Siegmar Fricke is a long-standing contributor to the experimental electronic / dance music world. The German producer (who also works as a visual artist) began releasing music in the mid 80s and has produced many albums across a variety of styles including industrial, techno and ambient.
Funkwellen (translated as “radio waves”) is described in the press release as “melodic based sequencer driven work with…futurist appeal”. The album itself has quite a history. Originally recorded in 1994 at Fricke’s Pharmakustik Studio, the work was not released until 2008 when it surfaced as a free download in a different form with a slightly different tracklist. It has now been reassembled and remastered by Fricke, and this “definitive edition” is available as a 24 bit high quality download.
The music itself is quite brilliant. The whole record has been approached with a rare attention to detail and subtlety. Its melodies, grooves and robotic loops owe much to house and techno, but it also contains an underlying and ever-present arty weirdness. This is not “hard” dance music, but it marches forward with enough intent and drive for it not to sit comfortably in the “ambient” category. The beats often seem to be right on the edge of climax, but instead they gracefully hold back. This has the effect of holding the listener on the edge of their seat, energised and alert. The synth sounds are expertly jigsawed together. Angular and disorientating sequenced arpeggios mesh with warm atmospheric pads. Repeated samples of single words or short disembodied phrases in German or English come in and out over the top. By its nature this music is repetitive, but Funkwellen artfully pulls off the trick of creating subtle and sometimes barely-perceptible variation bar-by-bar. New synth parts and samples rise up and fall away whilst filters, reverbs, delays and panning are constantly being controlled to generate dynamic motion.
Funkwellen is evocative. It paints an ever-shifting mood journey. There is hopeful excitement and there is cold bleakness. Sometimes these feelings coexist. The palette of sounds is familiar, but its application is idiosyncratic. It will energise you, it will stimulate deep thought, it will make you feel something, and it will hold your attention.
If you like to think as well as to dance, and if you enjoy having your expectations subverted, then Funkwellen by Siegmar Fricke is album you should hear.
Funkwellen is available now via Bandcamp.
“Field Works: Ultrasonic” is the work of Stuart Hyatt, but with guest contributors on every track, it almost steps across into being a various artists compilation. Hyatt’s musical tone persists throughout however, giving a consistent backbone, which is primarily warm pads and drones with subtle atmospherics, as exemplified by the track “Torpor” with Ben Lukas Boysen. The result is a chilled out work where the guests bring the breadth.
This is normally a fairly straightforward fusion. Mary Lattimore’s harp on “Silver Secrets” or Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s piano (I think) on “Night Swimming” are given centre stage and allowed to play out, sometimes in loose and abstract fashion, sometimes in gently repeating and evolving patterns, with gentle reverb easing their tone into conjunction with the pads underneath.
Some pieces have a little more energy, such as “Sodalis” with Kelly Moran which adds a gently rolling bass pattern, or the surprisingly EDM-like pulsing synth of “A Place Both Wonderful And Strange” with Noveller. But for the most part, this is relaxation music.
It’s also a concept album about bats, incidentally, and claims that it could be “perhaps the first-ever album to use the echolocations of bats as compositional source material”. For the most part you wouldn’t notice this, and while there’s certainly a sense of nocturnal calm, there’s not a lot of audible connection with what you’d conventionally think of as bat sounds, save for a few book-ends that briefly open or close pieces, and the unexpected spoken-word poetry of final piece “Between The Hawthorn And Extinction” which gently explains why bats are a cause, without proselytizing.
“Echo Affinity” with Taylor Deupree is a notable exception, the soft clicking sounds playing well against romantic piano, and their appearance at the start of “Music For A Room With Vaulted Ceiling” with Christina Vantzou is strongly reminiscent of the Alex Paterson style of ambient, in a very good way. “Night Vision It Touched My Neck”, with Felicia Atkinson, is perhaps the only truly ‘bat-centric’ piece, a curious call-and-response between bat sounds and light piano noises- though the tinnitus-tickling high-pitched tones of “Indiana Blindfold” might in fact be an album *for* bats, rather than about them...
It’s a sonic comfort blanket, soft and thick and large, but with enough detail and eventfulness to keep a more active listener’s attention as well. It’s even suitable for people who are scared of bats! It’s been available digitally for a couple of months already, but physical copies are available from July 26th.
Void In, from Blush Response (sometimes “Blush_Response”) is described as a “crafted sound sculpture” of a “deep atmospheric liquid metal world”. It’s hyperbole as usual but it’s a fairly fitting way to sum up this ten-track pack of very dark, gritty electronica and techno. What it maybe doesn’t fully indicate is just how aggressive and noise-driven some of it is. Tracks like “Slamhound” are full-on battle noise, driving broken kick patterns regimenting thick layers of distorted synths, glitches, granular noises, all blended together with heavy doses of reverb.
The relentlessness of some tracks become their main feature, such as with the pervasive and oddly anger-inducing “Loa”, the violent impulses of “Gene Stealer”, or the rapid double-hammering (and weirdly glam-rock-ish in a way) “The Second Aethyr”. Other tracks like “Morphic Polymer” are more abstract, looser experiments of noise and sawtoothed tones skittishly jumping up and down the register.
“Chiralium” is an unusual twist in that it brings a calmer and almost house vibe, without losing its identity in the middle of the album, while in the opposite direction “Waves Of Silver” takes what feels like an artificially generated melody pattern and meanders around with it in an enjoyably weird and experimental way. It’s predictable but welcome that last track “Timefall” edges the energy levels well down into near-ambient, like a kind of audio warm-down.
The palette of sounds being used across the 55 minutes is just a touch on the limited side, but the breadth of ideas and the willingness to change up the mood keeps the listener’s attention nicely. It’s on the right side of inaccessible and well worth bathing your ears in.
Although “The War Wolf” EP is named and artworked as being ready for battle, sonically it feels more ready to party. While the circa 100bpm stepping beat does have a slight marching vibe, the squelchy acid bass, bright plucky synths, and the use of that old famous fluttering panpipe sample (which works better here than it ought to on paper), all have too much of a feelgood vibe about them on the title track to make it feel really fighty.
Second track “Acid Drive” does have a slightly more warrior feel, thanks to its 120bpm-ish tempo and distorted squelchy acid line, but it’s tempered again by bright keys and a spectacularly old-skool ravey breakdown that feels like it’s been sampled straight out of the best bits of 1992.
Timothy Clerkin’s remix- or rather his “remix reprise”- of Night Giant’s “Bleak House” is a bonus inclusion that’s treated like a bolt on, but which the EP may could’ve led with, as it has an epic unfolding opening that leads into an almost Jarre-ish (but on the simpler side) melody line. This would’ve been a heroic album opener.
Not nearly as violent as it may appear, this short EP (that’s barely an “extended play” at all, you might argue) is quality thinking-person’s-dancing-music, baked at a home-listening temperature and with a lot of endearing old school ingredients that will appeal to people of a certain age, myself included.
Schaukelstuhl translates as ‘rocking chair’ (hence the artwork) and there’s a mesmeric steady rhythm to this 6-track mini-album- though I’m not sure I’d call it ‘rocking’. It’s six slabs of steady electronica-house with an assured feel that gets more laid back quite rapidly, after an initially upbeat beginning, and once it gets fully horizontal, it stays there up to the point where the final track gets you up and dancing again.
While there are some analogue squelches and a grumbling vibe to it at times, it’s moved on quite far from the more aggressive electroclash-ish sounds of T.Raumschmiere albums of old. That familiar 12/8 groove can still be heard in tracks like the purposeful “Edith”, and aforementioned final track “Isidora” which has pure danceability at its core, but it is contrasted nicely by unashamedly chill out tracks like the soft and deep “Klaus”, and the positively balearic sunwashed vibes of “Bela”.
It’s premium quality stuff with a mood that feels very 2020, but it’s the tracks where the more familiar T.Raumschmiere attitude shines through that provide the best moments.