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Tim Motzer: Wandering the Depths of Space

Geno Thackara By

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There are guitarists, and then there are sound sculptors who use the guitar as one tool among many (and of course there's no small overlap between the two). Tim Motzer happily resides in both camps but tends to lean toward the latter description most—when running a single axe through a continually changing array of jerry-rigged technology, it's not unusual for him to spend as much time twiddling knobs as he does fingering frets. With such a range of sonics to explore, he certainly finds those possibilities more intriguing than petty distractions like style or genre. This pair of from-the-vault soundscapes on his 1k Recordings label shows him wandering through outer and inner space in a decidedly dreamy frame of mind.

Tim Motzer
Unseen Universe
1k Recordings
2017

Motzer's guitar gets put through the sonic wringer in a meditative and sometimes unsettled fashion here. Like its closest reference point Live from Stars End (1k, 2014), this is a sprawling suite improvised for a live late-night radio broadcast. At first he spends a good several minutes weaving a low drone and funny twanging noises, which most likely come from metal clips attached to the guitar rather than the strings themselves. Once he starts actually plucking, it's for a series of ringing chimes that linger in the background while some steady rhythms (taps on the guitar and some later-overdubbed drums) take prominence. An actual melody line would only be disruptive at this point; instead the air gradually fills with layers of processed haze shifting and ebbing like swirls of smoke.

Once some more twanging notes start appearing about halfway through, it's in a repetitive loop that takes things from ambient drift to light eerie rhythm. The extended title track gradually builds until a steady pulsing pattern takes shape from the ether, coasting underneath some higher squeals like a Steve Roach trance gone feral. It stays spacey and strange from there on out, going through wonky radio static and airy wails before fading out with another gamelan-like echo loop. The universe he's beaming in from may be unseen, but there's certainly no shortage of things to hear.

Tim Motzer & Bernhard Wöstheinrich
Hypnosis
1k Recordings
2017

Things naturally get a further jolt when Motzer can bounce off a partner rather than looping himself. Electronics wizard Bernhard Wöstheinrich complements the organic guitar tones with a bed of robotic synths and light frisky beats. This installment is in a much more alien and often chilly head-space, borrowing from the more ambient psychedelic leanings of Brian Eno or Tangerine Dream with only an occasional abrasive edge.

Appropriately for the music and unsurprisingly for these musicians, there isn't any back/front setup where one person is more prominent. The techno-loops often make the busiest element here—while those beats skitter along like the pattering of dense water drops, steady without becoming static, the players tend to hang back and let minimal notes or hovering drones fill in the rest of the shadings. It makes a vivid sonic re-creation of the odd mental states described in track titles like "Hypnagogia" (the transition from waking to sleeping). The form follows the abstract logic of dreams; everything flows randomly while somehow making its own odd kind of sense underneath it all. The experience makes for a compelling kind of altered consciousness, always mysterious and indefinably alluring.

Tracks and Personnel

Unseen Universe

Tracks: Ring; Unseen Universe; Magnetic Fields; Cycle.

Personnel: Tim Motzer: guitar and electronics; Doug Hirlinger: drums.

Hypnosis

Tracks: Invisible Energy; Mesmerismia; Hypnagogia; Psychonauts.

Personnel: Bernhard Wöstheinrich: keyboards, sequencer, electronics; Tim Motzer: baritone guitar, electronics.

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