Marc Richter, MM∞XX (Vol. 1 & 2), Germany, Cellule 75, CELL-8 double CD set (2022)
When much of the world was under COVID-19 lockdown during 2020 and much of 2021, many musicians responded by using the sudden free time to compose and record new work, often revisiting past archived work for inspiration, or reaching out to others through various digital music platforms and other means to collaborate in ways they’d never done before. Some of these efforts have already been reviewed here at TSP. Hamburg-based musician Marc Richter, the man behind sound art project Black to Comm, and not to be confused with the German football player Marc Richter or the German actor Marc Richter (star of the 1996 flick “Killer Condom”), did something else few might have expected, though on second thought they’d have gone “Why didn’t I think of that myself?!” – he reached out to former music collaborators and friends to recreate a social life and among other things asked them to post short and previously unused sound recordings to create a collaborative music piece. Thirty-three artists – among them Jan Anderzén (Kemialliset Ystävät), Neil Cambpell (Vibracathedral Orchestra), François Bonnet (Kassel Jaeger), Felix Kubin, Maja Ratkje and Richard Youngs – sent offerings which Richter put into evolving compositions that he then published and performed in different versions, formats and mixes over 2021, finally presenting them at the lockdown versions of Rewire and Papiripar Festival in 2021. These recordings have now been compiled into a double CD set, mastered by Rashad Becker, and released on Richter’s label Cellule 75 with Turkish-born German artist Bora Baskan’s paintings on the cover sleeve.
There’s no use trying to figure out which artist might have contributed what piece to which of the 21 chapters on this release – obviously some pieces are going to have two, three or more different contributions – so sit or lie back and let this music take you into a world that no individual artist featured here, including Richter himself, could have ushered you into on his or her own. Most tracks here are short with just two tracks going beyond the six-minute mark and one of the two extending as far as twelve minutes in length: this is “Chapter Two”, a droning piece floating up and down, passing from organ to treated guitar and back, while in the background a child complains, water runs from a faucet and a motor putters away unobtrusively.
Some pieces, like “Chapter Three”, turn out to be beautiful little works that you wish could go on forever and ever, and others can be hilariously comic in the way they deliberately juxtapose two or more completely contrary samples of music, as in “Chapter Four” which jams together a po-faced church organ drone with droning doom metal guitar, a shrill lathe and various rubbery effects and licks. “Chapter Six” is a drunken piece of wavering drone that manages to get safely through a labyrinth of noises and effects hurled at it. Beguiling tones played on a buzuq (a long-necked lute from the eastern Mediterranean / Levantine region) wail and shimmer under a heavy haze of field recordings on “Chapter Nine”. Then there are pieces that can be quite dark, even a little bit sinister though leavened with other, lighter sampled music, like “Chapter Fifteen”.
To be honest, I think a lot of this music might have worked better if several tracks had been joined up rather than left as short little pieces which give an impression of being unfinished. What other wonders lie within these little sound universes, if they had been allowed to join and merge their treasures and secrets? Apart from this gripe, this double set is an interesting and energetic compilation of collages ranging from beautiful, often beguiling and sublime to amusingly comic and ridiculous.