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Wolfgang Voigt - Freiland Klaviermusik

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Artist: Wolfgang Voigt

Album: Freiland Klaviermusik

Label: Profan

Review date: Jun. 4, 2010

Of all the stories I could tell myself about Freiland Klaviermusik, here’s the most appealing. After gaining crossover acceptance for his Gas project (which could be innaccurately but tellingly described by the image of a sizzurp-sipping Brahms listening to Basic Channel on a half-speed walkman on the pine-needle Köningsforst floor), Wolfgang Voigt decided to bum out certain indie bros and underground music types who made an exception for the Kompakt oonce oonce by making an album that closes the gap between atonal classical and dance music when it feels like it — and just sounds like aimless Garageband e-piano doodles the rest of the time.

Freiland Klaviermusik, which includes the entirety of the 2008 12" of the same name, highlights the mutability of these elective-affinity narratives. It’s equally possible that Voigt is underscoring classical music’s relevance to temper the rapturous embrace of his Gas stuff — a you-didn’t-go-deep-enough correction — and the praise went to his head, making him overestimate his ability to pull something this unlikely off. Nonetheless, I appreciate his intentions enough to make up for it.

Freiland Klaviermusik works about as often as it doesn’t. It’s often uncomplexly irritating in a way techno this side of Aphex Twin’s "Ventolin" isn’t. The majestic alpine forms that steadily emerged from the depths of Zauberberg form a stark contrast to variegated, fidgety piano humping here. Raising the stakes further is Voigt’s decision to build these tracks around the clinical sound of electronic piano — although the keyboard playing gets pretty wild, atonality sounds better when the clashing notes can resonate in real space. Interesting enough as-is, a beatless track like "Mondlicht" would probably feel less gloppy if the note clusters didn’t sound like they were being played on rubber strings. But then, Voigt has no intention of leaving dance music behind entirely, and the sonic artifice reassures the listener he hasn’t left the field of techno.

Maybe Voigt’s perspective as head of a major techno label has given him the privileged insight that music-qua-music is a less interesting goal when music buyer’s remorse can be immediately addressed by downloading a bunch of shit that hits spots your purchase doesn’t? And therefore, the important thing is the halo of meaning surrounding a release? The meanings sewn into this album easily account for much of its appeal: the rest of it is work. And unlike Arnold Schoenberg, I’m not sure that working hard enough will unravel the mysteries of the idiosyncratic language Voigt has created for this album. Perhaps it’s meant to sound needling and prickly; maybe Voigt hears something we don’t. In either case, the most fully realized track here is also its most accessible. "Geduld" uses a four-on-the-floor beat to structure off-kilter chords and give the proceedings an air of forward motion; it’s not absurd to imagine it being incorporated into a forward-thinking mix. The other beat-oriented tracks fare better than the beatless ones, but there are no real standout moments, nor does the album as a whole give a particular impression, apart from bright and ceaseless activity. There’s a lot of movement and color — Olivier Messiaen, what with his synaesthesia, would probably have seen something like the album’s cover when hearing Voigt’s cascading, plinky notes.

There isn’t much to recommend on Freiland Klaviermusik, and this is probably its best recommendation. It sounds like nothing else currently circulating, either in techno or in classical, and while we can’t anticipate whether its approach will be as fully assimilated as Gas’s has been, Voigt has created something whose appeal has little to do with his previous accomplishments. It shows Voigt is going at his own pace, not oblivious to expectations, but deliberately loose with them. This is all well and good — this thing is sound in concept and execution — but it does leave one strangely hungry.

By Brandon Bussolini

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