Reviews and pictures from Sietse's record collection
The Austrian label Editions Mego can be considered a strange one within the experimental electronic music scene. Since 1994, with a pause of 1 year, they have been publishing many releases ranging from warm ambient compositions (Fennesz – Endless Summer), experimental pop music (Tujiko Noriko – Hard Ni Sassette (Make Me Hard)), abstract glitch music (Pita – Get Down), heavy guitar drones (KTL). But on the other side they have also been working on more sound art focused releases with acts such as Farmers Manuel, General Magic, Massimo and Ibutsu (to name a few). These are all artists who could as easily publish albums as could be making sound works for museums and art galleries. Gilles Deleuze is watching over their shoulder all the time.
Within this last group there is one particular name that really stands out the rest: Florian Hecker. Since late 90’s this composer/sound artist has been releasing music under the name Hecker. Most of his work got released through (Editions) Mego, including his classic masterpiece Sun Pandämonium (2003, reissued on vinyl in 2011 by PAN). Besides the many solo releases there are also collaborations with well praised people such as Yasunao Tone, Russell Haswell and Richard d. James (Aphex Twin).
Besides sound art Hecker also shows a big interest in modern philosophy and neuro-sciences. This interest comes back in the concepts that are the basis for his music. Think about his 2009 release Acid In The Style Of David Tudor where a clear concept was used to manipulate the brain (your ears) activity with phasing frequencies.
On his new album, Speculative Solution, the basis concept lies on the philosophical side. For this work he searches inspiration from modern theories about hyperchaos (physical laws of absolute contingency) developed by Quentin Meillassoux (who also attributes an article in the 76 page thick bi-lingual booklet).
To explain a bit of this theory we can take an easy example: when with billiard a ball is hit and rolls to another ball you have an idea of what the ball will do but you can’t really predict the exact outcome. There are infinite possibilities.
To exemplify this in the boxes there are also 5 small metal balls that just move around the box without any way to predict where they will exactly go, although you know the will move around.
With this concept in mind Hecker made use of algorithms that use a controlled input but the output is living its own life, with Hecker controlling only the parameters.
Conceptually this isn’t far away from John Cage his theories on musical composition based on controlled contingency. And at the same time the work of Iannis Xenakis seems to pop-around. Xenakis used to work on software program’s that are based on the stochastic process (a probability theory), which is a step further than Cage went.
On this release Hecker seems to work in between these two composers with the help of hyperchaos.
In the four pieces presented here Hecker searches the line between absolute contingency and controlled events. Because of this at times the music seems chaotic. Though the base of the music seems rather repetitive. We hear pops and clicks returning in patterns. Compared with Acid In The Style Of David Tudor it is even rather safe to say it pretty much structured. And with this also less a mind-fuck, which can also be said compared with PV Tracks and Sun Pandämonium.
In the first piece this results in clear parts where a certain sound creates sequences that show a clear transgression. The base of most sounds are bundled frequency ranges who slide throughout the whole frequency scale. At the same time the stereo spectrum is used as well, leading to a playful character where the sounds shifts up and down.
Although we have the several parts never a sound seems to reappear as it was. Sounds never are used twice in the same way. Every grain has its own parameters.
In the two following short pieces this tactic is used, but with a difference that these have less variation on the tone, but rather on the rhythmical side of things. This is less impressing, but still quite interesting to listen to.
In the last piece, with the suggestive name Octave Chronics, a different approach is used. Totally following the name we hear progressions of sound through the octaves. This starts with a wide range of frequencies jumping around, but after half a minute turns into a minimal piece where just small frequency bundles are used. For about 8 minutes we hear different patterns jump up and down to near by tones, every time shifting octaves. The last 10 minutes, though, we return to the chaos where it started with. Contingency seems to take over again. It sounds as if there is a random search for harmonics.
This contradiction knows to summarize the concept completely. You know what is coming, but you can’t predict how it is coming.
If one would ask me to classify the music Hecker presents on this release on quality I wouldn’t really know what to say. Rather it is an interesting experience which can’t be seen without the concepts behind it. You just can’t separate the music from the included booklet with explaining texts, which is a big step away from his older work where this was still possible (think of Sun Pandämonium).
Considering this I think this release is a bit too much asked from the general listener. If a booklet of 76 pages is needed to explain what is a big chance a lot of people will not really return to the release. Though, keeping in mind that Hecker (and the writers in the booklet) probably have a target market in mind, rather than aiming on the mainstream this isn’t weird.
For the conceptualists among us I guess this is a recommended release, for others maybe just skip by and get his earlier releases instead.
The release comes in an embossed box with a 152 page booklet with text in English and French and 5 small metal balls and is available through Editions Mego and Urbanomic.