Ursprung: Ursprung

The label on which a given recording appears naturally brings with it certain expectations. On that note, one might expect a recording issued on the Hamburg, Germany label Dial Records, the electronic imprint founded by Peter Kersten (aka Lawrence) and David Lieske, to be a set of elegant microhouse or techno. Ursprung (which translates to “origin”), a collaboration between German experimental producer Stephan Abry (Workshop) and Hendrik Weber (aka Pantha Du Prince), catches one a bit by surprise, then, in sounding so refreshingly different from what one might have expected. There are moments when Ursprung sounds like a synthesizer outfit jamming with a post-rock collective, and other moments where the distant echo of African juju music is heard, especially when the guitars delineate their spidery patterns. One reason why the album's sound is so distinctive is because it uses guitars, not beats, as the material's foundation.

“Mummenschanz” begins with a smattering of granular crackle and guitar plucks that quickly coalesces into a lulling yet rhythmically insistent pulse overlaid with guitar shadings, some atmospheric and others chiming and clearly etched. It's an understated slowburn of an opener yet powerful in its own way in sketching out such an unusual sound. Tracks build gradually and organically from layers of guitars and bass pulses, and never more arrestingly than during “Exodus Now,” which makes full use of its ten-minute running time to evolve through multiple episodes, some restrained and others trippy. After anchoring the tune with a loose, fuzz-toned percussive groove, Ursprung proceeds to scatter jagged shards of guitar and electronic whooshes over top of it, resulting in a track that never stays in one place for any more than a few seconds. A more krautrock-styled spirit (and New Order, too, given the bass line) drives “Kalte Eiche,” while “Lizzy,” one of the album's standout tracks, gains its drive from a propulsively swinging rhythm but also from a series of soaring guitar figures. Abry and Weber arrest the rhythmic flow with a small number of well-placed reveries that eschew rhythms for textural explorations, such as “Chrüzegg” and the mood piece “In Aufruhr” (one of the few tracks where synthetic sounds prominently figure). Ursprung is most assuredly, then, not dance music of the club kind; instead the recording has more in common with post-rock and krautrock, though how it distances itself from those forms is in its constantly mutating character. Is Ursprung a one-off project or something Abry and Weber plan to continue? Hard to say, but what is clear is that their combined efforts have given us, at the very least, one very satisfying and original set of music.

June 2012