Another freshly excavated electro-acoustic epic on John Corbett’s essential Unheard imprint Moslang and Guhl’s Knack On
is a challenging listen on the same level as last year’s Nachtluft reissue. Celebrated sound experimentalist Jim O’Rourke again pens the liners, reveling in the noise for noise sake artistry favored by this pair. While my own personal tastes lie in different directions, taking a crack at this disc was both a formidable and amusing task.
According to O’Rourke Moslang and Guhl released their first record, a blending of percussion and weighty reeds with bargain basement electronics, on the German FMP label. A period of intense woodshedding followed broken by the release of Knack On. The instruments employed are mostly a mystery, unless you’re fluent in German. O’Rourke makes mention in his notes of a litany of ‘instruments’ used in live performances including, but not limited to, Christmas-tree ornaments, a speak-and-spell, short-wave radios and flashlights. The sounds created by whatever objects wielded are a shade more discernable, mostly percussive in nature, ranging from scurrilous scrapes and squeaks to buzzing drones and clatters- essentially forty-three minutes of joyfully nonspecific detritus driven noise. Perhaps to the properly attuned ear there’s a logic and method to the madness, but patience and/or insouciance seem to be the primary prerequisites to properly decode it. Textures arrive and dissolve with regularity as each man moves from one sound-producing device to the next. Finally at around the thirty minute mark Möslang hoists a soprano saxophone, blowing clipped streaks and elongated drones above Guhl’s whispered floor sounds, which sound vaguely like a distant lawnmower motor being primed for ignition. The presence of an easily recognizable voice is refreshing, but short-lived and the duo soon returns to nondescript sound producers.
There exists a thriving niche for this kind of music, much like that for free jazz, and these listeners are sure to find much that strikes their fancy in the return of this rare record to active duty. Others, like myself, whose ears don’t move in quite so adventurous circles, should probably hunt elsewhere for their sources of sonic gratification. In either case, Corbett and the folks at Atavistic should be commended for sinking their resources into reanimating this slice of unabashedly iconoclastic sound research and returning it to an audience that will welcome it.
Atavistic/Unheard on the web: http://www.atavistic.com
Personnel: Andy Guhl- federstahblech, pvc-rohre, messingtrompete, luftibuss, radios, abfallelektronik, diktaphon; Norbert M