In case you missed the latest news, Ralf Wehowsky is neither an overly prolific artist nor one who contents himself with formulas. Even when partially recycling materials – such as daughter Sonja singing Christmas tunes as an infant – the practice of utter transformation applied to the original source is advanced and rich in originality. Startling new ideas keep coming out like nasty Gremlins after Gizmo has been soaked.
Make no mistake, the man is a serious composer who doesn’t strive to be on magazine covers. That’s why he’s unreasonably unsung despite being a boss in the field of acousmatics. Still, he works at the margins of what a standard audience expects, meaning that his conceptions are not made of things that people usually wish to pay attention to, but – more frequently – take advantage of the sort of sonic manipulation that turns sweetness into a nightmare, or puts ourselves in front of thoughts and feelings that are better left in our memory’s secret vault. Herzblutanteil, explains its engenderer, was conceived as a puzzle for the mind and the eyes; accordingly, the liner notes – graphically amorphous on the sleeve – are difficult to read, and the technical details are explained in a sheet that was cut in dozens of minuscule fragments that must be recomposed in order to see something. I didn’t do it, preferring to focus on my perceptions, and sure enough wasn’t dissatisfied.
Absurdist collages of children songs, animals, decomposed guitars, percussion (real or derived by domestic procedures) and studio-generated perversions are flawlessly deployed in compositions that utilize space quite intelligently. Wehowsky knows when to leave some breathing room, and both those misshapen creatures and that very silence never outstay their welcome. Utterances and feedback are ruthlessly modified and chewed up, yet only brief snippets might be resulting from that process. The complexity of this music is not confrontational; it just stimulates while letting the listener reflect, and also get a little apprehensive. The splitting of regular voice into myriads of transposed particles and growling formants is typically impressive, however this is simply the most visible among the innumerable aspects of a work that requires the utmost concentration throughout an abundant hour’s length. Jaroslav Krček (… haven’t heard “Sonaty Slavickove”? Give me a call), Åke Hodell and – yes – Pierre Schaeffer are names that can be evoked without embarrassment.
Unclassifiable, utterly logical, thought-provoking, this is a record that reveals a maniacal consideration of the infinitesimal detail. At the same time there is a degree of human vulnerability that enhances its value, which is what distinguishes a mere experiment from an important statement.