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Lasse-Marc Riek: Islands of Acoustic Victims

img  Tobias

Amrum, along with Rügen, is part of Germany's beam of small to medium-sized islands in the Baltic Sea and has almost turned into a synonym for the archipelago. It calls itself „the island of freedom“ - which may not always seem like an apt description when you're hanging out on one of its crowded beaches, but very much so off-season and as you move upcountry. Poel, meanwhile, has long remained an insider-tip, but as economic worries have hit households across the country, spending your holiday „at home“ has become ever more popular – and there could hardly be a place more suitable for truly relaxing and ensuring enjoyment for the entire family than this. For entire generations of Germans, in fact, the islands have become part of their DNA. „I spent a huge part of my youth at sea and on the islands embedded into it“, Riek confirms, „My senses have always been pointed towards this habitat and their activity has created an urge inside of me. So you could say that an entire chapter of my boyhood is burried in the sands and dunes of Northern Germany“.

From personal experience, most readers will readily testify that childhood memories do not always stand up to intellectual scrutiny later in life. But as Riek invested more and more time into his research, his fascination for the beauty of the islands only intensified. Over the course of several years, he built two seperate sound archives for Amrum and Poel, collecting noises from both to discern their unique characteristics as well as their similiarities. Still, scientific anlysis was far from his mind. As a field recorder, the main question was to find out which factors prompted him to record a particular source, store it and to process it at a later stage. Subjectivity, anway, was inavoidable, as his dual duty of an active listener/perceptive entity and Phonographer was always bound to result in highly personal decisions.

In fact, subjectivity played an essential role in awarding the music a creative value next to their obvious documentational functionality. „My intention was to arrange both succinct and abstract sound worlds and signals of both islands into artistic harmony while using wind as a sidetheme“, Riek says, „Creating an acoustically interesting overall impression should definitely be part of that aim“. It certainly is. Next to both idyllic and roughly edged scenes featuring drone clouds of birds and the tranquil mooing of peacefully grazing cows, track number six comprises an enigmatic sequence of rhythmical pats, which sounds like someone knocking on wood for four and a half minutes. A glance into the liner notes reveals it to be the sound of a flagpole, which Riek has taped with utmost concentration.

As on previous releases, especially those published on Gruenrekorder, the Frankfurt-based record label he runs together with Roland Etzin, carefully selected photographs from Amrum and Poel have been included in the booklet as well. „They help in describing the rather abstract audio spaces in more detail. That's what I'm mainly concerned with: Sparking an interest in listeners and to maybe create a dialogue with a landscape I'm scetching.“ The reason he is succeeding in that aim is that he has preserved his naive curiosity well into adulthood and because his work, which has been published all over the world, is open in many directions.

One of his other projects, Giesela, for example, sees him switch gender and take on the role of a woman whose full CV is available on the web. „In 1951 she saw the light of day in a small village in Northern Germany“, the Gielela biography begins, „She grew up with her older sister and led a sheltered life. Giesela was a small girl. The chair with the most pillows lying on it was the place where she would be found.“ As part of the project, Riek will release seven individual discs in several formats, all based upon different colours and dealing with field recordings and sound art, but transforming their sources into refined and mysterious ambiances. „Altocumulus“, the opening track of third album „schwarz“ („black“) is a perfect example. Opening with discreet microsounds and footsteps, loose noises are gradually condensed into a menacing piece of dark ambient. „Stratocumulus“, on the other hand, is a shimering diamond of spectral light and ethereal drones, billowing out into a softly cushioned ether.

Despite the regular acclaim his oeuvre and activities (including the founding of the Association for the advancement of Phonography and Experimental Music last year) are garnering, it has not translated into huge print runs. As long as his work is still drawn from life and as long as it is possible for him to continue persuing his ambitions, Riek is not overly worried: „What we can do to alleviate the situation is to build networks and to uncover new options. It will definitely remain a small nice of beauty and ugliness. Independent!“ After some time, he has even found a way of pressing play in the right moment when visiting Amrum and Poel: „I've started deciding beforehand whether a trip was to be considered 'professional' or 'leisure'. That way, there won't be any acoustic victims any more.“

Image by Lasse-Marc Riek taken at Amrum.

Field recordings of Amrum and Poel have been compiled into „Islands“ on Oem Records. „Schwarz“ by Giesela is available from Japanese imprint TWOLINES.

Homepage: Lasse-Marc Riek
Homepage: Oem Records
Homepage: TWOLINES Records

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