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Markus Reuter: Digitalis

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Hypnos Recordings always brings us fascinating music. Digitalis comes from Markus Reuter in Germany. Like Hypnos' Jeff Pearce, Reuter uses only electronically modified and custom-built guitars to make his sounds, and as in much of Pearce's work, Reuter records "real-time." Again like Pearce, you'd never know that Reuter was playing a guitar or any other stringed instrument - it sounds just like a synthesizer.

Despite the commonalities, Reuter and Pearce are very different. Reuter, in Digitalis , uses the overwrought chromaticicism of European twentieth-century classical music as his harmonic resource, filling his musical passages with ascending and descending scales, along with wildly swirling spirals of notes produced by some arcane gadget faster than any human hand could play them. The swirling persists through the first four or five pieces, and then fades into a more familiar "dark ambient" style of sustained, organ-like chords. The track titles are taken from the language of mysticism and occultism: "Into the invisible world," "A massive glowing three-axis cross," and "Demonic Interference." Spooky, no?

But there is also an "Angelic Interference" on the album. As the album progresses, Reuter passes from his ominous chromaticism (which sinks into the abyss on track 8, "Radiating Blackness") into a more conventional, plaintive modal harmony. In the last three tracks, the listener is led towards a lighter, more hopeful mood, until with the last two, "Whole" and "Holy," the sound is purely soft, meditative slow notes with not much motion at all.

It's clearly meant to be a kind of spiritual narrative done in sound, but without the heavy mysticism of the track titles it must stand on its own as pure music. And I find that I like the earlier part of the album (the chromatic whirling scales and arpeggios) far better than the rather rambling, simpler compositions at the end. Does that mean that I would rather be among the demons of the invisible world, or just that they have a better soundtrack?

Title: Digitalis | Year Released: 2001 | Record Label: Hypnos Recordings

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