Tuesday, June 2, 2020
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Artist: VV.AA.
Title: Historische Aufnahmen / Historical Recordings Vol II
Format: LP
Label: Gagarin Records
Eight years after the first volume, Felix Kubin again compiles ten archive recordings ranging from 1930 to 2002 into what essentially serves as a sampler of rare found sounds, and an exploration of where found sound ends and sonic art begins. Ten tracks, generally between two and four minutes long, are accompanied by extensive notes, although somehow the release is more appealing if you avoid the notes and try to imagine what it is you’re listening to based purely on what you can hear- it’s a challenging game.

I’m normally loathe to copy and paste from often over-florid press releases but there’s one paragraph in this release’s notes which tells you pretty much everything you need to know. So I’m going to control-C control-V, just this once, as follows:
“[...] the focus has been put on the quirkier corners of recorded sound: curious events, remarkable characters and fascinating tales - revived and restored for the edification and amusement of modern ears. Listen to a wooden automaton piano player, a microtonal choir of larynx patients, the sound of a rescue device used for the purpose of evacuating miners, the demonstration of a water leak detection microphone, a violent demonstration accompanied by Christmas carols and many more. The sound quality of these recordings is not perfect and the inevitable imperfections are audible.”

It’s a weird and wonderful- if rather brief- set of found sounds that’s engaging and rewarding. Many are strongly musical; “Etude pour un larynx écrasé” sounds like the kind of Lygeti piece Kubrick would have put into 2001 A Space Odyssey if he’d known about it, “Pianist” is a novel but conventional bit of automated wooden piano. “Island Of The Pig Men” is strongly reminiscent of Radiophonic Workshop-esque electronics. “Eiscreme-Krieg Jingle” is a decidedly weird piece of proto-experimental oddness that in terms of context feels like a highlight, as well as a real ‘WTF?’ moment.

More overt voiced recordings like “Lecksuchmikrofon” and “Anti-Schill Demonstration Hamburg” seem a little less worthwhile somehow, reminding me prosaically of German comprehension tapes from school and old reportage newsreel respectively, and certainly not feeling exotic.

Collectors of found sound will appreciate the diversity of this compilation.