Robert Henke: Signal To Noise
Imbalance Computer Music

It's noteworthy that Signal To Noise is credited to Robert Henke instead of Monolake, given that Henke is Monolake for all intents and purposes, his one-time partner Gerhard Behles having long since departed. But Signal To Noise is no Monolake release as it eschews entirely the techno dimension that's so integral to the Monolake experience, so anyone expecting an album like Momentum or Cinemascope is looking in the wrong direction. Instead, the new recording features two drone-like pieces, the two-part, thirty-two minute title epic and the slightly shorter “Studies For Thunder.” They're both slowly mutating works, though the latter features more disruptive activity, natural enough considering its title.

Henke created “Signal To Noise” from harmonic timbres produced by a favourite instrument, the Yamaha SY77, which were then pitch-shifted, filtered, and processed to generate a more interesting sonic erosion and diffusion—quite literally, the signal becoming the noise. What results is glacial drift constituted by clusters of fluttering, cicada-like waves; Henke carefully modulates the intensity of the rising, with some waves surging so heavily they're like granite-like slabs. Even though they're artificially generated, Henke's bursts of prickly static and muffled rumbles in “Studies For Thunder” convincingly simulate thunderstorms, while rainstorm noises deepen and dissipate in density, mimicking the ebb and flow in the first piece. Unquestionably, Henke's ambient work (1993's Piercing Music (reissued in 2003) and 1999's Monolake-credited Gobi The Desert) impresses for its undeniable craft and meticulous execution, even if his 'group' work ultimately engages more with its greater variety of compositional structures and stylistic contrasts. One suspects, though, that the ambient projects satisfy an exploratory side of Henke that ultimately deepens and enriches the more accessible Monolake recordings.

January 2005