Releases of the Month

November/December 2023

15 December, 2023 | Kristoffer Cornils

Jemand hält eine Schalplatte von CC Hennix in die Kamera, im Hintergrund verschneite Berliner Stadtlandschaft.
©Kristoffer Cornils

In recent years, Catherine Christer Hennix was occasionally spotted wearing a T-shirt bearing the words »Only visiting this place.« After three quarters of a century, her staycation is over: the composer died in Istanbul on the 17th of November. Hennix, who was also active as a poet, philosopher and mathematician, left behind what at first glance appears to be a small oeuvre, at least when measured in terms of recordings of her works. However, appearances are deceptive: she described her approach as »infinitary composition,« which incorporated both mathematical and spiritual ideas, for a reason.

How this decidedly expansive concept was translated into sound could be heard in recent years, particularly on releases such as »Solo for Two Tamburas« for the Berlin label Care Of Editions or, as recently as this autumn, on »Solo for Tamburium« for Blank Form Editions. The Stockhausen adaptation »Unbegrenzt« and the compilation »Selected Early Keyboard Works« have been released by the latter label in recent years along with further archive recordings by the composer, who has recently also been active with numerous Berlin artists in projects such as Chora(s)san Time-Court Mirage or Born Of Six, and who also teamed up with Hans Isgren and Peter Hennix under the name The Deontic Miracle.

Hennix thus leaves behind a body of work whose breadth and depth can hardly be measured. It should definitely be explored, even if her visit to this planet has now ended after a short 75 years. The following releases offer even more material for the ear and mind—a comprehensive showcase of records by artists working primarily in Berlin that were released during the months of November and December, and which field notes editor Kristoffer Cornils has compiled for the end of the year with a slight delay since there was a new issue of the magazine to produce.

We hope you enjoy this and the upcoming January/February issue of field notes and wish all our readers all the best for the new year.

Ale Hop – Ruinas Arqueológicas (SUPERPANG, digital) / Radical Archaeologies: Unearthing Lima’s Sonic and Poetic Landscapes (Norient, digital)

Alejandra Cárdenas attracted attention with two releases this month, and there seems to be a certain connection between the two - at least that's what the titles suggest. »Ruinas Arqueológicas« for the Italian label SUPERPANG features electronic compositions by Cárdenas, recorded last summer at Willem Twee Studios in the Netherlands. The focus on the interaction of sound and rhythm, which has always been a clear focus in her work, is more pronounced than ever. The Berlin-based artist also produced »Radical Archaeologies: Unearthing Lima​’​s Sonic and Poetic Landscapes« as part of the TIMEZONES podcast programmed by Norient and the Goethe-Institut. The episode, which she designed with great care, offers historical insights into the underground scene in the Peruvian capital Lima.

Andrea Burelli – Sonic Mystics for Poems (of Life and Death of a Phoenix) (DIY, LP/CD/digital)

Andrea Burelli combines many different roles in one person: the Berlin-based artist is a lyricist, composer, musician and singer all rolled into one. For her self-released album »Sonic Mystics for Poems (of Life and Death of a Phoenix),« she enlisted the help of Mari Sawada (violin) and Sophie Notte (cello) from the Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop to set the musical scene for her texts. The result is as versatile as she herself: Art song meets contemporary music meets pop meets electronic sounds.

Beam Splitter + Eivind Lønning & Espen Reinertsen – Beauties (Neither/Nor, CD/digital)

A few years ago, the Berlin duo Beam Splitter, consisting of vocal artist Audrey Chen and experimental trumpeter Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø, teamed up with Eivind Lønning on trumpet and Espen Reinertsen on tenor saxophone. For »Beauties,«, the double duo polylogised at various locations in a house using close miking and headsets for improvisations enhanced by electronics, two of which are presented here. The end result sounds tense, almost claustrophobic.

Eric Bauer & Carina Khorkhordina – Eric Bauer & Carina Khorkhordina (Zoomin’ Night, MC/digital)

Percussionist Eric Bauer and trumpeter Carina Khorkhordina recorded their self-titled album nearby, but the recordings of their site-specific performances at (and in) Groß Glienicker See, Mercedes Platz, Drontheimer Straße and Nasses Dreieck were released in China via Zhu Wenbo's ever-reliable Zoomin' Nights label. The album then also creates the appearance of a distance in a Benjaminian sense: they are auratic through and through.

Jan Gerdes – Songs and Improvisations (XJAZZMUSIC, LP/CD/digital)

A title like »Songs and Improvisations« sums up what can be expected from the new album by Berlin pianist Jan Gerdes, but that is by no means all there is to say about the LP and CD released via XJAZZMUSIC (the vinyl version unfortunately has three tracks less). The musician, who is both active as an interpreter and mediator between classical music, jazz and contemporary approaches, allows his various influences to resonate gently with one another and demonstrates a light touch, even in the most formal moments. There is something introspective about these songs and improvisations, but at the same time they are full of irrepressible vitality.

John Eckhardt – PALAEODUBFOLK (DIY, MC-Box-Set/digital)

Volumes could probably be written about the title of bass maverick John Eckhardt's new album alone, and what is contained in »PALAEODUBFOLK« is no less multi-layered and polysemic. The twelve recordings, which are as formal as they are free-form—a tramp organ, flutes, a harpeleik zither and a mbira are among the instruments used—are accompanied by 14 postcards from a photo project that resonantes with the music, although the MC box set also contains a bluish stone—or rather, a lump of slag from Swedish soil. It is a stimulating multi-media project that Eckhardt offers here.

Jules Reidy – Trances (Shelter Press, LP/CD/digital)

Jules Reidy has been expanding the tonal and tonal qualities of the guitar and their own voice for years. »Trances« on the French label Shelter Press, however, goes one step further than previous releases, including most recently the LP »World in World« for Black Truffle: the notes of the guitar, tuned according to just intonation, seem to wander unbound through space, flanked by heavily electronically processed chords and/or manipulated field recordings as well as Reidy's vocals, which have also been transmogrified by the use of autotune. All in all, this album rightly bears its title.

Limpe Fuchs – Alloa (Ana Ott, LP/digital)

If Limpe Fuchs didn't exist, someone would have to invent her urgently. But could anyone with the necessary imagination be found? Either way, with »Alloa«Fuchs presents an album on which, contrary to the title (Bavarian dialect for »Alone«), she is not entirely alone—Pit Holzapfel plays trombone on one track and Georg Trakl and Gertrude Stein are indirectly represented here because Fuchs works with their texts. And is Fuchs ever really alone if she can make the air vibrate? »Alloa« is as versatile and unpredictable as she is. This wildly colourful potpourri of sounds could hardly have been dreamed up by anyone.

Lucy Railton – Corner Dancer (Modern Love, LP/digital)

Berlin-based performer and composer Lucy Railton has been expanding the sonic potential of her instrument for some time now. On »Corner Dancer,« in addition to the cello, she works with the viella, the Roland TR-808 drum machine, a Buchla synthesiser and her own voice. As large as the range of instruments may be, the pieces remain reduced and focussed: even in its loudest, most distorted moments, this album proves that on a compositional level, less is always more when it is properly staged. A late contender for the album of the year.

modernlove · Lucy Railton- Blush Study

Manfred Miersch – subharmonisch. 8 Stücke für Mixtur-Trautonium, Subharchord und var-Q-lator (Krautopia, CD/digital)

The musician and composer Manfred Miersch, a trained theremist among other things, is a mediator between the electronic avant-garde and its successor generation, between the visions of Karlheinz Stockhausen and the cosmic krautrock of Berlin provenance. »subharmonisch. 8 Stücke für Mixtur-Trautonium, Subharchord und var-Q-lator« was created as a production of the Studio für Elektroakustische Musik at the Akademie der Künste and, as the title suggests, focusses on electronic instruments that enabled him to work with undertones. Miersch has a long history with the Subharchord in particular, and his knowledge of the functionality and potential of devices that have been rather neglected by music history—only the var-Q-lator, designed by Hajo Wiechers as a Subharchord alternative, is brand new—is audible: his interest in drones and loops is expressed in free-flowing pieces that do not shy away from the integration of noise and errors into the live mix. The result is a unique album in terms of both sound and composition (not to say improvisation).

Marta de Pascalis – Sky Flesh (light-years, LP/digital)

Marta de Pascalis used just one synthesiser for »Sky Flesh« on Caterina Barbieri's light-years label: the Yamaha CS-60 is something like the little sibling of the CS-80, on which the »Blade Runner« soundtrack was once written. The Berlin-based composer plays the instrument in an almost liturgical manner: these ten pieces are formal, hymnal and yet always close to ecstasy, fortunately never attempting to evoke retro charm. This is the sound of a present that is constantly moving towards the future.

Noise a Noise 23.3: Tolerance / Noise à Noise 23.4: Intolerance (Noise à Noise, digital)

There's a lot going on at Noise à Noise at the end of the year. The label, which is now based in Berlin, is continuing to release entries in the »Music for Black Sine Wave« series, as well as releases by the TEMBER Ensemble with its wonderfully expansive »Moers Journey,« among others. A clear year-end highlight is the double compilation »Tolerance« and »Intolerance« as the third and fourth entries of the current compilation year, respectively—wonderfully rich and yet sometimes appropriately wild sounds from the broad spectrum of electronic and electro-acoustic music by the likes of Cedrik Fermont, Jesus Valenti & Niki Yaghmaee, Kian Hossein and, of course, Ehsan Saboohi.

Reinhold Friedl & Kasper T. Toeplitz – La fin des terres (zeitkratzer, 2CD/digital)

Reinhold Friedl and Kasper T. Toeplitz push the boundaries and often go beyond them, whether it be those of their instruments piano and electric bass, concepts of composition and improvisation or those between music and what is possible with sound beyond it. »La fin des terres« contrasts studio recording with that of a joint performance at the Les Instants Chavirés festival in Montreuil almost a year ago. Both sound haunting and droney; the duo is clearly less interested in creating dramaturgical narratives than in condensing intensity through sound. There is or will be more of this: Toeplitz' »Érosions programmées« and Friedl's forthcoming collaboration with Martin Siewert on Karlrecords, »Lichtung,« will push the boundaries even further.

Robert Lippok – What Is Dance? (singuhr_editions, 7”-Box-Set)

»What Is Dance?« was the title of a 2017 installation work by Robert Lippok presented by singuhr — projekte in the Meinblau Projektraum. Its soundtrack, revised for release, now has been put out in the rather unusual format of a 7" box set. Inspired by sound artist Joe Jones, Lippok worked with various mechanically played sound objects to interpret three dances from Henry Purcell's »The Fairy Queen.« The two pieces on the vinyl record focus on spatial sound and rhythm, the two digital and fittingly more electronic bonuses even more clearly on density and the power of repetition. It's all danceable, though.

Sam Dunscombe – Two Forests / Oceanic (Black Truffle, LP/digital)

Two sound beds for psychedelic-accompanied psychotherapeutic approaches based on lots of birdsong and the sound of waves crashing on the beach: At first glance, it seems as if Sam Dunscombe is trying to tick all the boxes with »Two Forests / Oceanic.« However, this impression is deceptive, and not only because New Age records otherwise rarely rely on just intonation and granular synthesis, as Dunscombe did when processing the field recordings used as the foundation of these two pieces. This form of sonic world-building takes the meaning of the term »ambient« at its etymological root and yet remains consistently subversive. A masterful exercise in s(t)imulation.

Stefan Goldmann – Acustica (Macro, CD/digital)

We know what we’ll listen to and the game we’ll play at the field notes Christmas party: in the DJ mix »Acustica,« Macro co-founder Stefan Goldmann uses recordings of works from the musical avant-garde of the 20th century, which he interweaves and brings into harmony or polyphony with one another. This both invites its listeners to puzzle over the pieces used and sounds fantastic to boot: as a tried and tested club DJ, Goldmann reveals new potentials in New Music through skilful recombination.

Stefan Roigk – de—COMPOSED (Errant Bodies Press, Buch+2CD)

Stefan Roigk's sound art has its roots in the media of text and graphics, which is why »de—COMPOSED« as an artist's book with an accompanying double CD is probably the most comprehensive and appropriate form of documentation of his ongoing work with sound. On 144 pages, Roigk brings together photographs of his installation works—often created in collaboration with Daniela Fromberg—musical graphics and libretti of his spoken word performances (presented here in both German and English translation) on paper. »de—COMPOSED« is not only an excellently designed and beautiful-to-look-at book and artistic (auto-)biography at the same time, but also an intermedial meditation on the coexistence of space—whether the two-dimensional space on the page, our three-dimensional environment or the multidimensionality of language(sThis is an essential publication, duly rounded off by a whopping 33 audio samples from Roigk's broad oeuvre.

Disclaimer: Stefan Roigk recently became a member of the board of inm - initiative neue musik e.V.

Stefan Schultze Large Ensemble – The Buchla Suite / A Handcrafted Tribute To Morton Subotnick (Jazzwerkstatt, CD/digital)

Stefan Schultze recently made a guest appearance with his Large Ensemble at the three-day Handcrafted Tributes festival in Berlin to explore the connections between jazz and electronic music—or to draw new ones in collaboration with other musicians. »The Buchla Suite / A Handcrafted Tribute to Morton Subotnick« was recorded last autumn and is characterised by the attempt to set up the Large Ensemble like ten oscillators, as Schultze explains in reference to the work of the »Silver Apples to the Moon« creator. The result is correspondingly fascinating: acoustic-electronic music, so to speak, machine jazz, a device with a curious life of its own. Outrageous.

  • Releases of the Month
  • Stefan Roigk
  • Manfred Miersch
  • Ale Hop
  • Beam Splitter

For further reading

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