Stefan Fraunberger – Quellgeister #2 – Wurmloch

Posted: 9 July 2016 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , ,

Interstellar Records – INT039

Christopher Nosnibor

Perhaps it’s because I’m not a speaker of German that I find the language so fascinating. In particular, the way compound words create long strings of letters which evoke phlegm. The album’s title and the titles of the two tracks, ‘Ereignishorizont’ and ‘Zustandhorizont’ translate as ‘Event-Horizon’ and ‘State-Horizon’ respectively, according to the press release (penned by a fellow based in Berlin and whose translation I trust), and they stand as megalithic sonic sculptures, forged using sounds conjured from 300-year-old organs. Hose are church organs, of course – an instrument which has been a longstanding fascination for Stefan Fraunberger. He has devoted considerable time to travelling extensively through Transylvania and exploring abandoned churches in such of disused organs and capturing their sounds.

Transylvania contains a number of small villages, which have seen the majority of their population lost to migration following the fall of communism, leaving the fortress churches, built during the Ottoman Wars, abandoned, vacant and crumbling.

It’s perhaps because of these conditions that the organs which feature on this album’s two long-form tracks sound worn, rusted dilapidated forlorn. Conventionally, the organ yields a sound that is vast, bold, empowering, a sound which reaches to the skies and beyond, which fills the heart, the soul and the lungs, and which is rousing, and which is ultimately uplifting, spiritual.

But rather than the grand surges of sound commonly associated with church organs, Fraunberger’s compositions are delicate, gentle, long, reedy sighs which trill and quaver. Sad wheezes groan limply, a forlorn puff of a punctured bellows. The sounds cautiously teeter together, bend, hum and drone, ephemeral moments of accord and discord move seemingly at random. Gentle glides slide into cacophonous ruptures, key changes and chords disregarded.

The variety of tonalities and textures, atmospheres and moods is remarkable, and Fraunburger’s approach to transitions between these is ceaselessly inventive, with sudden changes bringing drama and more subtle shifts proving more calm and sedate. Impressively, the two pieces were recorded in single takes and are released here with no edits whatsoever, although the double vinyl release sees each track split into two pieces.

Given that the organ is, conventionally, a mighty and powerful instrument, to hear such dilapidated cases, puffing and droning creaking and fatigued, is strange and sad. The off-kilter and anticlimactic crescendos, the off-key climaxes and underpowered upsurges reveal a very different side of an instrument that carries undeniable connotations of a transcendental connection. And so what this album conveys, on many levels is a sense of diminishment, revealing as it does the fragility and ultimate humanity of the instruments. The organs recorded here are no more immortal, immutable or otherwise godly than anything else made by human hands, and as such, they’re prone to the same forces of nature and of ageing as anything else.

Fraunberger considers his work to be a form of ‘sonic archaeology,’ and it’s a fitting description. These recordings are based on instruments long forgotten, excavated after decades of decay. The moss and ivy grow as the timbers split and the tiles fall from the roofs. Nature always wins, and time is the only unstoppable force.



Stefan Fraunberger - Wurmloch

  1. […] Returning to a brace of recurrent themes, including that of process as touched on in my write-up of Laurent Perrier’s latest collection of ‘one-way collaborations’, process and place are again key factors in the making of Michael Moser’s sprawling double album, Antiphon Stein. The majority of the sound featured on the album derives from Klaus Lang playing organs in various churches – although the sounds here are very different from those featured on Stefan Fraunberger’s recent album. […]

  2. […] But Late Style is a work preoccupied less with location or architecture, but time, and where the organ’s power is concerned, the focus of attention here is on the diminishment of that power, something which also inspired Stefan Fraunberger’s recent album Quellgeister 2: Wurmloch. […]

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