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Linien II 1948–49

A new release from the Institute for Danish Sound Archaeology explores the pioneering sound work of Danish visual artists, Richard Winther, Hans “Bamse” Kragh-Jacobsen, Niels Macholm, Ib Geertsen and Gunnar Aagaard Andersen

Photo: Linien II in 1947 by Vittus Nielsen Ritzau / Scanpix.
From left – Ib Geertsen, Richard Winther, Bamse Kragh-Jacobsen; On top – Niels Macholm.

Linien II (Danish for The Line) was an artists’ association set up in post-war Denmark. Concerning itself with concrete art, the group consisted of Richard Winther, Hans “Bamse” Kragh-Jacobsen, Niels Macholm, Ib Geertsen and Gunnar Aagaard Andersen. Linien II operated in a new creative reality divorced from traditional subject matter. Its artists created ‘synthetic’ work and, in a utopian fashion typical of modernism, opposed ‘classical’ art, which was, in their view, full of superfluous naturalism.

Working in a constructivist style – not dissimilar to the paintings of Theo van Doesburg or László Moholy-Nagy – the Linien II artists wanted to achieve a synthesis between sculpture, film, and sound by extending the aesthetic problems of painting into the temporal field. Winther called this approach “space-time modulation”. At a time when Pierre Schaeffer was developing his own theories on concrete music, in the late 1940s, Winther and his group recorded their parallel experiments in concrete sound art.

Released by the Institute for Danish Sound Archaeology, Linien II 1948–49 compiles five sound works and two interviews (conducted with Winther and Aagaard Andersen by composer Ole Buck in 1971). Four of the recordings were made directly onto lacquer discs, in 1948 and 1949, at the privately owned Wifos Lydstudio. Originally produced for an exhibition at Den Frie Udstillingsbygning and two events at Politikens Hus in Copenhagen, the fragile originals have been stored at the SMK National Gallery of Denmark’s sound archive since the 1990s.


‘Bruitistisk koncert nr. 1’ (Bruitist Concert No. 1) by Bamse Kragh-Jacobsen employed the sound of a studio test-plate which, when played back, would emit sine tones of descending frequencies every fifteen seconds. An additional horn can be heard every ten seconds, after which Kragh-Jacobsen would begin a piano figure in a recurring A-B, A-BB, A-BBB, A-BBBB, A-BBBBB pattern. The figure starts over once the horn sounds again and so on until the end.

Winther’s ‘Maskinsymfoni nr. 2’ (Machine Symphony No. 2) employs a similar principle of dividing time, but does so by repeating the same four-tone piano chord – again played by Kragh-Jacobsen – for minute-long or half-minute intervals. In between these intervals, Winther can be heard using an electric buzzer and horn, while Niels Macholm rubs pieces of sandpaper against each other. The other works on Side A include Winther’s ‘Bruitistisk improvisation’ and an untitled sound poem by Ib Geertsen. The latter involved fireworks exploding during the session, which led to Geertsen audibly choking in the smoke-filled studio.

The fifth composition, Gunnar Aagaard Andersen’s score-based piece ‘Koncert for fem violiner og et lysbilledapparat’ (Concert for Five Violins and a Projector), takes up the majority of Side B. Originally conceived in 1949, the piece was performed by Gruppen for Alternativ Musik in the early 70s with alternate instrumentation: violin, oboe, organ, cello and horn. It is the only known recording of the work.

Above: Excerpt from the graphic score for Koncert for fem violiner og et lysbilledapparat, 1949.
Below: Spectral analysis of the recording of the work from 1971.

‘Koncert for fem violiner og et lysbilledapparat’ developed from Aagaard Andersen’s compositional studies at the Louvre, where he would subdivide canvases of the old masters into new geometric formations. These studies led to new abstract paintings and, eventually, the graphic score. Drafted on graph paper, each violin of the title was given its own colour and required to follow an ascending or descending figure based on a twenty-one semitone scale. The resulting composition is discordant yet interestingly precise. When comparing the score to a spectral analysis of the recording, Aagaard Andersen’s graphic notation is recognisable in the harmonic patterns created by the instruments.

If judged on musical merit alone, this album is unlikely to be enjoyed by a wide audience. It is, however, a very important document that chronicles a small group of visual artists who saw sound as an ineluctable medium for the development of their aesthetic principles. An extensive illustrated booklet, written by curator Magnus Kaslov, details the art historical context within which these recordings were made. For Kaslov, whether or not an individual work succeeds is not as important as “the seriousness of the experiment that must convince the audience of the project’s potential”. Along with the album, Kaslov’s text provides a window into a way of thinking that favoured presentation over representation; one of modernism’s last attempts to cast off the past and colonise the future.

Ilia Rogatchevski
Originally published by The Quietus, February 2022

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Other, Like Me

COUM Transmissions performance outside Ferens Art Gallery, Hull (1971)
Image: Cosey Fanni Tutti

Marcus Werner Hed & Dan Fox (Directors)
Willow Glen Films 2020, 82 min 

COUM Transmissions was a multidisciplinary art collective whose practice evolved from carnivalesque performances on city streets to transgressive actions in art galleries. Originally commissioned by the BBC, Other, Like Me was conceived as a documentary about COUM only, beginning in late 1960s Hull and ending with their infamous Prostitution show at London’s ICA in 1976. Somewhat inevitably, the project evolved to encompass Throbbing Gristle (or TG) – the pioneering industrial band that COUM mutated into as the collective’s experiments in music, electronics and performance art developed over time.

Founded in 1969 by Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, COUM was influenced by Dada and aimed to disrupt the humdrum order of daily life through theatre, music and the construction of situations by exploring taboo subjects like sex, violence and the manipulation of the human body. Making reference to the aforementioned ICA exhibition, Conservative MP Nicholas Fairbairn famously described the group as “wreckers of civilisation”, but this film shows the collective’s participants, in the words of its core member Cosey Fanni Tutti, as “even more civilised” than their detractors.  

COUM’s other prominent early members included Spydeee Gasmantell, Les Maul, John Lacey and Foxtrot Echo, all of whom appear in the documentary. Notably absent from the film are Chris Carter, who declined to be interviewed, and Dr Tim Poston, who accepted but passed away before the filmmakers were able to speak with him. The late Peter Christopherson is present mainly through stills, although some archival interviews were also used. P-Orridge died during production, in March 2020, making these interviews some of h/er last.

Many of the members maintained rich archives documenting their work and Other, Like Me makes great use of these materials. Forays into mail art, photos of early performances and images of Genesis and Cosey’s Merzbau-like squat at Prince Street, Hull are all worthwhile windows into their developing art practice. Throbbing Gristle’s 1980 gig at Oundle School also makes for entertaining viewing, particularly when a chorus of students start singing ‘Jerusalem’ in an effort to reclaim their social space back from the band. 

Those who have read Cosey Fanni Tutti’s 2017 memoir Art Sex Music or visited COUM’s retrospective at the Humber Street Gallery in Hull that same year would be familiar with the narrative of how COUM and TG are inextricably intertwined. 

Personal relationships between members, while discussed, are sidelined in the film. P-Orridge’s tendency for angry, violent outbursts is briefly alluded to by Les Maul, but the alleged abuse experienced by Fanni Tutti at the hands of Genesis, during their romantic and professional relationship, is relegated to a title card at the end. Both COUM and TG regularly used violence as their source material. It might have been useful to further interrogate the dynamic between abhorrent human behaviours and the art actionism that draws its power from them.

The post-TG worlds of Coil, Psychic TV and Chris & Cosey are skimmed over in around a minute. This is a pity, but understandable, too, as including those projects would have bloated and confused the principal narrative arc.

Ultimately, as John Lacey points out, “the idea of COUM is about companionship”. Other, Like Me is a concise and compelling story about dropouts and autodidacts who infiltrated the art world and changed music culture indefinitely. TG’s emphasis on timbre, frequency and volume, coupled with transgressive lyrical themes, deconstructed established notions of musicality and gave the world Industrial music. 

Ilia Rogatchevski
Originally published by Wire, February 2022

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A Bridge Too Far-Sighted? Exhibition Recalls Collaboration Of Thomas Leer & Robert Rental

In 1979, DIY synth pioneers Thomas Leer and Robert Rental made one album together for Throbbing Gristle’s Industrial Records. A new exhibition at the Horse Hospital explores the record’s continuing legacy

All photos: Karen Willey / encyclopaediaelectronica.com

From The Port To The Bridge is an intimate and engaging exhibition exploring the post-punk electronic pioneers Thomas Leer and the late Robert Rental. Originally staged at Greenock’s Beacon Arts Centre in 2018, the show made its London debut at the Horse Hospital this January. The exhibition chronicles Leer and Rental’s lives in music, pivoting around the recording and release of their seminal 1979 album The Bridge.

The show is curated chronologically with the narrative following a clockwise direction around the venue’s basement. The story is told primarily through large frames holding collages of press clippings and photographs. Generously detailed explanatory notes are mounted on the walls, but a zine, authored by curator Simon Dell and published by Encyclopaedia Electronica, is available to purchase for anyone who wants to dive deeper. There are cassette demos, backing tapes and original vinyl pressings displayed in the glass cabinets, but the biggest draw for many will be the instruments. For example, Daniel Miller of Mute Records loaned his noticeably weathered (but still functional) Korg 700S synthesizer, on which he wrote ‘Warm Leatherette’ and ‘T.V.O.D’. Many of the items, however, come courtesy of Thomas Leer himself or Hilary Farrow, Robert Rental’s widow. Also on display is the acid-coloured EDP Wasp, a synth which tended to spontaneously play itself when the temperature in a club rose too high, but one that also gave The Bridge its signature sound.

Leer and Rental, born Thomas Wishart and Robert Donnachie respectively, hailed from Port Glasgow, a shipbuilding town on the southern bank of the lower River Clyde. Both men showed interest in music from a young age with Thomas playing in a string of local rock bands. It was expected that they would follow their families into heavy industries, which were abundant on the Clyde at the time. Instead, they became gardeners and met while working at Parklea Nursery, bonding over their mutual love of Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and Cream.

After a period of hitchhiking across England in the early 1970s to attend the Glastonbury and Windsor Free festivals, the pair experimented with communal living. This eventually led to them forming a punk band, in 1976, along with Thomas’s partner Liz Farrow on bass and Andy Aitken on drums. Calling themselves Pressure, the group attempted to make their mark in London’s punk scene by playing gigs at the Man In The Moon pub on the King’s Road in Chelsea. However, after seeing Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Slits playing in Croydon in late 1977, Leer broke up the band. “They were doing what I wanted to do,” wrote Leer in the Overground fanzine some years later. “I split the band and decided that the proper thing to do was to bring the electronics back in again”. Punk, he felt, had run its course and it was time to go in a different direction.

Before moving to London, Leer came across Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, one of the first groups to use synthesizers in their music. Not being able to afford a synth, Thomas persuaded a friend who worked in a school science lab to make him a series of ring modulators and other modules. They were encased in little boxes with nails poking out of them so that they could be played by hand. It was this DIY ethic, along with punk’s primal energy, that gave Leer and Rental the impetus to push their work further.

Daniel Miller, who reissued The Bridge on vinyl and CD this year, gives credit to The Desperate Bicycles for educating many in the punk scene on how to make their own records. Miller used this knowledge to record and release the ‘Warm Leatherette’ single as The Normal in 1978. Leer and Rental also released singles around this time, ‘Private Plane’ and ‘Paralysis’ respectively, using only the rudimentary equipment set up in their homes. ‘Private Plane’ made single of the week in the NME that October. These tracks, along with Cabaret Voltaire’s Extended Play, The Human League’s ‘Being Boiled’ and Throbbing Gristle’s ‘United’ paved the way for the synth-pop era of the early 80s.

Miller and Rental first met at a Throbbing Gristle show at the London Film-Makers’ Co-op. Rental had produced soundtracks for Nick Emery’s films Burning Land and Facelift (both on show at the exhibition) and Miller was working in the film industry at the time. Finding that they had many ideas in common, they went on tour together as Robert Rental and The Normal, supporting Essential Logic and Stiff Little Fingers on the latter’s Inflammable Material tour throughout February and March 1979. Miller remembers the shows teetering from “very bad to absolutely awful” with punk audiences reacting to the duo’s electronic sounds by throwing lit cigarettes, glass, and chains onto the stage. William Bennett of Essential Logic, who befriended the duo while on tour (and subsequently formed the power electronics project Whitehouse) was inspired enough to create “a sound that could bludgeon an audience into submission”.

Facelift (8 min 30 sec), directed by Nick Emery, Sound by Emery and Robert Donnachie (Rental), 1977-78

Meanwhile, Leer was making music on his own using a recently purchased Wasp synth. He continued to make demos with Rental upon the latter’s return from tour. These recordings found their way to TG, who signed the duo to Industrial Records. Through Peter Christopherson’s connections with Hipgnosis, TG hired an eight-track recorder, mixing console and other recording equipment from Pink Floyd’s Britannia Row studio. Chris Carter set up the equipment in Rental’s Battersea flat, but gave them only a basic explanation of how the equipment worked. TG tasked the duo with writing and producing an album’s worth of material in two weeks.

These sessions materialised in The Bridge. The record has two distinct halves with the A side channelling punk’s energy via the duo’s motorik influences and the B side exploring ambient textures inspired by the tape delay operational diagram printed on the rear sleeve of Brian Eno’s Discreet Music.

Despite the record’s relative success (it sold over 7,500 copies in the first nine months after its initial release and reached #9 on the UK Independent Chart in 1980), Thomas and Robert eschewed playing live or even working together as a duo again, which jeopardised a licensing deal from EG Records. Rental released only one more single, Double Heart (Mute, 1980), before becoming disillusioned with the music industry and retreating into family life. Leer carried on making music and a significant part of the exhibition is devoted to his post-Bridge career with labels Cherry Red, Arista, and ZTT (as one half of the pop duo ACT, along with Propaganda’s Claudia Brücken).

Music archivist and exhibition curator Simon Dell does a good job of weaving together an engaging story of two quiet but obstinate Scots whose uncompromising vision and brief collaboration led to the making of a really unique record. Additional context is provided by filmed interviews, conducted by Dell and Danny Stoker, with The The’s Matt Johnson, Daniel Miller, as well as TG’s Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter. Andy Wishart’s fifteen-minute interview with his brother Thomas Leer is also shown. It’s a pity that only one pair of headphones is made available, which makes group viewing impossible, but luckily some of the interviews can be found online.

For a collaboration that lasted a handful of years and produced only one full-length LP, the legacy of Leer and Rental’s The Bridge has rippled through electronic music. Artists such as JD Twitch and Ekoplekz continue to champion their work with the latter even naming one of his tracks ‘Robert Rental’ in honour of the late musician. Outside of niche electronic circles, however, the duo’s work remains largely unknown. This exhibition, along with Mute’s reissue of the album, will surely help to rectify this.

From The Port To The Bridge is on at the Horse Hospital, London until 10 February 2022. The Bridge reissue is out on 8 April on Mute.

Originally published by The Quietus, February 2022.

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Disinformation – National Grid

My collaboration with Disinformation is going to be broadcast as part of the Transmission Ecologies series on Movement Radio tonight, 8pm GMT. It was recorded in 2018 as part of Disinformation’s ongoing National Grid project. Listen here http://movement.radio

Transmission Ecologies ft. Disinformation

Track List

Disinformation – National Grid – remixed by Bruce Gilbert – 1997
Disinformation – National Grid (VLF radio version) – (original LP version) – 1996
Pathé News / British Pathé – Pylon Men (documentary) – 1956
Disinformation – National Grid – remixed by Bruce Gilbert – 1997
Pathé News / British Pathé – Pylon Men (documentary) – 1966
Disinformation – Radiate + National Grid + Loran-C – 1999*
Moscow Popular Science Film Studio – Plus Electrification (documentary) – c.1960
Disinformation – Live in Moscow – featuring Mike Walter + Andy Knight – 2000
Moscow Popular Science Film Studio – Plus Electrification (documentary) – c.1960
Disinformation – National Grid – featuring Ilia Rogatchevski – 2018*
Disinformation – London Underground (VLF field recording) – 2002*
Disinformation – Bexleyheath to Dartford (VLF field recording) – 2002*

* NB: tracks remixed January 2022

“National Grid” is a pioneering and highly influential electromagnetic sound artwork, created by the artist project Disinformation, which uses interference from live mains electricity as both a literal and metaphorical source of creative energy. The lowest “G” on a piano keyboard resonates at a frequency of 49Hz, while live mains alternating current resonates (in the UK and Europe) at a frequency of 50Hz, manifesting as a very pure musical sine-wave. “National Grid” was originally recorded and performed, “played” live using the Upper and Lower Side-Band filter on a VLF-converted shortwave radio. Since then “National Grid” has been realised using direct line outputs from mains electrical transformers; with the 50Hz sine-wave being subjected to microtonal re-tuning techniques, which transform the slightly sharp “G” note into a rhythmically pulsing and deeply immersive and hypnotic low frequency sound mass. 

“National Grid” performances and sound installations are literally electrifying. The VLF radio version manifests as a work of exhilarating intensity, exploring the aesthetics and symbolism of electricity and of pure vibration; while the mains transformer versions manifest as highly site-specific three-dimensional sound installations, which produce a range of powerful physical, psychological and physiological resonances. Trebuchet Magazine described “National Grid” as (quote) “one of the most important and impressive sound art works of recent times”.
“National Grid” was first published on LP (by the record company Ash International) and first performed live at the Disobey club night (organised by the record company Blast First), both in 1996. The sound installation version premiered at the Museum of Installation (art gallery) in July 1997.

Since then “National Grid” has been performed and exhibited nearly 40 times – at (among others) the Royal College of Art (London), South London Gallery, Volksbühne (Berlin), ZKM (Karlsruhe), Kettle’s Yard (Cambridge), Hayward Gallery (London), Fabrica Gallery (Brighton), Dom Culture Centre (Moscow) and Fort Process (Newhaven). “National Grid” has been exhibited in an underground nuclear warfare command centre (the former RAF “Rotor” bunker near Anstruther, Scotland), and performed on the very desk in London’s Royal Institution where the scientist Michael Faraday demonstrated some of the most important discoveries in the history of electrical science. Several versions have been released on CD, and collaborative interpretations have been produced by Bruce Gilbert (from the punk band Wire), Jim O’Rourke (from Sonic Youth), the saxophonist Evan Parker, the noise musician (Paul) Nomex, and with the pioneering noise group Test Dept.

This podcast – produced by Disinformation for Transmission Ecologies – features original and collaborative versions of “National Grid”, including contributions by Bruce Gilbert, the saxophonists Mike Walter and Andy Knight, and the sound artist llia Rogatchevski. The podcast also features historic documentary material, exploring the history, culture and politics of electrification. The Pathé News documentary “Pylon Men” speculates that “in days to come, (electricity) pylons… may have their champions, eager to preserve them as historic monuments”, while Soviet propaganda footage discusses Lenin’s famous assertion – recently quoted in a notorious speech by the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson – that “Communism is Soviet power plus electrification”.

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Rewind 2021: Critics’ Reflections

I found myself reading a lot this past year, picking up books old and new. Juliane Fürst’s Flowers Through Concrete: Explorations in Soviet Hippieland provided an insight into hippy subcultures of the Soviet Union; Public House: A Cultural and Social History of the London Pub explored the pub as a social, political and architectural space; while Kenneth Womack’s Long and Winding Roads: The Evolving Artistry of The Beatles gave me an excuse to revisit familiar songs and put Peter Jackson’s documentary series into context.

The most influential book I read this year, however, was Merlin Sheldrake’s Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures. This is a comprehensive but accessible text on how significant fungi are to life on this planet. Suddenly mushrooms were everywhere, not least in the brilliantly illustrated children’s book Humongous Fungus. In October, my family and I participated in an urban foraging walk and workshop, led by Czech filmmaker Alice Dušová, in East London’s Lea Valley. Both the book and walk changed my outlook on nature, particularly its interrelationship with urban spaces, and helped to shake off my post-lockdown malaise. 

Ilia Rogatchevski
Originally published by Wire, December 2021

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Review: Mute Frequencies – Echo Chamber (self-released, Aug 30)

Conceptually speaking, London sound art collective Mute Frequencies’ first release firmly situates itself in reference and response to “times of pandemic,” but unlike many other creative works I’ve seen, heard, read, etc. with the same topic, Echo Chamber has a timelessness that will endure long beyond the times in which life is still significantly changed, or even when those changes either last and become old hat or disappear into faded memory.

The (re)new(ed) poetic interest in daily tedium recently embraced by artists of all kinds has delved even further into the unutterable truths hidden within our routines than we all already have in the process of experiencing the paring of our lives down to very nearly them and them alone, and this gorgeous 15-minute piece is just one of many artful odes to domestic mundanity that wordless remind us that the banal is not to be taken for granted; not necessarily appreciated, or derided, or avoided, but simply not neglected.

According to the trio of Ilia Rogatchevski and Laura and Kitsuné Rogatchevskaia, the more abrasive textures—seething emf clouds and cranked-up radios set to dead air—“periodically interrupt” what often presents as tranquility in an effort to “remind the listener of the unfortunate global context” that inspired the music, but to me, admittedly someone who is quite partial to “abrasive textures,” the intrusions play several important roles in supporting the familiar sounds of bird chirps, babbling children, and playground equipment in the breeze, none of which turn out to be so negative.

Beyond their “periodic” nature providing a loose, abstract sort of rhythm to glom on to, and their sharper edges engaging in compelling contrast-interplay with the outdoor field recordings, the sudden surges and swarms of electronics act as up-close, almost confrontational channels through which to experience the overall soundscape, much more tactile and therefore graspable than their ephemeral partners.

I’m sure everyone will find their way to their own meaning via these conspicuous conduits, but the purpose behind Mute Frequencies’ work here will inevitably surface, somehow, in any analysis; the eminent neutrality of their auditory lens leaves room for subjective interpretation, even as its very existence affirms the impossibility of these base, innate things ever being fully explained. Round and round we go.

Jack Davidson
Originally published by Noise Not Music, September 2021

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Misantrop Interviewed: Reproaching the Absurd

Text and interview by Ilia Rogatchevski.
Photos by George Nebieridze.

Ilia Rogatchevski speaks with Berlin-based producer Misantrop about their new album Reproaching the Absurd, which is out now on Opal TapesThe artist discusses their writing process and talks about how night life, collaborations and musicology inform their work.

Misantrop is the nom de plume of Nicolai Vesterkær Krog, a Danish sound artist based in Berlin. Krog has a background in the music industry as a DJ and events organiser. As well as producing their own music and spearheading the Foul-Up label, Krog has also collaborated with Lasse Björck Volkmann as Glass Knot and with Tobias Rye Adomat aka Splash Pattern. Krog is currently undertaking a master’s degree in sound studies. 

Misantrop’s debut album, Reproaching the Absurd, was produced over the last four years. Its seven tracks explore the thought processes of a reveler’s mind at a club, observing their different mental stages throughout the night and the following day. The record is also a sonic portrait of Berlin. It attempts to channel the city’s energy by tapping into its electromagnetic patterns, as expressed in the track Homebound, via Christina Kubisch’s induction headphones.

Reproaching the Absurd is an engaging intersection of club culture and sound art. In the press release, Krog describes their approach to making the album as “resolutely queer […] draw[ing] influence from the hardcore continuum, techno-dancehall, no wave, harsh noise, musique concrète, pop, ASMR, and beyond.” Misantrop’s collaborators include the saxophonist Jeremy Coubrough, the ambient musician Angelo Harmsworth and Tobias Rye Adomat, who mixed the album. 

Let’s start with your background. Where are you from and what got you interested in experimental music?

I’m from the south of Denmark, from a little island called Falster. I moved to Copenhagen when I was 18 and came to Berlin eight years ago. 

I got into experimental music quite early. I was 13 when I was making noise in the microsound genre. My technical background is all pretty much self-taught. I’ve done a few courses here and there, but nothing special.

When I moved to Copenhagen, I started DJing at parties. Later, I learned piano, because I really wanted to study musicology. Then I moved to Berlin. I was working behind the scenes in the music business and decided to start my label Foul-Up. A few years later, I drifted away from making art and music. That’s when I was like: “Maybe I should go back to university.” Which is why I’m in art school now. 

What are your takeaways from the course?

I’m getting a lot out of it. I needed to restructure my life completely. I needed somebody to provide that structure for me. That’s what going back to school did. It made me completely refocus my life. It provided me with a lot of time to work on my ideas and develop them. Before, earning money came first, and art and music making was reserved for the little free time I had. Now I’m putting artistry first. 

Reproaching the Absurd is a significant departure from the Limerence EP you put out a few years ago. The EP was more dance orientated and beat driven. The new album is reducing those club sounds to something more experimental, violent even. In another interview you mentioned that there are elements of disco, R&B and Eurodance as well as harmonies and chord progressions in the initial stages of the project. What made you strip those elements away?

It took quite a while to get the first EP ready. By the time I was done with it, I was in a different place already. I wanted to do something different. It was me doing club sounds and then injecting something experimental into it. It was very subtle, in a way. But then I was like: “Maybe I should flip the script to make it more clear what it is that I’m actually trying to do”. 

I really like to work a lot with references. I think like a musicologist. I enjoy most kinds of music. Stylistically, there is nothing that I am opposed to, but aesthetically I’m very specific. I was open to everything and just trying out different things. I think I have a tendency to choose references that have the most extreme departures from what I know how to do. With most of the stylistic references, I never actually intended to get there. It was more like setting a destination, even though the goal was actually a detour. For instance, the disco and Eurodance thing, I realised, in the process, that it wasn’t where I was meant to be going. 

I guess that’s the problem with having studied musicology. I’ve learned a lot of rules about music and it’s difficult to unlearn them again. I put a lot of effort into the harmonies and melodies, but it wasn’t working for me: creating a mood that I wasn’t into, a mood that was too emotional for the lyrics. 

Your voice is hidden under the wall of sound. It’s disembodied, almost robotic. What initially interested me about the project was the idea that you go on this journey to a club and experience everything from ecstasy to depression. Were the lyrics an attempt to understand something about yourself from a distance, psychologically speaking?

Yes, definitely. The lyrics were the first things that I did. Reading them back now, it’s all straightforward to me, but I remember that they were very difficult to write. Putting into words what I had been experiencing helped me to actually understand it. 

It is difficult to remember why I wanted to do it, but I’ve been thinking about it lately, and I think there are two reasons. One is that I was in this environment a lot. I was working in the scene. It’s pretty hedonistic. Partying is an expression of joy, right? I felt like I needed to be talking about how there were other experiences within that environment that weren’t very much fun.

The other thing is that I’ve been dealing with depression for a long time, since I was a child. I felt like I was surrounded by this empty empathy that wasn’t doing anything helpful for me. I wanted to expose myself. I didn’t want to be seen as somebody to empathise with. It was a harmony through conflict approach.

Let’s talk about your collaborators. There is a bit of saxophone from Jeremy

Coubrough on The Latent Image and Lingering Transgression, and a bit of guitar from Angelo Harmsworth on Trail of Stasis. How did you meet them and what did they contribute to the record?

I met Jeremy on the dancefloor in Berlin. I thought he looked familiar. I walked over and said “Hi”, before I realised that I didn’t know who he was. We started talking and it turned out that a friend of mine had introduced me to his music that same week. 

Is that TLAOTLON

Yes, it’s impossible to pronounce. 

You played at the KW Institute together?

That was Haku Sungho, but Jeremy and I did play together, yes. It was this place called Villa Kuriosum (Sonic Curiosities, Jan 2020). That was an improvised set. 

Me and Jeremy had known each other for a while. I guess we were just hanging out and then he mentioned that he got his saxophone back. I said I had been contemplating getting someone to play saxophone on The Latent Image

So we went into the studio and ended up having these jam sessions where he played the saxophone and I would be doing voice and some electronic stuff. It was actually really helpful for doing the album, for getting more comfortable working with my voice. You mentioned that my vocals are pretty buried. That’s mostly a reflection of me being shy. 

On the album there is also Angelo Harmsworth, who I’ve known for a few years. We were good friends before Covid, but there are some people who, for some reason, you got a lot closer with during Covid. At least that happened with me and Angelo. Suddenly, we were talking every day. 

We were meeting up once a week and playing what we’ve been working on for each other. I finished six tracks for the album and felt like there was a guitar missing. It turned out that he played the guitar. It already felt like he was a part of the album, because he was giving me a lot of feedback.

The person who really helped, because he did the final mix of the album, was Tobias Rye Adomat. 

You worked together on another EP, Idée Fixe, as Splash Pattern.

Splash Pattern is Tobias’ project. We released the EP as Splash Pattern & Misantrop. That project we were working on for a really long time. We’ve known each other for ten years and, at some point, we became closer. He was coming to Berlin, every once in a while, to hang out. He was actually the first person to whom I’d ever read the lyrics to. One night, we came back from the club and I forced him to read all the lyrics in my kitchen, which was not the most perfect end to an evening. 

I’m also interested to hear about Christina Kubisch’s electromagnetic headphones. 

I did a workshop with her. I got to borrow them for a day, which was a lot of fun.

How did you find the experience?

You’re not walking around with a thing [receiver] in your hand. You’re just wearing headphones and it’s the headphones that are producing the sound as well. It’s very interesting watching people listening to LED panels, lights and electric doors. Getting in the way of other people. It was fun. 

Reproaching the Absurd is out now via Opal Tapes

Originally published by Iklectik Off-Site, August 2021

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Echo Chamber

Echo Chamber is a multichannel sound installation that explores the notions of routine and domesticity in times of pandemic. Composed from field recordings created during lockdown walkabouts and the performance of humdrum activities, the work interrogates the role that repetition plays in our everyday lives.

The sound pieces are accompanied by a series of drawings. These works were created in parallel to the recordings and act as a visual anchor to the sound installation. Made with basic materials such as children’s crayons, the drawings depict, in part, portraits of the couple’s daughter, and aim to evoke a sense of the familial by employing everyday pictorial language.

Echo Chamber is the first exhibition in the Intro : spect series under Project DivFuse, where selected artists are invited to showcase their media-based work on site as a checkpoint of their long term artistic development.

Opening :
20 August 5pm – 8pm
RSVP to divfuse@gmail.com

Exhibition :
21 & 22 August 2pm – 6pm
27 August 3pm – 7pm
28 & 29 August 2pm – 6pm