Memories Of Mr.23 (The Alfred Harth Chronicles)

ALFRED HARTH – Brocken/Biest 01/01
ALFRED 23 HARTH – Laub

Laubhuette Studio

In 2001, Alfred Harth was enduring a bit of physical trouble, related to the many years spent with a piece of reed around his neck. He decided at that time to give an unusual spin to his music by starting to use electronics quite frequently while diminishing the use of the heavy honker.

The first result of this switch is the live composition “Brocken/Biest 01/01”, a 72-minute trip through hundreds of garbled shards mostly informed by a tendency to technological riffraff and schismatic sampladelia. The title is an evident pun on “broken beat”, but in German it translates as “lump (piece) of beast” (!), whereas 01/01 – recalling the binary code – is actually a mere reference to the recording date (January 2001). Divided in 13 segments consecutively linked (as in a perfect 12-inch mix – in fact, one of the effects used is that of the cyclical crunch of vinyl), this is an exciting aspect of Harth’s crafty engineering skills. However, it is not something to assimilate painlessly; the quantity of events utilized by the Frankfurter is huge, the brain struggling to collocate each detail in the correct place with just a transitory listen (which, incidentally, should not be done with ANY record). Suffice to say that there are traces of unimaginable obsessions everywhere, fused in an individual concoction of misshapen visions and bizarre backgrounds that sound intimidating, paradoxical, or both; the whole sustained by rhythms that can be either spastic or disco-regular. Myriads of samples are seamed in masterful fashion, their consecutiveness generating a “let’s-see-what-comes-now” kind of expectation in the listener. Incomprehensible radio snippets, the Warner Bros audio logo camouflaged in liquid equalization, surrealistically twisted power chords, voices from inconceivable places (with particular relevance to intriguing Oriental accents that, pertinently deformed by AH, give the idea of a continuous gurgle generated by someone who’s about to throw up. Difficult to explain in words, but fantastic in terms of pulse). A few tracks even show a peculiar, definitely unintentional resemblance to chosen chapters of Muslimgauze’s discography. The best method for being invaded and ultimately conquered by this great mishmash – to be especially treasured by those who appreciated the “Mother Of Pearl” series – is keeping it going ad infinitum for at least four or five hours, letting it become a part of your physicality while completely intoxicating the senses. You’ll soon realize that reality does not look the same from which things had started, and it feels damn good.

Laub is an only apparently simpler specimen of Harthian creativity, yet it’s without a doubt the more enigmatic item of this pair (and, in truth, among the most cryptic offerings I’ve heard from the Seoul expatriate). The record’s name means “foliage”, a word also referenced in AH’s private studio “Laubhuette”, which stands for “hut made of leaves”. The music – mainly obtained by alternating indefinable stringed instruments, electronic/concrete materials and echoes of Korean activity – is essentially a cycle of “remixes, fragments and field recordings” captured between 2004 and 2006 and comprising rare gems such as the impenetrable “Nonunhappiness”, an exhilarating – and unfortunately short – remix of a snippet of “Domestic Stories” (somehow evoking Elliott Sharp’s cybernetic guerrillas), and assorted chunks of “iGnorance”, Harth’s homage to composer Yun I-sang, of whom the protagonist uses a beautiful string section from a work called Piri , re-baptized “Piri II” for the occasion. There’s a perceptible severance between the nude acoustic soul of a crude improvisation like “Peripathy, A Sufi Prayer In Corea” and the acousmatic complexity of “Spagat”, an impressive cross of theatric vocals (by Yi Soonjoo, Alfred’s life partner) and whimpering dogs recorded in a farm. “Direct Jazz II” utilizes superimposed sax flurries upon a multitude of strata including synthetic improbability, shortwaves and metropolitan moods. The mind-boggling “Rueckbrick” closes the CD on a slightly anguishing note caused by fickle electro-multiplicity (picture a stoned Jon Hassell/Terry Riley Siamese couple) and various species of mystifying glissando. Overall, the album’s singular components – whose blending may initially appear ludicrous – coalesce consistently after the third or fourth dutiful scrutiny, confirming the man’s ability in pulverizing the original meanings of his objects of study and combining them into artistic reports that, once brought to light, instantly overshadow the globally accepted standardization of composers appositely deified by the regime universally identified as “specialized press”.

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