Posts Tagged ‘Gudrun Gut’

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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Monika Enterprise – Monika94 – 16th August 2019

Released in December, Moment was one of those albums that grabbed my attention by virtue of its ‘otherly’ take on the conventions of electronica. Gudrun summarised it as being ‘stark, somber, sultry, and clever’, and indeed, it was all of those things, as well as being utterly compelling. How you do improve on that?

Ordinarily, I’d have said you don’t mess with near-perfection, and that you certainly don’t improve on anything with remixes. But then, much as I enjoy my reputation for always being right, I’m sometimes happy to be proven wrong, and with Moment Remixes, Gudrun Gut has found sympathetic remixers who all seem to have honed in on similar elements of the album’s tracks, meaning it’s a stylistically coherent collection, and with only four tracks, it doesn’t feel laboured or like it’s milking the material in any way.

The remixes very much accentuate the stark, minimalist aspects of Moment, as well as the retro vibe that amalgamates early DAF with ‘Warm Leatherette’ by way of a blueprint, and it’s the crisp cracks of vintage drum machine snares that dominate and define the sound here, while everything else is backed off. It’s robotic, dehumanised, and in some respects, challenging in its mechanised sterility. Or, as the press release puts it, ‘4 goose-bump inducing tracks ideal for all floors and moods’.

T. Raumschmiere’s remix of ‘Lover’ launches proceedings as a pumping dance track. It’s energetic and energized, but at the same time sultry and bleak, somehow balancing the seemingly contradictory atmospheres or claustrophobia and spaciousness.

The remix of Gut’s cover of David Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ courtesy of Pilocka Krach distils everything that was quirky and interesting about the album version and brings it together in magnificent style, and Dasha Rush and Paul Frick (remixing ‘Baby I Can Drive My Car’ and ‘Musik’ respectively) retain the emphasis on sparse yet ultimately danceable grooves. I don’t dance, but I do dig.

Gudrun Gut - Moment Remixes

Monika Entreprise – monika93 – 7th December 2018

Although active on the German music scene since the late 70s, it wasn’t until 2007 that Gudrun Gut released her first solo album. She’s maintained a steady output over the last decade, while also operating labels Monika Enterprise and Moabit Musik. And while very much married to the field of electronic music, one could never describe her work as predictable or standard, and Moment is no exception. Describing it not as an album, or even a collection of songs, but a ‘statement’, she promises a work which is ‘stark, somber, sultry, and clever, [on which] the sides slide between ballad and lament, synth-pop and spoken word, anthemic and abstract.

From the opening motoric beat and throbbing electronica of ‘Startup Loch’, over which Gudrun Gut lays monotone robotic vocals, Moment presents a sparse retro electro style. Heavy repetition and monotony are the defining features of the album’s fourteen tracks which thud away, on and on. ‘Lover’ is exemplary, grinding out a single looped pulse over a square 4/4 beat bereft of fills for over five minutes, while the cover of Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ is an object lesson in cold clinicality, stripping out the flamboyance – and tune – on the original, and replacing both with a discordant drone.

As much DAF as Kraftwerk, it’s every inch German-built in its fabric. The atmosphere is one of detachment and sterility, but in that clipped early 80s style that makes optimal use of reverb and precise production. There’s something about that stripped-back analogue synthiness paired with mechanoid percussion that’s more chilling and glacial than contemporary digital production can muster. And by these means, Gudrun Gut gives a lesson in distancing, in detachment, in music that segregates the cerebral from the soul.

The experimentalism becomes more pronounced as the album progresses. ‘Biste schon weg’ pulls apart structure and stretches at the edges of linear time to warp some woozy bass and glitchy, clattering beats which slowly collapse from rhythm to deconstruct the very components of composition, presenting an exploded view of music-making. Gradually, the forms become increasingly indistinct, more fragmented, more abstract, delineated and disconnected. Cohesion crumbles to slow-drifting sonic separation as delineation and decay define the evermore nebulous forms.

Moment is not as the title suggests, a single moment, but a succession of moments which blur into one another. Collectively, the pieces create a unique listening space in which time folds in on itself and stretches, bending, in all directions. A moment to get lost in.

Neue Moment M93 LP Out.indd

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

Run United Music – RU18 – 3rd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Gudrun Gut’s Vogelmixe is, as you may gather, a remix album. An album of traditional folk songs, recorded by contemporary artists and remixed by Gudrun Gut. Helpfully, there are two discs, the second containing unmixed versions with the traditional arrangements preserved, previously featured on the album Heimatleider aus Deutschland Berlin/Augsburg in 2015.

‘From the Top 100 to “Alternative”, most of today’s music has the emotional depth of your regular smartphone’, write Mark Terkessidis and Jochen Kühling in the liner notes. And so the inspiration behind the Heimatleider aus Deutschland was a longing for music with emotional impact and a sense of commonality, prompting a return to what they refer to as ‘“primordial” forms of singing, to folklore as an oral tradition.’ There’s a distinct logic in that. New music, however sincere, genuine or authentic is by its nature a product and is imbued with an inescapable sense of artifice. It’s always made with an eye – and ear – for public consumption, for distribution, regardless of mattes of commerciality. Traditional folk music is by its nature the music of the people. It was never borne out of a sense of commercial appeal, or even with a view to its own propagation. It has a life of its own, and that life is real life. These are songs of people, songs of the earth. There’s no way to plan or market this.

Many of the songs sound remarkably contemporary even in their original form, particularly the thrumming bass groove of ‘Marhba’, as performed by La Caravana du Maghrab. The range of styles represented provides a rare insight into German folk music unlikely to be known by non-natives. One element common to the majority of the songs is the emphasis on rhythm. Repetition and strong melodies are also a defining characteristic, with the bold harmony-led melody of bolero ‘La somber del ayer’ demonstrating a remarkable level of complexity which contradicts popular notions of folk songs being somehow primitive or simple.

On the one hand, Gudrun Gut’s remixes are pretty brutal in their treatment of the source material. Her approach is largely centred around heavy-duty electronic sounds which take the songs a long way from their original, traditional forms. You couldn’t exactly call them sensitive or subtle. In fact, the majority of the songs are unrecognisable on every level. Yet for all the superficial violence Gut commits to the songs, she does demonstrate a real connection with them, and conveys the passion and spirit which lies at their heart. Her dubby take on ‘ZaNeYen’ works well, the weirdy electronic bleeps sounding not out of place against the pulsating bass buzz and cavernously reverbed percussion. She really goes to town on ‘Marhba’, in places reducing the track to short, intense loops against an insistent, thumping dancefloor beat, while in contrast, ‘Toma de la ca’ emerges as a more sultry, sedate groove. She does treat Heide’s ‘Ein klienes Waldvögelein’ with a remarkably light touch, leaving the acoustic guitar and vocal performance fundamentally intact and augmenting them with subtle, glitchy beats kept low in the mix, soft synth washes and small sleepy incidentals, none of which is overdone.

Ultimately, it’s Gudrun Gut’s varied approach to the already diverse range of material which proves to be the strength of Vogelmixe. Moreover, the centrality of rhythm in the originals is retained and even emphasised in the mixes, and while the nature of those rhythms is much more contemporary, it again serves to convey the essence of the music, and the way in which the original artists rendered the songs with such life for which credit is very much due. And herein lies the difference between those traditional songs and the manufactured sounds which Terkessidis and Kühling find so objectionable: the latter are the sounds of the human spirit and soul, and have endured because of this. Moreover, however you tweak them, mash them and grind them up, mix and remix them, they will always contain these immutable constants which resonate through all time.

Gudrun Gut