CD Reviews

Tim Blechmann, Manuel Knapp – VIII

May 15, 2013


I have for quite a while been a staunch supporter of the work of Tim Blechmann in these pages, and his ongoing collaborations with Manuel Knapp in particular, so it was a real pleasure to receive a further instalment of their duo work here a little while ago, a disc named VIII on the Nada label. I have never really been able to properly articulate what it is I like about Blechmann and Knapp’s music. On the one hand, their laptop and electronics landscapes are nothing particularly unusual- mainly continuous, drone-like streams of noisy sound that rise and fall but primarily work though the layering of similarly abrasive textures. On the other though, while their music may not sound so inventive when described in words, there is a certain feel and sense of energy and purpose in their work that I don’t hear in many other similar recordings by other musicians. For sure, they have a very particular, and by now familiar language, but what they say with it has a certain gravitas that I think sets it apart.

VIII is one long piece, unsurprisingly the eighth that Blechmann and Knapp have released. Compared to their past works, this one is perhaps less episodic, and more linear than before, but its far from minimal. It starts slowly, but once it has picked up pace the music here really burns its way out of the speakers, roaring away not unlike the sound of an open fire with gusts of wind driving down the chimney. The sounds are all electronic in nature, but there is nothing kitschy or obviously digital at work. Rather the various layers range from white noise hiss to synthetic hums to gravelly distortion, with an undercurrent of several combined long sounds always present at the base, albeit with each element constantly shifting, and then various bits of digital detritus and electroacoustic scribbling scattered on top. Again, it is difficult to pin down in words exactly what make this music work for me, but its something to do with how the various sounds combine, the choices made to connect certain textures with each other, and the tendency to always push things on to one level further- so just when the music seems vitally urgent and vibrant, so another jagged pulse is added in to make things seethe even harder. Cooking analogies spring to mind- a pot of bubbling aromatic Indian food changes colour as every spice is added, every ingredient adds more body, every increase in temperature makes it bubble a little harder. This disc is to me what all good noise music should be like. The sounds used are carefully thought through, the ingredients carefully combined, the intensity added to slowly, the end result as perfectly balanced as it is fiery.

Whether VIII adds anything new to Blechmann and Knapp’s canon I doubt, and its possible that I slightly preferred the more disruptively violent structures of their last release together, but still this is fine music, uplifting in a very simple, elemental manner and a fine example of two musicians perfectly in tune with one another who are working towards a very particular, refined goal. It also sounds damned good in the car.

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