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Part 3: Big things in the making

img  Tobias Fischer

Rather than moving forward, however, things start getting difficult. Relations between Hoeschen and Pfeiffer deteriorate, with the former eventually leaving [multer] in disillusionment. Shortly after, he's back again, when Neidhardt and Geiter decide to sack Pfeiffer instead and voice their intention to continue with the original line-up. Although the struggle has wasted a lot of the original drive and energy, the two works resulting from the reunion, Schauzeichen and Kopenhagener Deutung, are generally considered their most proficient works to date, with especially the latter raking in favourable features in big publications. And yet, they also herald the at least temporary end of [multer] as a recording unit. Neidhardt's perspective on the years that follow the confrontations is sober rather than sad and reveals how the accumulation of a plethora of tiny events can serve to cause even the speediest train to derail:   

    “Unfortunately that time was followed by a somehow strange series of personal changes with both me and Mal becoming self employed and also Gärdy (Geiter) having some obligations with regards to his job. Looking back, all of this doesn't appear to be a big thing at all. But in those days, everything in music took much longer. And in the end, the ten year-long struggle between Mal and Geiter came to a head, with Gärdy leaving the band. Since then, [multer] has been just Mal and me.“

While the gradual disbanding of [multer] deprived Neidhardt of his main vehicle for creative expression, it also opened up new opportunities for coming up with entirely different materials. Already in 2001, something unforeseen had happened, when Neidhardt and Mal Hoeschen, under his Segment alias, released a collaborational two-track 7inch called Karnap. Despite its brief length of just under a quarter of an hour, it demonstrated that not only did the two constitute a formidable creative axis, which could keep the band going for at least a while, but that they could also work on their own devices and without the formal and at times stifling structures of the ensemble. For [multer], the time between 2001 and 2003 was one of waiting for the formation to fully reform and get into gear again, which would be only sparsely filled with a short release on Drone Records and another 7inch of old material on Genesungswerk. And so, N as Neidhardt's solo project evolved quite organically from this fragmentary band constellation and from simply spending time working on a plethora of ideas in the solitude of his home studio.

New opportunities
Already within [multer], Neidhardt had acted somewhat as a mediator and link between its members. First, he would work on basic ideas with Geiter through long rounds of discussions, the exchange of concepts as well as experimentation as a result of which they would either end up with, usually, loose parts or, occasionally, complete tracks. After that, he would dive into post-production with Hoeschen, further treating these recordings by adding field-recordings to them, subjecting them to filtering operations as well as cutting and pasting a variety of elements into their DNA. Depending on the quality of both the material and the production, these recordings then ended up representing sketches, which, for the final album, had to be re-recorded – or, if quality permitted, as part of a finalised studio track. In yet other cases, the tracks were overdubbed with further recordings or developed through various live appearances. And yet, in those preparatory stages, Neidhardt would discover that, when layering track upon track, he would actually arrive at musical structures which at least sometimes worked on their own and felt perfectly „finished“. Some of these pieces would find their way to [multer] albums in the form of background drones, providing for a sense of depth and plasticity. As the band started to become less and less capable of coming up with tangible results, however, they were increasingly beginning to look like the real thing.

Again chance played an essential part in the process which would result in the N debut Bergen. As far back as 1998, Hoeschen had recorded a [multer] session without Neidhardt's knowledge. Just as he used to do as a teenager working with less experimentally inclined friends, Neidhardt had inserted a long meditative ambient interlude in between two of these compositions in order not to disrupt the trance that had built up over the course of their work - it was a magical moment of things falling into place almost on their own accord. When he found out about the existence of the tape and re-listened to the music as an outsider a long time after the act, the piece suddenly suggested itself as exactly the kind of work that could constitute the basis for a solo album. And so the process of recording his first full-length began, opening up a new chapter in his career.

The album would also serve as the introduction to a series of releases all pertaining to a virtual topography and laying out an emotional map of places catering to a deeply personal romantic inclination. Bergen presented the audience with a day at the small Dutch coastal town of Bergen aan Zee, illustrating its „Seeregen“ („Searain“) and „Reibsand“, („Abrasive sand“) as well as associations conjured by its bewildering beauty (as objectified by terms like „Rauschbogen“ - „Intoxication-arch“). Against expectation, the album didn't simply capture the carefree and hazy mood of the resort, but rather seemed intent on displaying its darker side, similar to how a director like David Lynch dug out the demonic forces of the picture-perfect suburban world of middle class America in Twin Peaks and brought them to the daylight in all their rotten glory. As such, the journey seems to take place on an off-season day, the clinker stone streets liberated of the busy footsteps of tourists, the cafes void of visitors, the beaches stretching out sadly onto an empty horizon – it would be hard to imagine a more solitary and unreal place than this. One can easily imagine Neidhardt spending the days walking through these empty streets with his guitar in his hand, occasionally sitting down on a low wall to strum a couple of chords while gazing out into the grey-horizoned distance.

Accordingly, the music is moving at a snail's pace, never without beauty, yet always forebodingly smacking of danger. The canvas, too, is all but empty, covered with nothing but a few solitary streaks of black and grayish blue: Two-part „Loemern“ is mostly monophonic and a full three of the pieces here mostly consist of little more than seemingly unvaried repetitions of basic intervals, two solitary notes looping themselves into a trance. At the same time, however, there is a distinct sense of breath and pulsation, with the music occasionally sinking into a slumber and then re-awakening again, further deepening the pervasive sense of an otherworldy meditation. The prevailing notion of ominous forces being at play is symbolised by the continuous presence of sharp, piercing feedback, clustered, especially on closing quarter of an hour long „Bergen See“, into dense clouds of both harmonic and dissonant tonalities. But darkness is always kept at bay, forever remaining just underneath the threshold of physical pain – only to be, in the quiet finale, resolved into a gentle, almost cosmic coda, as though the protagonist were gazing into the starlit sky lying on his back in the sand, drifting away on a dream and the sweet stupor of red wine to a place outside of human reach.

The impressionist tendency of the material is not a hoax – the album's pure drone-aesthetics are to be understood as an honest invitation for immersion, a mental projection screen for inner images kindled by the music as well as a gateway into a continuously growing galaxy of pieces all relating to each other. Ever since, each new N-opus has been numbered in an ongoing series. The relationship between image, narrative, nature and music is a powerfully symbiotic one, each layer feeding from the others and investing back into the overall experience. It is not a typically flashy beginning. But for those with sensitive ears, Bergen suggested bigger things were in the making.

By Tobias Fischer

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Homepage: Genesungswerk Recordings
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