Music Reviews

Artist: Peter Schubert, Andreas Usenbenz
Title: Plaqué
Format: CD + Download
Label: Klanggold
“Plaqué” comprises a single 41-minute piece of sound art intended to commemorate the 200th birthday of a man called Daniel Straub who was influential in railroad construction and who founded a company called WMF, who nowadays produce kitchenware and cutlery. But rather than being a bunch of pots and pans clinked together, this is a thoroughly ambient work with a somewhat holistic approach, where Schubert and Usenbenz have gathered together field recordings from Straub’s home town of Geislingen and layered and gently processed them into a gradually shifting rhythmless soundscape.

Opening with a somewhat cliché arrangement of farmland and birdsong noises, the work slowly delves into odder territory, with strangely flanged sounds like running water inside pipes. The extremely subtle and measured way in which the sound morphs into more industrial and unpleasant tones- scraping and bending metals, soft distant impacts and electrical hums- is expert and surprisingly disorientating.

As we enter the second half, sonically it opens up somewhat into a broader and oddly sci-fi space where everything feels very timestretched and slow-motion. This devolves into a wash of crunchy white noise which, in turn, fades to leave just some bottle-like pure tones before we wrap up with the reintroduction of what sounds like genuine light industrial and workshop noises, which ease away so gradually into infinity that you don’t even spot that playback has stopped.

The manner in which this work evolves throughout its 41 minute duration has an exemplary execution. Whether it challenges any boundaries or contributes any new ideas to this field of sound design is debatable, as is whether a 200-year-old Daniel Straub would have appreciated the tribute (it would probably just have all sounded like tinnitus to him anyway given his old ears…), but nevertheless it’s a quality work.

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