Swod: Gehen
City Centre Offices

Gehen continues the tradition of recent piano-based recordings for electronic music-related labels that includes the Ryuichi Sakamoto-Carsten Nicolai collaboration Vrioon, Sylvain Chauveau's Un Autre Décembre, and Max Richter's The Blue Notebooks. Gehen ('go') is by Swod, a moniker adopted by Stephan Wöhrmann (piano, drums) and Dictaphone's Oliver Doerell (bass, guitar, electronics) who met in Berlin in 1991. That the duo previously collaborated on producing live soundtracks for silent movies doesn't surprise, given the cinematic, nostalgic feel of this latest work. While bass sometimes assumes a prominent presence (the ostinato patterns in “Fugitif 2”), Wöhrmann's neo-classical piano typically forms the nucleus around which Doerell's samples and electronics constellate. Wöhrmann's playing style often evokes Philip Glass, whether it be the reverberant piano clusters of “Gehen” or the pretty melodies in “Walz 57.”

Yet, for all its promise, Gehen disappoints on a number of levels. While it's as elegant as The Blue Notebooks, Richter's recording captivates more as its instrumentation changes radically from one track to the next, making Gehen sound rather one-dimensional by comparison. It also suffers next to Vrioon but for a different reason. Both prominently pair electronics with piano but a better balance is struck on Vrioon where Nicolai's comparatively more regulated treatments never diminish the impact of Sakamoto's playing. Unfortunately such is not the case with Gehen where the electronics are often intrusive and prevent precious moments of silence and space from arising. The affecting piano melodies in “I Think He Was A Journalist,” for instance, aren't enhanced by the needless treatments of clicks, hiss, and voice fragments, nor are the nostalgic, melancholy piano themes in “Hochbahn.” Admittedly, there are times when the approach does work—the way that “Fugitif 2” ends by evaporating into stuttering traces of its piano melody a case in point. In general, though, while the Doerell-Wöhrmann combination looks good on paper, the musical result suggests that Gehen would have been better released as a solo work by Wöhrmann, as an incredible recording of ruminative solo piano lies within, one straining to be heard beneath the layers of electronics that appear throughout.

October 2004