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CD Feature/ N.Strahl.N: "Äthernarkose"

img  Tobias
It’s impossible to keep up with Mario Löhr. The man behind N.Strahl.N has churned out a relentless flow of releases over the past two years, his music growing ever more refined and associative: Just you thought you could pin him down to a particular style or genre, he had already moved on. His 3’’-trilogy, focussing on the impact of mass media on contemporary culture and society, has however constituted an oasis of continuity, offering a clear picture of his methods, aesthetics and inspirations. Even though “Äthernarkose” now brings the series to a close, it will therefore remain a reference point for the future, against which upcoming releases can be gauged and evaluated.

While “Zeitpapier” emphasised the collage-like character of the N.Strahl.N cosmos and “Mindscreen” built a deep, floating soundscape, “Äthernarkose” marks a self-proclaimed return to the Industrial roots of the project. With Löhr, on the other hand, this term has always been closely tied to the true meaning of the word. Instead of implying noise and racket, his take on the genre has dealt with the unsteady rhythms of fully automated machines, the sacred ambiances of unholy factory spaces, the sensuous allure of cold steel and the bewildering familarity of entirely inhuman sounds.

Because Löhr has always regarded these parameters as starting points rather than goals in their own right, “Äthernarkose” has turned out a work which feels old-school in its somber sound design and sceptical political outlook, but bridges the gap into mesmerising new possibilities. Over the duration of 22 minutes, he creates a wordless radio play of scrambled frequencies, recorded voices, mournful strings, white noise moulded into harmonies and random crackles sculpted into unsteady grooves. A single track divided into eight subsections, the music changes quickly, moving in and out of plastically transparent scenes and creating a powerful pull.

There is therefore never much time to revel in the details of a particular passage. Contrasted against “Mindscreen”, especially, which appeared to zoom in on a concisely dircumscribed mood with scanning-electron-micographic precision and to then carve into it meticulously, minutely and with an unfaltering patience, “Äthernarkose” at first seems slightly restless, as segments quickly take turns. The impression wanes as the piece develops and the pulse of change becomes an object of fascination. Of course, N.Strahl.N could have stretched the composition to twice its length without even once boring his audience, but he would have risked sacrificing its halucinatory density.

That is, after all, what “Äthernarkose” is all about: Feeding the listener a delicious slice of delirious code, a trojan-horsed statement of defiance. The framerate mimics the highspeed undulation running through all media in the 21st century, while the music, with its unadjusted rawness and surprising bouts of beauty where no one would have expected them, softly screams in the face of a loss of meaning and an increasing sense of indifference to the growing frequential pollution.

As such, this EP not only serves as a summary of a trilogy which thoroughly deserves to be re-released as a full-length CD, but also as an excellent overview of everything Löhr stands for, regardless of how quickly he will allow his oeuvre to proliferate.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: N.Strahl.N
Homepage: N.Strahl.N at MySpace

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