by alchemical weaves of bleepy electronic patterns and rabid bowing, “XNR /Echoes of an Era” (at ten minutes the longest setting) could be seen as a microcosm of the project as a whole. This is an arresting addition to a wide-ranging body of work by an artist who's never afraid to venture into new territory, confident that the adventurous listener will be as open to exploring it as the creator.

April 2013