Monday, May 28, 2007

Electronica Obscurities: Frank Bretschneider Curve
I recently managed to pick up a copy of this stone-cold glitch classic for a mere $5. That's five bucks for a double LP - proof (as if you needed it) that this stuff has fallen far below the record-buying radar.

Hard to believe that glitchy electronica was the hip sound of experimental music just a few years back. On reflection, the genre's downfall probably had a lot to do with how quickly it ossified into a state of cold, sterile formalism. How exactly did glitch start off with the wonder and magic of Oval's 94 Diskont and end up in the dross of those terrible Clicks and Cuts compilations that the Mille Plateaux label ended up foisting upon an increasingly uninterested world?

Personally, I put a lot of the blame on Carsten "Alva Noto" Nicolai's Raster-Noton label. Don't get me wrong, I think Noto is great, as is just about everything he's put out on Raster. But the label's influence is another matter. Basically the formalistic, formulaic language of those Clicks and Cuts comps was pretty much invented by Raster artists like Noto, Senking, Bytone and Komet aka Frank Bretschneider.

Curve - interestingly, released by Mille Plateaux - is probably the most beautifully realized use of the Raster language. It eschews the gritty fuzz of Basic Channel-style dub-techno and the disorientating uncanniness of post-Oval abstract electronica in favor
of an incredibly elegant and formally beautiful take on IDM. Bretschneider did a beautiful job of cleansing the glitch palette and was smart enough to create music that thrived on the contradiction inherent in making something pristine out of tiny fragments of dirt and grime.

Most of the records Mille Platueaux released in the wake of Curve were merely tasteful. By creating the click'n'cut dialect, the Raster crew cleared the way for a legion of one-dimensional crap perpetrated by point-missing imitators. Consequently, glitch started to suck and all but the most dedicated devotees lost interest.

In a sense, then, Curve is the sound of Frank Bretschneider digging his own grave. But - like I said - he did a beautiful job of it.

4 comments:

Saelan said...

The Fennesz Sakamoto album is, as of yesterday, not in at Zulu yet. i just pirated it.

Also, i've been holding off my comments until I'd absorbed it enough, but I think your LA:An Apology album is astonishingly beautiful. I've only just started putting together a review. As you unfortunately note, interest in this kind of music has waned considerably, so I'm trying to think of a way to describe the album that will do it justice AND make people want to check it out.

Biggie Samuels said...

"The Fennesz Sakamoto album is, as of yesterday, not in at Zulu yet."

Like I suggested in that Trim post, I've been holding off on getting this until I can walk into a store and buy it. Like the Trim CD, I'll probably end up getting it in London.

"...I think your LA:An Apology album is astonishingly beautiful... As you unfortunately note, interest in this kind of music has waned considerably, so I'm trying to think of a way to describe the album that will do it justice AND make people want to check it out."

Cheers.

I try not to get too hung up on blaming my low record sales on the unfashionable status of the genre I choose to work in. But the issue is somewhat unavoidable.

Recently, I've been trying to convince people that LA has more in common with "freak folk" than with your common-or-garden electronica.

It would probably be more honest to say that it's in the same messy, willfully uncanny vein as Oval and the classic Mego releases.

Either way, 94 Diskont is ten times trippier than anything The Sunburned Hand of the Man will ever churn out.

Brady Cranfield! said...

"Either way, 94 Diskont is ten times trippier than anything The Sunburned Hand of the Man will ever churn out."

Indeed.

Biggie Samuels said...

Surely you can do better than that. How about pointing out the irony of a label named after A Thousand Plateaus being responsible for the reterritorialization of glitch?