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CD Feature/ Mirko Uhlig: "The Nightmiller"

img  Tobias

It is ironic to say the least that Mirko Uhlig's intentions seem to have been more readily understood when he was still releasing under his eccentric Aalfang mit Pferdekopf moniker. Back then, the joyful juxtaposition of divergent elements resulted in a kaleidoscopic collagerie which paid obvious tribute to the krauty side of Nurse with Wound and the monolithic coolness of Organum - and while it was magic to some, it didn't even qualify as music to others. Now he has retreated to his nom de passport, Uhlig has exchanged the naive bewilderment of experimental bricolage with the pursuit of pure beauty and there is suddenly confusion as to his motives: Are these silent outbursts of refined romanticism intended as some sort of clever commentary on the Drone genre, as a neo-conservative return to proven values or part of something different altogether?

Looking back, Uhlig's first two solo albums under his civilian name are to blame for this calamity. And yet, they also paved the way for what surely now looks like an exciting and sustainable artistic career. If „VIVMMI“ promised a bright new world, which solipsistically combined the aleatory techniques of early AmP oeuvres like "Ich habe nur noch 12 Seepferdchen in meinem Tempel" with the serene flow of later works like „Fragment 36“, then it was spontaneously blown to pieces by the brutal boulder dash of „Storm: Outside Calm Tamed“, a stupendous sonic self-laceration which redefined terms like noise and repetitivity. The impact of this ruthless tour de fource can still be sensed in reviews of his work today, which seem puzzled as to which direction Uhlig is headed for. But it also meant that his oeuvre contained a fertile inbuilt tension as a seed of infinite possibilities.

If he has therefore decided not to go to extremes on his latest full-length, this is by no means proof of backtracking. Rather, it simply implies that Uhlig's interests have shifted and that he feels no obligation and need whatsoever of ignoring them. „The Nightmiller“ is his softest and most sensual album to date, a three-part flying carpet-ride composed of the fleeting figments and humming remnants of peaceful acoustic Guitar melodies and simple, evocative chord schemes sketched over a two year period. No sudden surprises interrupt the flow, no detonations burst into the fragile void, all is gentle undulation and loving comfort. „Music for staring. Music before a decampment. For erasing the sense of guilt while doing nothing but a wooden waiting“, as Uhlig bares his intentions. But it is also: Deeply optimistic music, music of trust and happiness by an artist who wants to share.

The dream-like quality of this message is underlined by the pointed brevity of its sonic representation. In just 36 minutes, „The Nightmiller“ passes by like a slow, muffled night train, a heat-blurred vision rather than a tangible collection of tracks. The deep swell of introductory „The Archon Star“ all but imperceptibly melts into „Wooden Waiting“, whose oneirically pulsating foundation of two long organ points is being caressed by glassy, feedback-like harmonics. Composition translates to full immersion here, as Uhlig brings out the potential of his material by constantly fine-tuning dynamics, filter settings, timbres and textural density and carefully shuffling his elements to arrive at a solemnly breathing piece of great calm. The closing title track counterpoints this oblique fuzziness by playing harmonic backwards loops against each other until their rhythmic motion is all but cancelled out, the slate wiped clean and there is space for an entirely new scenario of metallic raspings and a canon of sound sheets to develop.

By eradicating all but the essential and staying true to a small but strong selection of themes, „The Nightmiller“ manages to fuse emotional ambition and inventive arrangements without forcing itself upon the listener. If this inherent freedom is mistaken for a shallow variation of the Ambient concept, then so be it. But at the true heart of this album lies an important realisation, which ardently defies its use as background muzak: Making a musical statement of lasting value amidst the confusing blabber of 21st century life requires less, not more notes.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Mirko Uhlig
Homepage: Mirko Uhlig at MySpace
Homepage: Mystery Sea Records

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