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Part 2: Chance encounters

img  Tobias Fischer

Looking back, the best part about [multer] for Neidhardt is not the idea of writing or re-writing history, but to simply be able to create something small, yet deeply meaningful:

    „The main highlight was the way we got things to work, just by ourselves. And with remarkable success. We simply felt right about it. There was a general feeling of positive energy. We need some visuals? Okay, let's just ask photographer Karsten Fähnrich. There's a festival we might be able to get into? Ok, let's send them a demo. And then, we'd actually join the festival and even earn some money we could re-  invest as funds in the end, as was the case with the Bilbo Rock. Having releases on Drone Records and Auf Abwegen, too. Inventing a way of working within a musical concept without being able to point out the concept.“

As is so often the case with incisive events, the group form completely by chance. Neidhardt's style is continually evolving and it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to operate within a conventional band context. People will generally tend to look for musicians interested in playing punk, wave or jazz – and his distinct, wilful sound doesn't lend itself to any of them. On the other hand, the urge to finally be able to play again takes over when he is asked to stand in for the guitarist of a band involving keyboarder Thomas Geiter. In order to work out the exact parts required of him, Geiter and Neidhardt meet up to transcribe the sections. Quickly, however, they are finding a plethora of similar interest and a shared sense of aesthetics. Now, their involvement in  Geiter's band doesn't seem all that interesting anymore. Whenever there is time, they will work on material of their own, which, as a conscious relief from  the endless rehearsals and tiring debates, is based on improvisation and on recording the initial moment of inspiration without relying on intellectual reflection and expensive gear.

Through a mutual friend, they establish contact with Mal Hoeschen, who seems a perfect choice for a trio constellation. Hoeschen has already gathered plenty of experience with his A.B.G.S. project, with which he has built a sizable discography and built a reputation for conceptual, installation-like performances – one of them, Bunkerbeschallung, involved him using various steel and metal objects, punching tools and barrels in an old air raid shelter. More importantly, he also owns a recording tool putting a studio-like situation at their disposal. When the trio meet for the first time, they press record on the device and simply start playing. The result of these two days, as Neidhardt puts it, is their „very own hand-made legend“: Extracts from the session will end up on their self-released LPs, two tape releases, a fully improvised open air debut gig and a contribution to Consummation, a compilation on Japanese label Creativeman Disc. The formation also quickly establish a close rapport with the community around them, putting whatever infrastructure there is to good use:

    „I think there was, even in our region, something one can certainly refer to as a scene. Surprisingly, for example, we did not have too many difficulties in finding suitable places to play at or bands and projects to share the stage with. A big help, of course, was the fact that Mal had already gathered some experience in this kind of music and got to meet Stefan Knappe of Drone Records, since he had lived in Bremen for some years. So we knew where to look.“

Cool sensuality
Thomas Köners script has certainly left its imprint on the band. One can hear the cool sensuality and glacier-like slow-motion tectonics of his ambient work on the first [multer] full-lengths in the band's way of treating precisely those parts of a composition as leitmotifs which others at the time still consider mostly a pleasant background to intellectual vernisages. At the same time, they never revert to mere reverence or imitation, rather demonstrating their relentless will to transcend anything that has come before:

    „In a way [multer] was driven by the DIY spirit of punk, by us being embarrassed about our former musical experiences and the feeling of now being also free from previous musical blueprints. And, of course, by the fact we now had nearly all the possibilities of recording without being tied to an expensive studio.“

Even the seemingly simple typography of the band name represented a statement of intent to them:

    „I always liked the idea that the brackets placed around the name are a symbol of the special space of the musical territory we are working in. And in doing so, we could far more easily tell what formed a part of that special space and what didn't fit ...“

In order to be able to realise these ideals as precisely as possible, the trio mostly decide against working with external labels, opting for complete control instead. Genesungswerk, the term constituting a sort of euphemistic self-created German term for 'hospital', will turn into their artistic home and into a laboratory allowing them to not only work withouth having to submit themselves to the deadlines, timeframes and the expectations of others, but to create the kind of multisensorial works they feel are lacking at the acme of the CD boom and standardised jewel cases. Packaging is essential to [multer], who, thanks to Thomas Geiter, are in a position of manufacturing special metal cases for their Prototype-trilogy, which consist of tapes packed in a heavy duty case with inserts, released alongside their debut LP Däghallmy. To the band, it is inconceivable to present their music with an artwork baring no relation to the music, without any kind of consistent aesthetic or underlying philosophy. Vinyl, too, is vital. Unlike other areas, where relations will soon turn sour and intense discussions are taking over, the choice of format is not really a point of contention. To this day, with a single exception, neither [multer], nor N have a CD-release to their credit.

Heading towards a breakthrough
This insistance on doing things exactly the way they wanted and without compromise sometimes borders the wilful. But it also awards a profundity and intensity to the entire [multer] catalogue, imbuing it with a sense of purity and, most of all, timelessness: From today's perspective, their comparatively concise discography, comprising five LPs and four EPs, sounds more up to date and relevant than ever. The Prototype releases, culled partially from live performances, foremost focus on gracious, amber-coloured drones described by the band as „minimal ambient“. At the same time, there is also an industrially-tinged pulse underpinning these soundscapes on pieces like „Schwarm“ - which occasionally takes the shape of mechanical stomps not quite unlike a primitive, underground version of Techno - as well as opaque field recordings, such as on „Kuehlkeller“, an audio installation at the border of dark ambient and noise. Working with the sonic characteristics of a venue and on a site-specific basis turns into an important aspect although, or precisely because, they are only rarely performing live. On Prototype 3, layers of people talking and ambient noises segue with majestic impulse drones, making it impossible to distinguish what should be considered the fore- and back-ground and whether one is listening to a carefully arranged collage or simply an unpolished concert registration. To the ensemble the album, which documents and juxtaposes two seemingly contradictory performances, perfectly sums up their ambitions: On the one hand, they are working on a subtractive aesthetic within wide-open spaces. On the other, they are contemplating the notion of movement, integrating rhythm and searching for tangents with the very world of rock, they had only just proudly left behind.

Däghallmy, published 1998, is a first concentration of these elements, a dense and extremely skilfully crafted trip through delirious dream states (four and a half minute opener „Weide“), hazy visions („Kar“) and a surprising excursion into raw, proto-metal territory („Prae-/loop“). On the twenty one minute title track, which takes up the entire b-side, the full scope of their approach is condensed into an expressive stream of thought, in which smooth, ethereal atmospheres blend with concrete object manipulations in a highly engaging and, despite a strictly limited range of colours, continually inspiring way.

Just how unique their take on the drone niche really is, is illustrated by the fact that reviews of these works will pop up in the most diverse publications, from scene-affiliated magazines like Auf Abwegen or Skug to the more electronica-oriented de:bug, indie-rock-zine Intro as well as the gothic-inspired Ikonen. The general consensus seems to be that, although still indebted to the likes of Köner, Jim O'Rourke, Glenn Branca, Ultra Milmaids or their personal favourite Main, these pieces show a great sense of arrangement and the sensitive space between the notes. On 2000's Neskt, drummer Kai-Uwe Pfeiffer joins the line-up, taking the band into a direction that is generelly perceived as a departure from their elegiac beginnings and feels more immediate, physical and intense. And indeed, the opening title tracks displays a new sense of catchiness, as well as a sexy concoction of tweeting and chirping circuit boards, sensual swells and lasciviously shuffling grooves. It is a concise release, which nonetheless manages to reach out to genres like dub and pop over the course of its short duration and sounds fresh, reinvigorated and like the product of a band at ease with itself. The time for their breakthrough seems to have come.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: [multer]
Homepage: Genesungswerk Recordings