Sunday 9 February 2014

Die Welt ist Klang - Disc one review

After what must have been a tremendous amount of work for Dave at Carpe Sonum Records, not to mention all of the artists involved, the physical version of Die Welt ist Klang, a mammoth eight disc tribute to Pete Namlook is almost upon us. Four discs of sounds from Fax alumni - those who recorded for the label and four discs of music by the fans, all housed in beautiful digipak CDs, featuring diagrams/photographs etc. of the synths so beloved to Namlook. These will sit in a sumptuous wooden box with sliding lid. So what does it actually sound like? Well, eight CDs of music is a lot to take on board but here's a review of the first disc. I will add both extra text and images to this post as I review the rest of the CDs and when I receive my copy I will try to post a few images of the packaging as well.

The tribute begins with By a River (for Peter) by Bill Laswell and ex-Parliament/Funkadelic keyboard player Bernie Worrell. On this occasion Worrell is playing the Fender Rhodes electric piano and helping to create some beautiful atmospheres. Ambient with more than a hint of jazz and gradually a gently played fretless bass is also introduced. This could have very comfortably sat on a fusion-era Miles Davis album but I am referring to the reflective, rather than turbulent side of that phase of the jazz master's journey. Perhaps the jazz element pays subtle tribute to Pete's musical background but this is a suitably stunning opener with the Fender Rhodes evoking trickling water.

Speaking of which, David Moufang's Regentropfen (Variation 1) is next. This starts with the sound of dripping water, as piano somnambulistically and almost metronomically sways backwards and forwards between two chords. This becomes quite hypnotic, the sound of water droplets splashing and falling rain abruptly appearing, as if out of nowhere, and disappearing just as quickly - the aural equivalent of sticking pieces of paper together to create a collage. The piano parts also sound as if they have been cut and pasted - a clever and rather unique approach.
The liquid theme continues with Eraldo Bernocchi's She Came Dancing Across the Water. This reminds me a little here and there of Maurice Jarre's beautiful soundtrack for the film Witness. It also wouldn't sound out of place alongside the very best releases from Brian Eno's classic period. Along with the previous offering, this track underscores the fact that this box set is an epic requiem for an absent friend. A very (very) slow lead guitar part is played over a haunting guitar drone....yes: you may not guess it but I am reliably informed that everything on this track comes from treated guitars. Intensely beautiful but also slightly unsettling (a mood that understandably returns time and time again over the course of this box set).

Miss Silencio and Dr. Atmo's Floyd (Pink Mix) is actually a different mix of the track Wolkeweich from their recent collaborative album Hush! What sounds like (but probably isn't) very soft swells of guitar, harp and layers of ethereal sound are joined by keyboards, seemingly played as softly as possible and to listen is like being carried off to the clouds. Possibly the track that the word 'ethereal' was invented for?

Next up, Steve Stoll has chosen to contribute what is probably the most tender moment from his excellent recent analog synth odyssey Praxis. Unless this reviewer is mistaken Part XIII, a lovely theme is extended here and it is great to have a longer version that stretches out a little.

Daniel Pemberton's Opaque 10, one of the tracks from an unreleased album recorded in the late '90s reminds this writer a little of those amazing Cluster and Eno collaborations from the late '70s - no bad thing, of course. Perhaps a little darker than some of that material, this pensive, wistful and suitably sombre piece begs the question: will we ever hear the full work?  On the strength of this track we can only hope so.

Public Transformation by Blaine L. Reininger (who appeared on Sound of Heaven by U V O I I) suggests dust blowing up desert roads with its swells of slow, echoing guitar and plaintive violin, while Saving a Space (for Wherever You Are) by Audio man Daimon Beail and Autistici (David Newman) presents ten minutes plus of drones that underscore the diversity and magic of this compilation. The sound seems to shimmer and this is akin to watching sunrise glowing on a city from the top of a skyscraper.
Universal Cubensis Afterglide by Ishqamatics (Lee Anthony Norris & Matt Hillier) could be described as a slice of weightless, cosmic travel and continues in the tradition of their excellent recent album Spacebound.

Carocell by F.U.S.E. (aka Richie Hawtin) is a recording from the same era as the first couple of From Within albums. Previously included on volume three of the compilation series Blueprints for Modern Technology this piece has largely remained hidden for twenty years. It's great to have it back. The track fades in with multiple, layered sequencer patterns: fast/slow. In the tradition of Hawtin's music this is glacial and yet possesses an unusual beauty. Basically it fits perfectly alongside those Namlook collaborations. Genius.

Subway by Spacetime Continuum (aka Jonah Sharp) presents an outtake from the classic 1993 album Sea Biscuit. Fax fans are probably going to find this icy and slightly menacing sonic portrait, suggesting urban alienation to be essential stuff.

Epic. Absolutely epic and that's only disc one. As mentioned, this post will grow, as I review each disc in the box set so expect more in time...
If you haven't ordered your copy of Die Welt is Klang yet you can do so using the link below and the tracks are available to stream so you can listen before you take the plunge. For the Fax fan: essential and a fitting tribute to the great Pete Namlook.

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