Album: Moers Works
Author: Matt McKeogh
If you know who Frank Rothkamm is, you're already a step ahead of me. "Moers Works (1982-1984)" was greeted with nothing but a blank stare when I laid eyes on it, but then again nobody ever accused me of being the most knowledgeable of ones. Can't say the label was a tip off for me either. Monochrome Vision operates out of Russia and generally releases archival material of 80's and 90's avant-garde electronic and tape music, although they've been known to present modern works too.
Frank Rothkamm, meanwhile, is a computer programmer, professionally trained musician and composer, not to mention sole proprietor of the Flux Records label. Born in 1965, he apparently began his composing career (for piano) at age 12 but an attraction to electronic music was soon borne out of the limitations of the piano and and at age 16 (in the town of Moers) he created an analogue sampling system comprised of a turntable, a shortwave radio, a phaser, an EQ, a cassette recorder, and an UHER reel-to-reel tape recorder. He also devised what the liner notes refer to as "the method of irreversible additive overdubbing of monophonic tracks with stereophony achieved with tape delay". I hope that means something to you because while it sure sounds impressive to me, I'm no gearhead and can scarcely imagine just what that all means. I think when I was 16 I was getting notes sent home to my parents for talking in science class. Regardless. Since these initial works, Rothkamm has kept himself busy with other recordings: 9 solo albums to date on labels as disparate as Capital, PolyGram and Knitting Factory as well as close to 300 compositions with numerous soundtracks, remixes, jingles, and such under his belt. Not exactly of Edward De Deyster scale elusiveness, to say the least.
"Moers Works" boasts a wide range of methods and sound sources. For example, "Relikt" and "Arpeggiator" feature a Korg MS-20 synthesizer, "Ruckkopplung" was recorded during a week-long sleep schedule adjustment, "Quartett" serves as the overture to a Heiner Muller play of the same name and tracks four through six ("Industrie", "Wasser" and "Klavier") are excerpts from his "Fisch II" series, written for four "actors/instrumentalists", four lights, tape, and fish - the ritual killing of which on-stage would bring Rothkamm his highest degree of notoriety within the public eye.
But despite all this, "Works" still - ahem - works as a coherant and fully-formed album and not merely a compilation. What's even more is that all the tracks are totally great.
"Rauschmittel" clocks in as by far the longest piece at 12 and a half minutes but every single second is pure joy - an amusing/frightening work of warped tape, electronic/synth gulps, orchestral pomp and chamber pop, and packed the gills with lots of samples, jump cuts and plunderphonia of just about everything you can imagine. The perpetual pulse reminds me of the first time I heard "Dark Side of the Moon" and I have to think that kinda stuff bore some degree of influence on Rothkamm when he made this.
The aforementioned "Quartet" is a great theatrical piece indeed, the brunt of which is devoted to stretched out violin whines but also makes time for an epic sci-fi sounding soundtrack loop.
The three "Fisch II" tracks are ominous atmoscapes of dark water electronic-induced ambience and noise that match up pretty evenly with the likes of Nurse With Wound, Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse, and the Schimpfluch actionists.
Also worth mentioning is "Relikt". At just under six minutes it's the second longest track on the compilation and is a definite stand-out - Conrad Schnitzler-type space drones are bathed, first in a static pummel, then in the sound of delirious chime glimmer, and finally back to the onrushing waterfall of stasis that started it off.
The two book-ending tracks "Ich" and "hcI" are lovely slices of fuzzy ambience and chopped up voices, providing almost a direct lineage to the paths of current electronica names like Tim Hecker and Thomas Koner.
What's startling is the fact that there's nary a dull moment or a bad sound to be found over the course of these 50 minutes. What's shocking is that he was still in his late teens when he produced this unearthly music.
"Moers Works (1982-1984)" probably takes more than a few cues from 60s/70s electronic and electronic-inspired artists (some of whom are no doubt getting the reissue treatment from the likes of Creel Pone even as we speak) but it's still no less an amazing collection.
In fact this sounds like exactly the kind of thing Creel Pone would be handling, if it didn't fall outside their statute of limitations on the golden age of electronic music. Or maybe something you read about one day out of the blue on Mimaroglu Music Sales (and who better than Keith Fullerton Whitman to provide the straight dope on a guy like Frank Rothkamm) but it ain't there, at least not yet. Whatever Trevor - if you see this around I'd strongly suggest picking it up. Ain't nothing fancy about it (I'm starting to understand the name Monochrome Vision a little more...) but it ain't none need to be when the sounds are this boggling.
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