Kontakt der Jünglinge: Makrophonie 1
Die Stadt

There are many possible ways to approach Makrophonie 1, the first studio album by Kontakt der Jünglinge partners Thomas Köner and Asmus Tietchens. Sticking close to the facts, one could mention that the long-form, thirty-eight-minute composition originated out of miscellaneous live performances that were then refined into their final form at Audiplex Studios, Hamburg in 2013. One might also note that Kontakt der Jünglinge is quite literally a cross-generational project, given that Tietchens has been both friend and mentor to Köner, and that Kontakt der Jünglinge was conceived in homage to Stockhausen, as evidenced by the fact that the name derives from the titles of two Stockhausen works, Gesang der Jünglinge (1955-56) and Kontakte (1958-60).

One could also supplement words about the recording with background on the project and its creators, that their first release under the name, Kontakt der Jünglinge 1, appeared on Die Stadt in 2001 and that both Tietchens (b. 1947) and Köner (b. 1965) have been key figures in the development of German electronic music, Tietchens for his work in the areas of tape loop experimentation, musique concréte, and electronic minimalism, and Köner for solo releases such as Teimo and Permafrost and his work with Andy Mellweg in Porter Ricks.

All such details provide context but say little about the recording itself. To these ears, the best word to apply to the recording is hauntological (as introduced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, hauntology merges the philosophical term ‘ontology' with ‘haunt,' the latter supposedly selected for its appearance in the opening line of Marx's Manifesto of the Communist Party: “A spectre is haunting Europe—the spectre of Communism”), though not in the sense in which the concept is associated with the music of the Ghost Box label and groups such as Demdike Stare and Broadcast and The Focus Group. In short, Makrophonie 1 isn't a trippy mash-up or pastiche of decades-old styles but rather an understated and slowly evolving document that though created recently feels haunted by the ghosts of electronic pioneers past.

As it assumes fragile material form, Makrophonie 1 unfolds with an inordinate degree of deliberation as the duo peppers an undercurrent of softly modulating tones and choral-like breaths with alien noises, static, and rumblings. Though the word organic is admittedly overused, it is applicable in this case, given how naturally one instrumental segment bleeds into the next. Subtle buildups occur, and the music expands noticeably at the halfway mark, becoming more aggressive and denser as it does so, before growing quieter as it advances towards the end. While harmonic dissonances emerge at one stage in a swarm of organ-like tones, the piece as a whole is hardly dissonant; it's also presented in such a way that the listener is able to attend to even the tiniest of details, and, despite having been finessed in the studio, Makrophonie 1 retains the explorative and immersive character of a live performance.

August-September 2014