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Pleq: Good Night

img  Tobias Fischer

In artistic terms, remix-collections are tricky affairs. Even if the underlying intentions are pure, the respective styles of the artists match and their take on the original turns out to be respectful, inspired or, ideally, both, they almost by default end up being mere selections of loose tracks rather than coherent albums. Various producers have tried avoiding the issue by either commissioning the remix-disc in sync with the regular album, thereby interlocking the two and forging an inseparable unit, or by having an entire full-length remixed rather than merely a few random pieces. And yet, neither of these strategies actually resolved the inherent problem of attaining a truly organic quality. In the late 1990's,  Austrian downtempo duo Tosca finally came up with a seemingly paradoxical, yet strangely convincing proposition. On the face of it, Fuck Dub and Chocolate Elvis Dub were standard remix albums collecting contributions by a wide variety of producers. The decisive knack consisted in the fact that both took on no more than one song, which they would re-interpret from a plethora of angles. In doing so, these works transcended their functional aspect and grew into  showcases for the trade of remixing itself, offering a glimpse into the procedures applied to transform a piece of art into something new and documenting the pathway of inspiration, as it passes from one creative mind to another.

At the same time, as a result of their monothematical program, both Fuck Dub and Chocolate Elvis Dub bordered the obsessive – which may have contributed to Richard Dorfmeister and Rupert Huber never again returning to the idea for the ensuing decade of their career. On Good Night, meanwhile,  Polish Sound Artist Bartosz Dziadosz has not just picked up a concept strikingly similar to theirs, but taken the notion to an entirely new level. Outwardly, this EP featuring a cut from Dziadosz's upcoming full-length Ballet Mechanic as well as three re-imaginings from befriended and respected colleagues, is a nice, yet unspectacular CD single. The artists included here have obviously been chosen with an ear both for their mutual compatibility on the one hand as well as their finely nuanced personalities on the other, ranging from offthesky's ecomorphic soundscapes and the deep, yearning ambient of Pjusk to the refined blend of ultraprecise sonic explorations and emotive storytelling by Philippe Lamy. Their versions never merely loot Dziadosz's material for attractive samples, but actually acknowledge their presence by openly building their own contribution around his main themes. Accordingly, the stripped-down piano sequence serving as the Leitmotif  rears its head on all four pieces included here. And even when, as on Lamy's edit, it has been edited to the back of the mix, it nonetheless turns into the focal point – awarding the release an air of inner coherency. And yet, appreciating the hidden depths of the release requires repeat listens.

Central to the unfolding of the EP is, of course, the original Pleq arrangement of „Good Night“. One of the most fragile, tender and minimal pieces imaginable,  the long opening section of the piece, taking up more than half the duration of the entire track, hinges on nothing but a deep-blue bass drone on the tonic of B, a swelling, ethereal upper-register pad, some scraping and crackling micronoise-loops as well a piano playing the note c# with utmost delicacy. Despite their essentially static nature, these four elements are interlocking in an almost rhythmical way, with each theme being assigned a clearly delineated role in the overall architecture of the composition. At the same time, the perfect harmony of this relationship marks the music as ambient in the true meaning of the word, as promising immersion, inviting meditation and emphasising floating qualities over moments of tension and suspense.

A change occurs almost exactly at the five-minute mark: A single, brilliant and crystalline piano note is added to the equation. Seemingly trivial at first, the event shifts the entire balance of the track. The formerly stoic c#, repeated like the pulse in a Steve Reich piece, is suddenly awarded a sensitive and lyrical character and a pronounced sense of direction. At the same time, the mood segues from a womb-like state of comfort and calm to hope and quiet anticipation, as though something quite inexplicable, wonderful and joyful were just about to happen. And so it goes, the music simply continuing without the need for any further development or additional elements, peacefully drifting towards the end before slowly fizzling out. As Wynton Marsalis once pointed out, few things are as hard in music as simultaneously attaining fragility and intensity and nothing as hard as sustaining that intensity over an extended period of time – and „Good Night“ manages to achieve both.

Since Dziadosz already attained the golden cut in terms of balance and dynamics, the other artists were implicitly forced to either underbid the achievement in terms of sparsity or take it into an entirely new realm. All three have opted for the latter: Norwegian duo Pjusk split the molecular structure of the music into a more clearly discernible fore- and background, with some of the formerly all but unnoticeable clicks and cuts opening up a deep, cavernous resonance and the thematic leads now acting as a harmonic backdrop to an anthemic guitar-theme. Jason Corder (offthesky), meanwhile, opens his eight-minute endeavour with a mystical and cleansing electronic thunderstorm, perhaps as a silent tribute to the life-changing experience of attending a Plastikman-gig in the middle of the "woods somewhere in the west". The remainder of the track, however, pits a softly revolving piano loop against cushioned bass vibrations, evoking, albeit with alternative means, the same sense of warmth and inner concentration of the original. Lamy's approach is certainly the most radical of the trio, with the rhythmical loops being purified into subtle data transmissions, as though the music were being picked up by the central intelligence unit aboard the USS Sulako. And yet, he, too, integrates the original into his piece, traces of the melody appearing at strategic moments and acting as conceptual glue between a sphere of abstractions and highly emotional traditions.

Intriguingly, when listened to back to back, these pieces neither feel like a collection of loose tracks nor merely, as the press release claims, „a real progression“ in terms of ambiance. By making use of a shared pool of motives and then setting out to develop them, the work rather has the air of a large-structure classical composition, in which themes are passed from one instrumental section to another and from one timbral group to the next. Good Night is not just an appetizer to the upcoming Pleq full-length, it is a self-contained journey in its own right. This, of course, is not something that can be planned in advance. Instead, it is one of those happy coincidences that occasionally turn life as a musician into a pleasure.

The perfectly balanced minimalism on display here is an immediate result of Dziadosz doing little more but sustain a fragile sense of wonder: He may not be playing a lot of notes, but they are certainly the right ones.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Pleq
Homepage: Basses Frequences Records

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