Posts Tagged ‘Beate Bartel’

DL Monika Entreprise monika 95-1, 95-2 (LC 01806)

20th November 2020 / 27th November 2020

Monika Werkstatt isn’t an individual, but a collective of female musicians and producers gathered by Gudrun Gut from the circles of her label, Monika Enterprise and Moabit Music.

Ambient Session is a document – abridged – of a two-day live project that took place at the Jewish Museum in Berlin on 26th and 27th April 2019. The liner notes detail the event, a full multimedia – and multisensory – extravaganza combining sound and light and where nothing is fixed, with the musicians performing ‘in various constellations inside res·o·nant—a walk-through light and sound installation by the Düsseldorf conceptual artist Mischa Kuball situated in two of the famous Voids of the Libeskind building. For this specific edition Monika Werkstatt activated the joined forces of Beate Bartel, Danielle de Picciotto, Gudrun Gut, Islaja, Pilocka Krach, and Sonae. The Fab Five of Silicon-meets-Analog-Machine-Music set out to invite listeners to join them on a two-day, four hours-each expedition into the yet unknown, improvising with sounds and configurations while structuring the longue durée in sustainable packages by adding and subtracting members to the flow’.

And so the lineups for the two days differed slightly, with Islaja performing on day one only, and Pilocka Krach on day two only. Who played what and when is largely immaterial, as this s very much about the overall feel. It’s impossible to get the full measure of the experience on either day, but the beauty of digital releases is that time constraints and productions costs are much less of an issue, and as a consequence, we’re afforded a luxurious full – and precise – hour of material from each day as a separate track (and a separate release). As such, Ambient Session definitely hints at the immersive nature of the performances, even though the visual and spatial elements are absent.

In a certain sense, there isn’t much to say here: listening to ‘Day One’ there are some woozy uplifts and downtunes that lurch a little like rising steeply op or down a hill in a car on a hilly road while driving at night, but for the most part, it’s a glow, vaporous wash of sound that turns and drift slowly and gradually. Subtle beats appear and disappear, and everything is quiet and understated, even when clouds gather to cat shadows into darker domains, unsettling electronic bubbling, bleeps and whistles. But mostly it’s a steady exploration of soft-edged atmospheres: not a lot actually happens, and yet, somehow, it does. It all happens fleetingly, subtly, in the background. There are fleeting moments of dissonance, and brief passages where patterns emerge – be they niggling bass motifs, looped vocal snippets, or repetitive rhythms of a more percussive nature, but large portions of the audio is given to abstract noise that hums and drones on an almost subliminal level.

‘Day Two’ feels different. More electronic, more edgy, stammering more beeps and messages undeciphered and indecipherable stop start and shudder, juddering and halting the airwaves against gliding contrails of mellifluous drone. Sonar drones, reaching out into the darkness. Dense rumbles and fear chords creeping. This is darker, more ominous, more eerie – or at least the track is. Then again, there are rippling groves and metronomic beats that pulse amidst a swathe of reverb and murky tones. How representative of the performances as a while these segments are, we don’t know.

I am, sadly, reminded of the way recorded media fails to fully convey an experience, and how footage of live sows on YouTube compel me to append any share with the caveat that ‘you probably had to be there.’ There is never any real substitute for the three-dimensional experience: sound, light, space, the interaction of different stimuli on the senses, especially when applied simultaneously. But for all that, this is an immersive pair of longform recordings, and the journey they lead the listener on is one of sedate – and sedated – curiosity.

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Moabit Music – 27th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite having three previous albums to her credit, including one with Gudrun Gut, this is my first encounter with Canadian spoken word artist Myra Davies. I sometimes wonder, as an occasional spoken – or shouted – word performer myself why there aren’t more talkers putting out spoken word recordings. As a medium, spoken word is enjoying a surge in popularity, with both open mic and curated spoken word nights springing up all over, in addition to those longstanding ones which have survived, sometimes by virtue of being the only platform around for a form of entertainment which is, one could argue, the oldest of all.

There are a fair few big name authors who have extensive catalogues – Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, Henry Rollins are among the first names which spring to mind – but apart from the odd clip on YouTube, it seems that very few writers who read aloud commit their voices to the recorded medium. Granted, some writers simply aren’t cut out to perform, and sadly, their readings to their material a disservice. But then, when done well, performance can bring a piece of writing to life and convey elements of the work not always immediately apparent to a reader. It’s all about the emphasis, the intonation. And there’s nothing to say spoken word recordings have to replicate the experience of those readings which take place in pubs and libraries: there is infinite scope to render the words very differently and to add myriad depths and dimensions – as Joe Hakim’s collaboration with Ashley Reaks and the recent album by The Eagertongue evidence – when done well, spoken word can be exciting and can reconfigure whatever perceptions one may have of the genre – which, of course, isn’t really a genre. Because spoken word can spill into so many other fields, and far beyond rap at that. Kate Tempest? C’mon, please! Her accessible, right-on doggerel may be well-meaning, but it’s little more than sixth-form poetry delivered in a hip-hop style without the beats.

On Sirens, Myra Davies brings the beats, thanks to her two musical collaborators, Beate Bartel and Gudrun Gut, who provide the backing to alternate tracks Despite this, Sirens demonstrates a remarkable cohesion, and doesn’t flip-flop between styles. Davies is a fantastic orator: she’s not only blessed with a cool, laconic tone, which benefits from her dry Canadian accent, but she’s also got a real sense of what works for narrating her own words. Sounds simple, but many writers lack this skill.

‘Armand Monroe’ sets the tone: sparse, angular, electropop with a funk groove, it’s cold yet fiery, as Davies spins out a succession of evocative imags. Jittery, tense robotix with propulsive, grinding synths abound, and wibbly loops and sumptuously spacey motoric beats dominate the album. ‘Golddress’ is a taut effort: listening through ‘phones, I find I have a racing pulse and my sense of anxiety increases as the track builds: it’s steely, detached tone is curiously out of kilter with real time and current space, it’s hard to let it simply pass.

Instead of sounding like a retro hash of futuristic music from the 80s – to which it does bear clear parallels – Sirens captures a sense of alienation, of otherness. It’s not simply in the weird doubling and echo-based effects on the vocals, or the treatments of the drums, or the twitchy, slowly warping effects of the synth backings – all of which contribute to Sirens being far more than a ‘spoken word’ album – but a combination of all of these factors, with the addition of something intangible. Perhaps it’s simply the restrained force and clinical focus of Davies’ delivery of words which are both gritty and discomforting. Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Sirens is a superlative work of art. A hybrid of spoken word and electro-pop / coldwave / etc., it represents a perfect creative synthesis.

 

 

Myra Davies Music by Beate Bartel & Gudrun Gut – Sirens