CD Reviews

rlw – Fall Seliger Geister

June 7, 2013

CD
Dirter / Black Rose

At first I wondered how the title of this great new album from Ralf Wehowsky may reference that of Helmut Lachenmann’s second string quartet, which is named Reigen Seliger Geister. Not being a German speaker I did a quick web translation which revealed “seliger geister” to mean “blessed spirits”. This title, coupled to the general feel of this new release, and Wehowsky’s mention in the liner notes that “gespenster” (ghosts) had been recorded to hard drive over a two year period makes me think that there is no link to that fantastic quartet, though in places here there do seem to be tortured stringed instruments to be heard. So, somehow ghostly spirits have something to do with Fall Seliger Geister. Maybe even “Real” recordings of supposed ghosts. Yeah right. Its a really great little rollercoaster of an album all the same.

For this set of nine pieces Wehowsky seems to work with field recordings, bits of recorded instrumentation and all kinds of other sonic detritus, which he pulls together into finely crafted, dynamically exciting works. There is a murky, horror-film soundtrack feel to it all, but if the sounds here all start to feel like a dodgy Current 93 tape from the eighties then the far from hidden digital transformations that Wehowsky applies very quickly bring the music right up to date. Think early John Wall meets Organum meets Throbbing Gristle in the GRM studio. So things wail, scream and throb through sudden jump cuts, bits of slamming percussion, groaning string-like sounds and deep drops into brief chasms of silence. The fourth track, Aus dem Nirgendwo (from nowhere) sounds like a grainy recording of the tortured call of an elephant overlaid by blurs of digital synthesis and little chiming sounds.

Wehowsky’s chosen palette of sounds for this album aren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Its all a bit too gloomy and artificially over-atmospheric in many ways. However, I think you could give Ralf Wehowsky any set of sounds you liked, and if you leave him with them long enough you’ll end up with a stunning piece of music, such is his mastery of sounds and his ability to twist and shape them into wildly contorted, muscular constructions. Fall Seliger Geister is a wonderful little cauldron in which everything is not just thrown randomly but carefully placed, having been treated and edited to perfection first. In P16.D4, his first group, Wehowsky pioneered the collision of musique concréte technique and  the rock music format. Today his music, albeit entirely created on a computer, retains that sense of flow and energy that more academically restrained concréte has never managed to achieve. Fall Seliger Geister, if you ignore all of the silliness about ghosts, is an entrancing, powerful piece of work and another fine example of Wehowsky’s unrivalled mastery of this area of music.

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