In a futile attempt at defining my particularly oblique taste in the sonic arts, my wife often (disparagingly) classifies it as “fridge sounds”. Naturally, I take this as the unintended compliment that it inevitably is, and continue to trawl the netherworld of experimentalism for all things rare and unique.
Imagine my delight then, at the appearance on my doormat, of the latest release from German sonic art label, 1000 f} ssler. A truly astounding piece of work from a cluster of artists, amongst whom appears the towering figure of Asmus Tietchens, with a cluster of conspirators in the form of Nicolai Stephan, Stefan Funck, and Gregory Buttner. “Fridge sounds” these are not – in fact the source material for these extraordinary recordings comes from a highly dysfunctional radiator system in the mysterious “room 318”, frequented by all of the aforementioned artists over the last few years. Realising the sonic potential for this failing system, the group have set about recording the radiators (which do not heat up) with an ambient room microphone, and in the process capture all of the twitches and idiosyncracies yielded by a man made system that has seen better days. Apart from anything else, these radiators whistle…they hum, groan, glitch and strain, much to the delight of Messrs Stephan, Buttner, Funck, and Tietchens, a collective of sonic alchemists who have at last transformed metal into sonic gold.Each artist takes the source material (exampled in the final track; and I would highly recommend you listen to this piece first), and processes it further, transforming each segment into a soundscape. In the main, these treatments are subtle and minimal, and each artists’ aesthetic is one of restraint; nothing here is overblown, or overworked, and the source material is always transparent and constantly present. Stefan Funck handles the first two pieces, “version paris dakar”, and “version hare”, both pieces are spare and engimatic, the former with an overdriven swathe of tones that sounds very much like early Pita, and the latter a warm, rich tone scape, peppered with high pitched tones, and the slightly clanky, metallic harmonic overtones yielded by the radiator body. Gregory Buttner tackles the third piece with an equally spare dynamic that sounds like early tapeloop experimentalism. Tietchens capably handles the fourth piece,”Keine Warme” with ten minutes of more atmospheric work, taking the ambience of the system into consideration, and creating something more akin to a composition from the source material. Tietchens has also experimented with water basins being contact miked on his infamous “Seuchengebeite” CD, recently re-released by Die Stadt.Nicolai Stephan takes the fifth track into glitch territory, sampling and splicing the source material, re-mapping it’s original co-ordinates to create a deconstructionist piece that falters and fluctuates, like water sizzling over hot steel, the high point of the whole collection for me.
Funck takes the last remaining two tracks using noise elements teetering into feedback, followed by “version almohl” a 22 second howler. It is arguable that the source material should have been mentioned in this collection of pieces, as radiator sounds are hardly a high concept, but this is also the strength of the work, that something unique and startling can be extracted from the everyday, and the apparently mundane. The Hafler Trio and Sons of God did something similar on “Resurrection”, bringing onto a live stage a range of “instruments” in the form of baths, gas cookers, saucepans and several other domestic appliances in a conceptually provocative piece of dadaism. Heizung Raum 18 is less of a provocation than a beautifully handled work of art…Buy it now.