Black To Comm

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )

Ruckwarts Backwards (2006), 7/10
Wir Konnen Leider Nicht Etwas Mehr Zu Tun (2007), 6.5/10
Fractal Hair Geometry (2008), 6.5/10
Alphabet (2009), 6/10
Charlemagne & Pippin (2009), 6.5/10 (mini)
Earth (2012), 6.5/10
Black To Comm (2014), 6/10
Before After (2019), 5/10
Seven Horses For Seven Kings (2019), 5/10
Oocyte Oil & Stolen Androgens (2020), 5/10
A C of M (2020), 4.5/10
At Zeenath Parallel Heavens (2023) , 4/10

An ever-mutating form of digital music was practiced by Germany's Black To Comm (the project of Marc Richter) on Ruckwarts Backwards (Dekorder, 2006) for vinyl records, field recordings, voice and found percussion. Its music ran the gamut from Phill Niblock's infinite drones to Gordon Mumma's massive walls of noise, with sprinkles of both chamber music and musique concrete.
Tracks: 01. Bees 02. Levitation 03. Laccifer Lacca 04. Ruckwarts Backwards 05. El Huis Pt. 1 06. Es Gibt Kein Morgen 07. March of the Vivian Girls 08. Virtuousity Is a Means to an End

The variegated drones of Wir Konnen Leider Nicht Etwas Mehr Zu Tun (Dekorder, 2007) were mostly created by manipulating the sounds of traditional instruments (organ, harmonium and guitar).

Fractal Hair Geometry (Dekorder, 2008) added a circus-like atmosphere to his collages of voices, analog keyboards and acoustic instruments (violin, piano, trumpet). Negative Volumes is a thick shapeless chaotic jelly of sounds. The eight-minute Orange Record manages to attain a dramatic intensity via fluttering peeping sounds. Play Eggchess 3, instead, pits a loud organ drone against a swarm of android chicks. Fibrillating industrial beats intone the pseudo-techno dance of Leigh Bowery. M.B. Memorial Building indulges in the droning buzzing quality of a Tibetan "om" despite a strong percussive undercurrent. Air Salon is born at the intersection between a choir-like drone and bubbling electronics. Richter is the kind of soundsculptor who can do pretty much what he wants with his sources.

Alphabet 1968 (Type, 2009) marked a "romantic" turn, with the live instruments soaring above the glitchy ambience. Jonathan mixes found voices and harsh noise before it is hijacked by a piano. A lulling tide of beats and drones in the ten-minute Forst escalates to an ominous pulsating wall of electronics, whose complexity keeps increasing via thick clusters of tones and breathing monsters. Unfortunately the rest of the collection is hardly at the same level of intensity. There are many intriguing ideas, notably the intricate jungle-tinged tapestry of Musik Fur Alle, the neoclassical atmosphere of Traum GmbH, the nightmarish percussive frenzy of Houdini Rites Void and the calm ambient adagio of Hotel Freund (quite a contrast to the hell that came before it).

The stately 36-minute suite of Charlemagne & Pippin (Digitalis, 2009) for organ, electronics, percussion, violin and found sounds successfully blended serene ambient music and neurotic glitch music: it is just one colossal endless suspenseful drone that a multitude of tiny noises try to corrode and hijack and that eventually spins out of control.

Black To Comm also scored the soundtrack for a silent film, Earth (De Stijl, 2012), a psychedelic musique-concrete experiment with the slow gothic-ambient-jazz build-up of Stickstoff II (9:24) and the swirling chaos and strident drones of The Children (14:24).

The 83-minute monolith Black To Comm (Type, 2014) is not particularly convincing. His musique-concrete collages can be elegant like in Fackeln in Sturm or trivial like in Human Gidrah and Them. On the other hand, the nine-minute Spectre Teeth distills massive organ drones from a concerto for (what sounds like) hornpipes and cowbells. In the 20-minute Is Nowhere an abrasive sound, stretched for many minutes, gives rise to a drilling industrial noise, and, after another lengthy stillness, two minutes from the end, to a piano pattern that appears and disappears like a tiptoeing ghost. The revolving and radiating 14-minute 1975 feels like a growing organism, slowly disentangling itself from boiling plasma, and then intoning a witchy chant in a highly electrical atmosphere. There are moments of seductive class, and moments of boring redundancy.

Before After (Thrill Jockey, 2019) contains only one composition that is worth the effort: Etats-Unis, perfect as a soundtrack for a horror movie.

Seven Horses For Seven Kings (Thrill Jockey, 2019) is another mixed bag, with plenty of great ideas diluted in 40 minutes. The aim is clearly to terrify the listener, and that could also be a problem. The way he tries to attain that goal is via crescendoes of chaos, but that has a simple problem: the crescendo is an end in itself and it never leads into the (musical) punch line. This is the case with A Miracle No-Mother Child at Your Breast and Ten Tons of Rain in a Plastic Cup. What's the point of the crescendo of noise? It feels like the composer couldn't finish his composition for lack of inspiration. Several pieces are also simple loops of the same manipulated samples, not terribly difficult to do if you have the right software (credit the software, not the composer). Angel Investor does well in this realm. The ten-minute The Courtesan Jigokadayu Sees Herself as a Skeleton in the Mirror of Hell, instead, sounds direction-less and largely redundant.

Potentially, this is electroacoustic chamber music with the addition of found sounds. Potentially, it could peak in sensory overload. Potentially, it could be the musical equivalent of transcendent occultism. But much remains in "potential" state.

Oocyte Oil & Stolen Androgens (Thrill Jockey, 2020), ostensibly a concept about sex and sexuality, originally composed for artist Seb Patane's installation, is marred by too much spoken-word but also contains the ambitious 15-minute Gustav Metzger as Erwin Piscator, Gera, January 1915, which manipulates the voice of conceptual artist Gustav Metzger (founder in 1962 of the "Auto-Destructive Art" movement). Not a masterpiece, but certainly an eerie way to bring him back to life. The much shorter Oocyte Oil is yet another demonstration of his gothic-ambient musique concrete, as elegant and as "unfinished" as usual. Gepackte Zeit/ Compressed Time is another piece dedicated to a visual artist, this time Hanne Darboven (the title of the composition is the name of one of her exhibitions).

Der Weisse Elefant (2020) is another film soundtrack.

A C of M (Cellule 75, 2020) is a collection of brief demonstrative vignettes.

Alkisah Versi Hitam (2021) is the remix of an album by Indonesia's ensemble Senyawa.

Marc Richter displayed his graceful euphony in all its splendor on the EP Drag Acid #10 (2022). Compositions like Le Noir de la Vie develop slowly and almost sensually. If the nine-minute Tu n'es pas Trop a` Aimer is largely gratuitous, the ten-minute La Maladie est le Cote Nocturne du Sens de la Vie is concentrate of suspense and melodrama.

At Zeenath Parallel Heavens (2023) feels like a collection of leftovers. The symphonic quality of the suspenseful Steep Thy Plumage in His Sweetness and the industrial noise of Never Heed the Tongues of Wooers could become interesting pieces if fleshed out but these are they seem to be left at the state of random ideas.

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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