Monochrome White/Polychrome With Neon Nails
LINE_005 | 2 x CD | Edition of 1000 (sold out/out of print) | June 2001
Originally begun in 1999, this new series of compositions by German composer Bernhard Günter utilizes Immedia’s in audio work, available on the collection 2/1 (LINE_002), as source material, for which the release was originally intended – an origin for new sound works. The idea for Monochrome White originated while viewing a Bill Voila retrospective in Frankfurt, Germany. Inspired, Günter conceived that “the piece would only use high frequency spectra to lift it off the ground, so to speak, and it would only use ’empty’ intervals (4ths and 9ths) to not have it rest on a root note, but to keep it harmonically floating/suspended.” The second piece Polychrome w/Neon Nails is a transformation of the Monochrome White, lower in pitch and doubling the rate of change, it results in a sound world that might be likened to a swarm of digital insects..
This release is the first double cd, as well as the first US only full length recording, by Bernhard Günter.
Bernhard Günter‘s work; minimal, beautiful, quiet, slowly evolving, evocative, has been praised by both critics and listeners since his first cd, un peu de neige salie (Selektion, Germany) in 1993 which was listed as one of the “Top 100 Albums that set the World on Fire” (The Wire, UK). His work has been released internationally on such labels as Digital Narcis (Japan), Metamkine (France), V2 Archief (The Netherlands) and on his own label Trente Oiseaux (Germany), which been been home to numerous influential recordings by noted electronic and electro-acoustic artists. He has performed concerts around the world and his music is regularly played (in absentia of the composer) at the Futura Festival de Musique Acousmatique (Brest, France). In 1999 Günter received one of twelve Honorable Mentions at the PRIX ARS ELECTRONICA (Linz, Austria).
Well, fair play to Richard Chartier's LINE label for pursuing its own fiercely individual path. The microscopic aesthetic of the label puts just about all others to shame; such is the single-minded concentration on the absolute minuitae of sound. This release from renowned experimentalist Bernhard Günter (who also runs the excellent Trente Oiseaux label) runs over two CDs and contains a range of sounds that would be accommodated within two seconds of most other releases. As tends to be the case with Günter, Chartier, and associates, the resultant anti-sprawl is more richly rewarding than a ton of techno records. On both CDs, Günter aims for transparency and achieves that goal spectacularly. Each disc contains 40-or-so minutes of two distinct layers of tiny white noise. One rustles, the other crackles, both with intermittent intensity. The combination of these elements changes between the two discs and thus produces very different results. The first is a serene pastoral, all soft edges, like the soothing buzz heard when standing about 50 yards from a powerline. The second, however, is spikier, like a rainstorm heard from deep within the bowels of a ship while a power generator buzzes about four floors aoverhead. It takes attentive listening to adjust to these variations. There are certain similarities with Alvin Lucier's "Clocker" project (a clock going through numerous timbral changes), but Günter applies himself more adeptly than the wayward Lucier by sustaining and developing themes across the length of the compositions. Apparently the two discs can be played simultaneously for a different effect again, although maybe this is something for installations rather than the home. Given the utter paucity of sound sources utilized for the double record, its hypnotic qualities are remarkable, and sounds like nothing else currently around. On a par with recent classics like Ryoji Ikeda's matrix, this release is further proof of how the CD medium can be used for superb, groundbreaking sound art projects. And we say over here in North East England, Monochrome White is totally mint. And there could be no higher praise than that.
Bernhard Günter's work is often remarkable for its immersive quality; despite his reputation for probing the faintly-lit corners of silence, works like Brown, Blue, Brown on Blue: For Mark Rothko and Time, Dreaming Itself create quietly vibrant sound-fields, saturated with color, that surround you completely. There are deeper hues in Richard Chartier's icy blue and green cover design than there are in either of the two discs here. BothMonochrome White and Polychrome w/ Neon Nails, as their titles suggest, are explorations of glistening, colorless tones: not white noise, exactly, but the froth skimmed off the very top of it, perhaps. Spatially, the two-disc set flirts with Günter's interest in immersive audio, presenting an almost imperceptibly thin layer of sound that expands and encircles you. Inspired by a Bill Viola installation, Monochrome White is Günter's attempt to recreate the same feelings of weightlessness and transparency. Built from sounds from Immedia's open source In Audio CDR, Monochrome White uses their small, impossibly high-pitched frequencies to construct an airy ceiling of sparkle and grit. Without ever intensifying, it manages to grow until a dense layer of quiet prevails. It feels almost like a field recording, a recreation of an overgrown Massachusetts field on a hot August midnight, the crickets and cicadas harmonizing uneasily with the just-out-of-earshot whine of the power lines overhead. Built around the spatialization of sound, every tone seems to have distinct coordinates; certain tones sharpen and glisten when you turn your head, as others duck back into the shadows. Another reference point might be to swimming under water: Günter harnesses the same sourceless crackling that makes up the diver's world, firing a steady succession of clicks that seem at once to be leagues distant, and inches from your ear. While it's tempting to resort to headphones, to capture fully the disc's fleeting details, the glancing angularity of the individual sounds used lends itself to playback over speakers. Polychrome w/ Neon Nails revisits the same material, and while it's reportedly lower in pitch, it's almost impossible to discern, as Günter points out in the liner notes. Indeed, by some trick of acoustics, the second piece (to be followed by a third composition, Monochrome Rust, which will close out the tryptichon) sounds sharper and more grating. If the fine edges of Monochrome White are blurred by their altitude, softened by the diffuse light of those heights, here the prickling intensities seem to close in upon you; the ambient electric hum is palpable upon the skin. Over the disc's 40 minutes, subtle whirring rhythms build and are broken down, but the movements are too gradual to be noticed. Despite the synthetic imagery of the title, Polychrome w/ Neon Nails powerfully invokes the electric crackle of a humid forest clearing, and as such stands as an unintended companion piece to Lopez's La Selva. Fascinating and quietly compelling.
(The Wire, UK)
The arrival of digital audio not only extended a recording's time and frequency range, but also allowed for silence. Bernhard Günter's work combines glacial pacing with sounds that live at the edge of audible (headphones required). This release finds him at the quiet peak of his provocative game, offering two 45-minute pieces whose clicks and high-pitched echoes are the equivalent of heat shimmer or an absent lover's perfume.
Familiar lowercase fans will be eeking with joy with this, Bernhard Günter's first full length domestic, double disc release. Inspired by the work of video artist Bill Viola, Günter processes in more audible regions with his most current work. Monochrome runs like digitized bath bubbles popping in microscopic millions, floating in the hazy, high pitched air of this organigital cosmos, pitched like crackled beetle shells under tiny buzzes, stringing themselves in infinite varieties. The strongest attribute of Bernhard's work remains his ability to grow, continually morphing and evolving tiny sounds. essential.
Packaged with appropriately gauzey slips of paper around the informative liner notes, Monochrome White and its compatriot disc Polychrome w/Neon Nails are Bernhard Günter's successful attempt at creating an especially "light" series of soundscenes... Hey, I've got a new name for LINE's hyperquiet outings... infinitesimalectronics. The single track of Monochrome White (44:02) simply streams forth the tiniest of hisses, crackles and clicks... like motes of dust dancing in a flashlight beam... or perhaps on a larger, more-organic scale, it could be gnats crazily circling an incandescant bulb (with the occasional sizzle as one gets too close) to the sound of distant crickets. Even with headphones at full volume though, I get more outside interference than I would hope. Louder, stronger (and hence "buggier"), Polychrome w/Neon Nails (also 44:02) delivers the same scene on a comparatively magnified level... crisper articulations mean that this time you practically can hear the insectile whirr of wings and clicking of mandibles; all the while, cicadas roar in that wavering drone they're known for (if you're not into the whole "bug" analogy, other options might include "crunchy molecules at play", "microphone in the frying pan" or "electrified champagne bubbling in your ear canal"...) Unless you're needing a fix of fizzy wallpaper-for-the ears, Monochrome White and Polychrome w/Neon Nails succeed more on a theoretical/creative level than on a just-plain-old-listening level... not that there aren't enticements to Bernhard Günter's 8.1 microminimal textures. The microspecialists at the LINE label are at the forefront of the infinitesimalectronics field.