Swod: Sekunden
City Centre Offices

Three years on from Gehen, Berlin musicians Oliver Doerell (Dictaphone) and Stephan Wöhrmann return with their second Swod album, Sekunden. Though their approach hasn't radically changed from the first album to the next, the electroacoustic style embraced by them and artists like Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto (on Vrioon and Insen) has become more familiar, with an increasing number of musicians pairing piano and electronics. In Swod, Wöhrmann mans keys and drums, and Doerell handles guitar, bass, and electronics, with the two simulating group interplay even though the tracks are constructed in ‘ping-pong' manner as files are swapped back and forth and instruments are added.

The Sakamoto reference isn't ill-founded, as Wöhrmann brings a similarly refined, neo-classical approach to Sekunden's atmospheric settings (with its limpid piano pools bathed in electronic hiss, “Montauk” is initially reminiscent of Sakamoto's music until Doerell's bass enters as a complementary voice); furthermore, the piano is the nucleus around which Swod's other sounds gather, much as Sakamoto's keyboard occupies the center in Vrioon and Insen. Similarities end there, however, as Carsten Nicolai's clinical electronic beat patterns are funky and present more often than not, whereas Wöhrmann's drums act as atmospheric colour and appear infrequently. In short, piano is the essence of Swod's sound, such that bass, guitar, and electronics assume an essential yet secondary presence. Electronics and field elements broaden Swod's sound significantly, as snippets of a deceased film actress's voice scatter amongst reverberant piano chords in “Ja” and flies buzz through “Insects.” Swod even simulates a jazz quartet in “Deer,” an elegant ballad setting built from ride cymbals, piano, and guitar shudders. (Sekunden also includes two short films by Steffen Ramlow titled “Mamaev Kurgan” and “Avotbus.”)

September 2007