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Black to Comm - Alphabet 1968

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Artist: Black to Comm

Album: Alphabet 1968

Label: Type

Review date: Dec. 7, 2009

Black to Comm is Marc Richter, who also runs the excellent Dekorder record label. As label curator, Richter has released an endearingly eccentric collection of music, ranging from the pastoral noisescapes of Xela to the hyperactive pop songs of Doks to the quirky radio collages of Felix Kubin. The same peripatetic sensibility informs his own music, which is thick with esoteric samples, location recordings, and live instrumentation of all stripes and colors from harp and glockenspiel to kitchen gamelan.

On this release, his debut on the Type imprint, Richter favors short, song-like structures over his usual epic drones, and the result is nothing short of magic. The album is bracketed by a pair of rather pastoral tracks complete with drifting impressionistic orchestral samples and snippets of children’s voices. But the journey between the two is rather more unsettling – at times straight-up scary – like that of Hansel and Gretel in the original tale of the Brothers Grimm.

After the brightly lyrical opening track, "Jonathan," things darken quickly. The album’s longest track, "Forst," with its uncanny orchestra samples and soft, padding 4/4 beat, is something akin to a densely noisy tribute to Wolfgang Voigt’s more ominous Gas releases. It’s beautiful, but unnerving, all the more so when the mood shifts abruptly into the dreamy bells of "Trapez" and then "Rauchen."

Even at its most playful and lovely, the music always has some hint of sadness. One of the album’s most upbeat tracks, the scintillating "Music Für Alle," is a work of gloriously anxious beauty that disappears almost before it’s begun. By comparison, the unmitigated Black Metal-eque doom of the roiling voices and ominous drones on a track like "Void" seems tame. The album closes with the crackle of vinyl and lilting strings of "Hotel Freund." It’s lovely, and yet almost too melancholy to bear.

By Susanna Bolle

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