The master of anticipation-dodging eccentricity, Frank Rothkamm renders our summer happier with a “digital cantata” composed over the 1990-91 biennium on machines that many oh-so-modern whiz kids would consider as relics: Yamaha TX16W sampler and TX81Z plus FB01 synthesizers, Atari STE computer. The ultimate punch is given by the composer’s record collection, which furnished snippets of famous (and less) voices and songs: apart from a few segments of classical music – Tchaikowskij’s The Nutcracker is not bad as a disco hook – we find unintentional cameos by Nico, David Bowie and what I perceived as an Edith Piaf/Mireille Mathieu duet in “La Vie” – yet with this genre-orphan, chivalrous studio fiend one is never sure.
The program lasts about half a hour, enough to call the timing just right. It is indeed very useful for early morning disco-based aerobic exercises (ask my wife, who instantly started shaking her butt as soon as the second track began). The near-perfection of these juxtapositions results in something that sounds impolitic and punctilious at once, gifted with the classic ironic touch that this artist is renowned for. For good measure he transcribed what the sampled people actually say, the lyrics possessing an absurdly effective way of penetrating the listener’s brain while intent in being inundated by the now-licentious, now-beatific qualities of rhythmic combinations spiced with references that go from Elvis to pornography. The superb “Interlude For Soprano And Piano” – all of its 32 seconds – is the culmination point of a release whose cleverness transpires unmistakably, even after almost 20 years from its first conception.
Rothkamm calls this an “algorithmically re-synthesized ambrosia of popular music”. Difficult words for a dim-witted mass to understand, maybe – but play the CD and impediments will immediately be forgotten. Give yourselves a couple of good, hard spins and you’re going to sens la vie.