Tim Blechmann, Manuel Knapp – ivvvi
Tim Blechmann – Honne
Tim Blechmann – Sine Tempore
The last couple of weeks have seen three new releases on Tim Blechmann’s Moka Bar netlabel, two of which are solos by Blechmann, and the other, which in itself is a set of three pieces again, is a further release of his duo work with Manuel Knapp. Blechmann’s laptop creations have a very particular sound, and its fair to say that there is a considerable amount of similarity between his various works, and they tend to stand as variations on a theme, but the theme itself is, to my ears, a very pleasing approach, and actually quite an individual one at that.
Using whatever software/systems he uses, Blechmann creates huge atmospheric environments as much as he creates music. If this seems an extreme declaration, my apologies, but his music, and these more recent works in particular have a feeling of intense weather systems to them. For the two solo works Blechmann has extended his approach into creating music for surround sound systems, though various other versions, including a simple stereo version are included in the free files you can obtain from the Moka Bar site. His music tends to gradually swell around you, darkening the room, slowly intensifying its vibrations as if leading to some enormous storm. Honne, one of the new solos follows a familiar Blechmann pattern, beginning very quietly, with some of the deepest bass tones possible shaking the speaker cones only just within reach of the human ear, (it is impossible for me to play any of this new music in my car, it reduces down to just the acoustic rattle of the inferior speaker cones trying to implode) and gradually, almost imperceptibly gradually it billows outwards into a heaving grey roar.
In a very simple way, Blechmann’s music follows a very similar pattern to much noise music, a pattern that I have been critical of for its lack of invention in the past with reference to that genre, and certainly the same accusations could probably be levelled at Blechmann in that the same simple arc from quiet to crescendo and back down again tends to drive most of his work. However there is something about Blechmann’s sounds that seem to set him apart from the noise crowd. He uses mostly very softly grained textures, grey colours, like industrial plants or busy motorways heard at a distance , or perhaps that dull sheen of featureless activity that can be heard across a major city on any given day. Blechmann creates a kind of musical smog, but its a multi-layered and finely tuned set of clouds that are layered across one another in ways that just enough transparency exists for each layer to add a subtle tint to the overall finish, but the overriding sensation is one of opacity. In short, it feels to me that the attention to detail here is akin to only the most carefully crafted noise music. This work is finely constructed over a period of time to create atmosphere. Rothko’s densely layered colour fields ahead of Pollock’s aggressive, alcohol-fuelled splatter then.
The solo pieces, Honne and Sine Tempore each last about half an hour and are works of real drama, despite there never really being anything that could be considered a marked event taking place throughout them. They are really quite claustrophobic works and, not having a surround sound system to listen to music on, I can only begin to imagine how they must sound if listened to through such a playback set-up. If Honne has a slightly more gravelly texture so Sine Tempore at least starts from mostly deep almost subsonic sine tones, but later dissolves into an even more intense field of hissing white noise. Blechmann achieves something quite impressive in the way this music grabs your attention by doing very little, creating a situation in which its hard to concentrate on anything else via just a droning state of sound. It really gets under the skin, in a troubling, almost disconcerting way, like a quiet soundtrack to something even more disturbing. I can imagine this music working well played into an exhibition of Francis Bacon paintings.
The three new pieces with Knapp mark a continuation of their duo work. The three tracks are therefore named iv, v and vi and each is a full length work, the shortest clocking in at a fraction under half an hour. If the solo pieces have a very singular, straightforward approach to them, Knapp’s additional electronics give the music an extra edge, a sprinkling of little barbs of disruption, and a rougher, more uneven quality to the background drones. The pair work together really well, both complimenting each other’s material as they also bring something new. As Blechmann builds his grand curtains of bleak, heavy drone so Knapp scatters jagged shards of metallic detritus around, not so much as to derail the natural course of the music through its arcing patterns, but giving the music a new, rougher edge. To reprise my earlier metaphor, if Blechmann’s sound resembles the oppression of an oncoming storm, so Knapp adds the danger and incision of the first stabs of lightening. All of this music can be downloaded for free from Moka Bar, so pointing out favourite pieces seems a bit churlish, but of this new batch the three duo works are the most satisfying for me, though I thoroughly recommend checking out all of the material on offer from Blechmann.