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Gilles Aubry, Andrea Ermke, Annette Krebs, Ignaz Schick: Berlin Electronics

John Eyles By

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Five years after Berlin Strings (Absinth, 2004) and Berlin Reeds and four years after Berlin Drums (Absinth, 2005), Absinth releases the fourth in the series, Berlin Electronics. As before, it features four practitioners, each one represented on their own 3-inch CD. Unlike before, all the music is also available on a 12-inch vinyl edition. In typical Absinth fashion, both the CD and the vinyl versions have beautiful hand painted, numbered sleeves—very collectible!

There is no interaction between the four participants; each performs alone on their own CD. Nonetheless, across the four CDs there is the consistency of tone and mood that one would expect of four players all from the same city and scene, with all of the cross-fertilisation that implies. Swiss sound artist and computer musician, Gilles Aubry composes on a computer, but his three part "Volutes" is replete with the kind of glitches that often signify laptop improvisation, belying the feeling that this is a through-composed piece. Despite these misgivings, the pieces have an eerie soundscape that gives them a stark beauty, and there is sufficient variety and contrast between them to make a coherent whole. "Volute 3," the longest of the three, employs repetition to build up a tranquil meditative quasi-religious atmosphere.

Andrea Ermke, also a sound artist, uses field recordings captured on mini-disks to build sound collages, some with a narrative structure to them. Occasionally, as on parts of "Verzegnis," the exact nature of the narrative is not totally clear, but even at these times, the immediacy of the beautifully-recorded sounds is enough to draw the listener into an engaging world of the imagination.

In contrast to Aubry and Ermke, Annette Krebs plays an actual instrument, electric guitar, that she uses as a sound source. Here, she combines it with snatches of radio broadcasts—largely interjections of speech—interspersed with occasional blasts of white noise, to create an initially disorientating sound space, one that slowly comes into focus and reaches a satisfactory climax with a very pleasing low frequency drone. As this is only an extract of a larger piece, maybe that is better appreciated in its entirety.

Ignaz Schick, maybe best known for his work in the groups Perlonex and Phosphor (alongside Krebs in Phosphor, incidentally) is also an instrumentalist. Here he delivers a four part suite entitled "Frost". Part One opens with a fanfare of reedy sounds—doubtless produced from turntables—which are joined by sustained organ pipes giving an eerie effect, which the arrival of percussion temporarily dissipates before moaning vocal effects and electronic tones re-establish it. The other three parts continue in similarly chilling vein; the piece is aptly titled, creating an atmosphere that is indeed frosty.

As with the first three volumes in the series, this one gives a good sample of the coherent Berlin scene packed with talent and potential, prompting further investigation of at least one of the four featured players.


Track Listing: Gilles Aubry: Volutes 1-3; Andrea Ermke: Verzegnis, Berlin; Annette Krebs: Untitled III variation extract; Ignaz Schick: Frost I-IV

Personnel: Gilles Aubry: computer, programming; Andrea Ermke: mini disk, mixing desk; Annette Krebs: electric guitar, mixing desk, tape, objects, radios; Ignaz Schick: organ pipes, cymbals, objects, violin bows, turntable, looper, electronic treatments.

Title: Berlin Electronics | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Absinth

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