Fiebig / EMERGE / Bonafini

Gerald Fiebig: Far-end Crosstalk (Augsburg – Jinan) – Field recordings from Jinan (China) by Nicolai Volland.

This triple-split album presents electroacoustic compositions by attenuation circuit label head EMERGE, long-time associate Gerald Fiebig, and – for the first time ever on a physical release – the Italian, Bremen-based composer and sound artist Mattia Bonafini. The final track is a trio improvisation EMERGE, Fiebig and Bonafini played at Hulsberg Crowd in Bremen in June 2019, a temporary art location in a former nurses‘ home which has since been demolished.

Although the three pieces were composed independently, they seem to share a certain aesthetic feel: Sonic atmospheres stained by constant hiss (EMERGE), vinyl surface noise (Bonafini), and car traffic (Fiebig) pervade the album. Out of this grey sleet of acoustic debris, the composers try to salvage moments of clarity in the form of concrete sounds, melodic fragments or drone chords.

EMERGE works with a variety of field recordings that every once in a while quite literally emerge from the monochrome fog of background hiss that seems to be visualised in the colours of the cover artwork. The ‚betamorphoses‘ of the title could refer to the moments in which the static drone hiss of the piece morphs into more distinct acoustic scenes. One could think of it as moments when the static hum of ‚capitalist realism‘ (Mark Fisher) that muffles the whole of our reality is replaced by the sounds of something different – ‚betamorphoses‘ perhaps being beta tests for a metamorphosis of society at large that needs to take place.

Fiebig’s ‚Far-end Crosstalk (Augsburg – Jinan)‘, based on field recordings from his homebase Augsburg and the soundscape of the Chinese city of Jinan (recorded by Nicolai Volland in 1995) spells out this need for change along ecological lines. The piece maps Murray R. Schafer’s idea of the urban ‚lo-fi soundscape‘ onto the problem of climate change: With increasing car traffic, cities around the world not only sound increasingly the same, they also face the same problems with air pollution. The Jinan sounds are modulated with a filter based on frequencies of the note C (for China), the Augsburg sounds are filtered around the note G (for Germany).

‚Turning Pages‘ of musical history, or rather turning music around to see its other side, is what Mattia Bonafini did for his piece: He recorded surface noise from vinyl records in the library of Bremen’s Hochschule für Künste where he studied electroacoustic music, and thus created the piece by manipulating this background noise of the officially documented history of music. Like the other pieces, ‚Turning Pages‘ is an act of musical upcycling in which apparently non-musical sounds are used to create an aesthetic structure and, through sound, make us think about the world.

The live cut from Hulsberg Crowd – the venue itself being a sort of creative, if temporary, repurposing of an urban ‚left-over‘ – continues this by using ’sub-musical‘ elements such as no-input mixer and vocal noises rather than speech or song. But the tension felt in the three previous pieces, the feel of a present wedged uneasily between an untenable past and an uncertain future, is exploded in the energetic interaction of the trio, into a ‚lightbulb moment‘ (Lester Bangs) of whatever the listener may perceive in it – utopian or dystopian?

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