German severo-meister Marc Behrens is an undisputed champion of all that’s restrained and minimal, but everything he does also has hard edges and is as cold as steel. Even the act of sharpening a pencil for him has consequences for the rest of the world that you wouldn’t like to think about. He also has a cerebral and intellectual dimension to his efforts, quite often sending me into deep areas that are beyond my ken. It seems a while since we’ve received any of his published statements in the areas of electronic music, improvisation, composition or sound-art installation; at one point it seemed possible that his work dove-tailed with the Mego agenda, but I’m not sure that’s the case any longer.
Today we have an all-red record called Mut Att Narc Imm (aatp46), from the label Auf Abwegen. I mention the colour because the informational text (containing all that useless baggage like, you know, titles and credits) is printed in a shade of light orange in a 6pt font that makes it nigh-impossible to read without the aid of microscopes and infra-red glasses. 1 There’s a cover image which looks like a visual pun for a cat’s paw. Actually it seems to be a human hand clutching two Conference pears. On the record, three long tracks of baffling, inscrutable sound that is neither melodic nor rhythmic. Instead it conveys the impression of random-yet-precise movements taking place inside a strange clinical environment consisting of pieces of metal, polythene sheets, and laboratory furniture. A night in the physics lab when one of the robots got out of control and went for a walk, seizing what it may with its mechanical pincers.
Yet despite its anonymised and inhuman surfaces, there’s still something grimly compelling about these hollow, near-absurd exploits, the keening tones of ghostly banshees permeating everything around them and casting doubt on the trustworthiness of the very ground on which we stand. The record is very likely to be part of a “cycle of compositions for live performance” on which Marc Behrens has written a text, and information on his website indicates this is one long-term project that’s been underway since 2012. From November 2018.
- This is one development of digital technology I have always regretted. We seem to have surrendered clarity in communication to doing what is possible within the limits of desktop publishing. ↩