Donato Wharton: Trabanten
City Centre Offices

Having released memorable discs last year from Boy Robot, Ulrich Schnauss, and Static, Manchester’s City Centre Offices starts 2004 at a similarly high level with Trabanten, Cologne-based Donato Wharton’s first full-length. But Trabanten represents a significant departure for the label as it’s a much glitchier affair than any of its other releases. Wharton typically assembles moody, meditative tracks using piano, guitar, and electronics, drapes bold textures of crackle and static across them, and sometimes transforms them further by disassembling the components and stitching them back together. The provocative opener “Built To Fail” offers an extreme example of this approach, with Wharton digitally mangling the acoustic instruments (guitars, piano, drums, violin) and allowing electronic scrapes to bleed through at the edges; the drums are altered most severely, with stuttering beats tripped up to points of near-collapse. Equally distinctive is the sombre “Is That Why Yr Still On Earth” whose electronics provide a subtle backing for interweaving voice samples. The confessional content and desperate tone of the speakers’ unsettling utterances suggest that much of it came from therapy sessions. Other tracks offer hints of Wharton’s influences. The eight-minute, atmospheric “Senke” recalls the austere style of Carsten Nicolai (Alva Noto) and the melodic resonance of Uwe Zahn (Arovane), while “Sieben mal Weisser als Weiss” would sound at home on Manual’s Until Tomorrow, with the track’s central interlude of guitar plucking and clicking beats especially recalling Jonas Munk’s approach. The remaining pieces hew more closely to the generic style of CCO and Morr Music, with melancholy melodies voiced by glistening electronics and enhanced by billowing textures, ambient flicker, and thrumming clicks. That the disc’s two QuickTime videos by Anita Maria Leib depict granulated images of wintry landscapes makes perfect sense, as their imagery complements the dreamy, nocturnal moods of the music. While Trabanten might not measure up to the dynamic euphoric peaks of Schnauss’s A Strangely Isolated Place, it’s still an appealing and accomplished debut from newcomer Wharton.

April 2004