Wolfgang Voigt's legend is made of very sturdy stuff—moving beyond the unimpeachable quality of his late '90s/early '00s GAS albums, recently reissued as the Nah und Fern box, Voigt's minimal techno productions from the '90s chased an increasingly more diffuse, abstract end for the genre. Listening through the records he released in this period, under names like Mike Ink, Studio 1, M:I:5, Wassermann, Grungerman, All and Freiland, you can hear Voigt unshackling minimal from its grid and tinkering with its parameters, shunting the brutal thud of four-to-the-floor to one side and turning in techno productions that were closer to moiré patterns. The most extreme, and often the best of these records were released on Profan, which went into temporary hibernation in 2000 while Voigt and his partners re-branded German techno under the sign of Kompakt.
Voigt's chosen an interesting time to return to action, with minimal going through one of its periodic crises of confidence, the prosecution arguing that the genre's disappeared up its own fundament. And Freiland Klaviermusik is certainly minimal in one sense—"Kammer" ("Chamber"), its opening (and best) track, assembles itself around an unyielding, repressive and dull kick that's offset by an equally unyielding and repressive, low piano note. For the rest of the track, Voigt throws deliberately ungainly phrases against this structure, their patterning so abstruse as to throw your centre of balance. This is closer to twelve-tone serialism, in some respects, than minimal, and word has it Voigt was influenced here by Conlon Nancarrow, a classical composer. Nancarrow's not a serialist, but his player piano pieces are so boggling and out-of-orbit that he pretty much designed, crowned and crushed his own micro-genre.
Nancarrow's pieces tended to work at a furious clip—his work's sometimes called "impossible music," as it's often simply out of the reach of human capabilities. With the five tracks on Freiland Klaviermusik, Voigt's not gone that far, but sometimes you wish he had—most of the studies on the B-side are slight and undeveloped, and only the maddening repetitions of "Schweres Wasser" ("Heavy Water") are compelling. (More than Nancarrow, this stuff can feel like a greatly simplified version of some of Ligeti's piano studies.) The piano sound's quite plastic, too, which doesn't help things particularly. It's an interesting diversion for Voigt, and as his first solo release in at least half a decade, it's an admirably confusing—and, one suspects, confused—statement. But "Kammer" aside, its use value is pretty low, and this new approach needs more refinement and compositional savvy.
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Tracklist: Wolfgang Voigt - Freiland KlaviermusikA Kammer
B2 Schweres Wasser
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