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CD Feature/ Asmus Tietchens: "h-Menge"

img  Tobias

It would be wrong to conclude from some critical writings Asmus Tietchens has done for German magazine „Auf Abwegen“ that he holds an ambivalent stance towards drones. Over the years, he has not only repeatedly used them in his work, but even been instrumental in embedding them firmly in experimental electronic music in general. „h-Menge“ is a striking display of his deep grasp of the many different ways in which they can complement existing sounds or constitute compositions in their own right.

It is true, however, that Tietchens has not stood by idly when the term has been abused to camouflage insubstantial tracks as high forms of art. On „h-Menge“, too, drones are never just a cheap excuse for letting the machines rattle on while going for a fresh cup of coffee. Instead, it is a subtly active and subliminally dynamic album, which builds moods through the backdoor of unexpected associations between different classes of sound, through symbiotic contrasts and through the effective use of silence and near-silence.

Opener „Teilmenge 43A“ sets the tone for the entire record. A sharp, inwardly distorted bleeping sound jumps straight into your face, runs through a short melodic scale and fades out into the fade-in of an approaching atmosphere. This background zone at first has nothing but spatial characteristics, spanning a space for discreetly hissing microtonal developments and sudden outbursts of bass-heavy tonal hickups. Gradually, however, it expands and releases its energy, growing in tension and harmonic richness, focussing attention in a free but strictly confined territory.

Just as on his recent collaboration with Richard Chartier, Asmus Tietchens makes great use of the simultaneously opposing and mutually supportive qualities of oblique drones and surgically precise sound incisions. „h-Menge“ takes a step further in this respect by bringing the latter to the fore and dovetailing them into patterns of surrealist intensity. Strictly speaking, there are no traditional motives or themes on the album, but Tietchens lights his elements in such a way that they take on melodic functions, combining them into rhythms or bringing out their vocal potential.

What sets this effort apart is its unashamed emotionality. After the dark magnetism of the opening half of the album has passed, „Teilmenge 44A“ suddenly flirts with a shower of gentle raindrops against a warm pulse. And closing track „Teilmenge 48“ uses ripped-apart piano chords and billowing pads to great effect, building up a sensous ambiance inside the void and almost sounding like a consoling nightmare vision of dub at times.

In these instances, Tietchens is very close to the cotton-like softness of some of the records he seems to despise, but his drones always seaze the earliest chance to jump off their self-indulgent routine to make way for something new.

Everything must come to an end and previous reviews have already shown slight signs of fatigue with regards to the „Mengen“-series. And yet, after „h-Menge“, which has been announced as the final installment, there are plenty of starting points for it to go on. The album catches a certain vibe, a particular humaneness about its analytical process and turns it into a work, which comes close to the listener in many different ways. It is not the happy end Hollywood would have devised and yet it is full of sentimentality. With everything in his oeuvre carefully planned, you can be sure Asmus Tietchens didn't want it any other way.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Asmus Tietchens
Homepage: Line Records

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