SOUND EDITION

line_028
Steinbrüchel
Stage

LINE_028 | CD | Edition of 1000 | September 2006

Stage is Steinbrüchel’s second full-length solo release on LINE. The album contains 10 scenes that move between warm organic and melodic digitalised sounds and cold crystalline-like sparks. The sounds and compositions are even more detailed and have a more melodic approach then previous recordings by Steinbrüchel. Single isolated and stretched tones are structured together with smaller loops and particles of clicks and noises into dense atmospheres. Parts of the sounds used in several scenes are based on piano recordings by Bernd Schurer and/or guitar recordings by Tomas Korber. For the first time Steinbrüchel has used and processed recordings of acoustical instruments to this extent in his compositions. Stage brings to life once again a collection of precise and carefully composed structures and textures, which are formed into different scenes where they all interweave with each other.

All the tracks were composed in 2005 for the interactive dance performance HYBRIDOME, produced by Avventure in Elicoterro Prodotti a Ariella Vidach AiEP. The tracks on the CD release are in a different order and are also structured differently than the actual still unfinished dance performance.

Ralph Steinbrüchel, born in 1969, studied Communication Design at Central Saint Martins School in London, where he acquired a Masters of Arts and Design with distinction. He now lives and works as a musician and graphic designer in Zurich, Switzerland. In 2002 his composition zwischen.raum [domizil] was distinguished with the Max Brand Award for Electronic Music [phonoTAKTIK.02 Festival, New York]. In the same year he received a compositional scholarship from Pro Helvetia, Arts Council of Switzerland, to work on his release Circa [LINE, US]. Last releases were the solo-CD Skizzen [Binemusic, Germany], the collaboration Status [12k, US] with Frank Bretschneider (raster-noton) from Berlin and the composition opaque [room40, Australia] together with five additional reinterpretations.

REVIEWS

Composed for the dance work Hybridome, Stage is a reminder that the simplest of sound tools in the right hands produces paramount listening opportunities. To this end, Steinbrüchel has devleoped a body of work that meditates on the positioning of minimal sounds in the stereo (and surround) listening field. With Stage, he successfully creates a number of smoothly oscillating "scenes" that arrange delicate electronic textrues withing swaying tonal passages. This effect splits the listeners' concentration, and depending onf the listening environment, Stage offers numerous points of entry and departure. As the disc shifts thourgh each scene, our Swiss sound host doesn't resolve to any crescendo of activity. Rather, each of the pieces is allowed to unfold with a calm and measured accuracy. Emitted bleeps and spliced melodic fragments meet in "Scene 05" and act a s a natural centre for the record, offering a welcome contrast to some of the more full-bodied textures of "Scene(s) 06" and "02". Hybridome's dancers must have understood the power of stasis and used this to guide actions (or the lack thereof) when performing with the soundtrack.
(the wire, uk)

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Drone music seems both endlessly fascinating and oddly disposable. More attention seems to be given now to the way in which drones are originated than perhaps their outcomes. From the very early executions - Schulze's Irrlicht, and sustain - to the recent open-sourced, open-ended software-driven snippets edited down to comprise Henke's Layering Buddha, the modern day drone refuses to die. Displaying an affinity for evolution and for capturing the attention of diverse artists, all bent on impressing their own sense of complexity and detail onto the deeps and surfaces of the seemingly simple, it has demonstrated itself to be a highly resilient and justifiably shifting form. The ten drones here assembled are for an interactive performance/dance piece entitled Hybridome. How the dancers either interact with or trigger these sounds is unclear, but most of the drones exhibit a sometimes dour aura that generally favors stillness. Now steady state, now only sparsely active, now comparatively busy, these gleaming and nearly envelop-free bell-tones simultaneously exist as themselves, their altered states and their subsequent decays in a surround that maintains a fairly constrained frequency range. Their origins are well-masked and an impression is given of being inside a single, undulating sound rather than the more typical sense of mere sustain. This effect is especially convincing in those segments where some sense of the sonic envelope is revealed, perhaps due to the processed evocations of the occasionally present but nearly imperceptible contributions from piano and guitar. Whether a clipped strike on tines, the soft pluck of an enormously long string, or the impossibly stretched sines of mallets on metal, much of the sound is infected with the slow and post-modernist admission of glitch: transient blips in the suspension or severe slowing of time. Still, whatever the source, the pitched information remains fairly conservative, harmonically warm and reassuring with only the most occasional and modest shifting of tonal clusters. Stage lives out on the edges of an almost completely internalized perception where it becomes difficult and thereby all the more rewarding to discern the most languorous shifts in tone, in pitch, in frequency, in content, in time - all highly suitable to parameters in advancing the drone into yet another delineation of the steady state.
(e/i, usa)

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Ralph Steinbrüchel's computerized charm, an instantly recognizable style amidst the mostly nondescript population of today's electronica, is gradually leading him to the same position that Brian Eno gained many years ago through his own output. On the other hand, the impressive frequency ecosystem revealed by this composer in each one of his works is quite stunning; its cause-effect relationship, in conjunction with its complexity of subtle nuances, is such that trying to use all of this with the same "ambient" goal would be totally pointless. These ten tracks, created by SteinbrŸchel for an interactive dance performance, have all the necessary credentials to be considered among the best things that the Swiss laptopper has been fathering in recent years. The fascinating aura emanated by each piece soon becomes a necessary presence, corroborated by an eloquent elegance which levigates angles to the point of a nerve-rubbing calmness, finely tuned by the natural resonance of my listening environment. Yet, Stage is not only for connoisseurs but invites and seduces through its spectral fecundity, which balances deadpan subsonic activities with tenuous solar warmth in crystal-clear structures. In all this beauty, not a trace of presumption or coldness is to be found; this perfect elemental symmetry is SteinbrŸchel's trademark, which makes sure that his production remains in the high places of ear-pleasing sonic Darwinism.
(touchingextremes.org, italy)

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Steinbrüchel's sound is one of depth, density, harmony and a strange kind of beauty. This release could conceivably one of Line's most melodic and relaxing (with the possible exception of Doublevends Vert I guess). Stage is compromised of a series of scenes and the compositions were all made for an interactive dance performance. Musically it really is truly deep... swathes of resonant texture drift through each piece and has an almost classic drone sound at times. Relaxing would be one way to put it although I'm sure some people would find it challenging. The pieces almost seem to merge with each other, such is the overall flow, and his clever use of melodic tones really lifts the music upward. Slight rhythmic elements drop in from time to time and really punctuate the tracks nicely. Essentially if you're a fan of his other work, both solo and with other artists, there's no chance that you're not going to love this. Line continues to dominate the minimalist electronic field at the moment and, as such, this comes highly recommended.
(smallfish, uk)

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This second CD release on 12k offshoot Line for Ralph Steinbrüchel documents a number of compositions for the interactive dance performance, Hybridome. Most of the pieces on this disc are based on processed recordings of Tomas Korber's guitar and/or Bernd Schurer's piano. The end result is unmistakeably Steinbrüchel's own however. The impossibly warm, effortlessly elongated tones that characterise his work are present throughout, but there's always an accompanying tide of subtle electroacoustic debris secreted away beneath the all-pervasive, monolithic drones. The silken, muffled chimes embedded in the hushed undercurrents of 'scene 6' gradually open up into a quiet breeze of soft static and high frequency oscillations. There's always more going on than meets the ear in Steinbrüchels work - making this a thoroughly engrossing listen.
(boomkat, uk)

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Stage is Steinbrüchel's second full-length solo release on LINE, the more ambient/ drone side label of electronica label 12k. Originally conceived as a soundtrack for an interactive dance performance. Stage offers up ten tracks or scenes of slow moving, droning sound pictures and tones,that hover in slowly forming beauty to chilling gloom. Taking in just over a hours running time, Like the best ambient drone music you can either let in dwell in the background or concentrate on the slowly evolving and unfolding tones, that gentle coax your emotions in different ways. Scene one opens the album up with growing feel of past midnight dread. Like the slow shifting of gravel out side ones bedroom window,wondering what could be out there hold it's breath staring up at your window. The tones grow shadows and depth of doubt , an chilling excise in minimal creepiness. Scene six finds us sitting in the growing first light of a spring dawn- slowly drones open up their melodic wings, take off and hovering in lazy manner. As the rich warm undercurrents loop on themselves almost making one dizzy, before more recognised guitar tones appear crisp and delicate in the audio air. Another very rewarding release from 12k. Perfect to inspire and chill your mind with it slow moving and rich drone world.
(musiquemachine.com, canada)

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Sometime during the summer of 2003, after being introduced to the 12k/Line label, I took a chance and purchased several of their releases one of which was Ralph Steinbrüchel's Circa. This marked the beginning of my fascination and admiration for Steinbrüchel's inimitable approach to the microsound aesthetic. Stage is his second solo appearance on 12k/Line. Stage consists of ten compositions (or scenes). Scenes 2, 3, 5, 6,7, and 9 include sounds processed from guitar recordings provided by experimental guitarist, composer, and improviser Tomas Korber, while scenes 4 and 5 contain sounds derived from piano recordings contributed by musician and composer Bernd Schurer. For the most part, however, only ghosts of the original source sounds remain having been obscured by the artist's skilled and deliberate processing. The general atmosphere of the first nine tracks of Stage is one of composure, warmth, and flux. Beautiful extended tones and resonant harmonics born of electronic noises and acoustic samples move gracefully through space. Microscopic particles of transparent sounds, digital chimes, and tiny pops and clicks flicker in and out amongst a beautiful flow of pure and distorted tones from both ends of the frequency spectrum. The tenth scene stands in interesting contrast to the other scenes being more coarsely textured and having a dissonance that shades it with a digital coldness not found in its predecessors. Delicate one moment, robust the next, Stage is brimming with an ever-changing variety of textures as smooth and harmonious tones amalgamate with traces of abrasiveness and discord. Silence is not in the sound palette here as the overall ambiance is dense - not overbearing, but rich and full. For anyone not familiar with Steinbrüchel's work, Stage would be the perfect release with which to get acquainted and for ardent listeners you'll hear one of the world's most talented sound artists at his best.
(earlabs.org)

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Prova a dare organicitˆ e tepore alle sue melodie digitali anche Steinbruchel, incorporando per la prima volta nei propri materiali registrazioni processate di strumenti acustici (il pianoforte di Bernd Schurer e la chitarra di Tomas Korber). Concepita quale colonna sonora per la performance di danza interattiva Hybridome della compagnia Avventure in Elicoterro (sic!) Prodotti con la coreografia di Ariella Vidach, la partitura in dieci scene  tutta un lento slittare di toni elettronici, strati di fruscii, scrocchi e particelle con esiti non dissimili dai precedenti lavori dello svizzero. (6/7)
(blow up, italy)

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On 12K's sub-division Line we find also a second release, this time by Steinbrüchel. Somewhere somewhat I also think of Steinbrüchel as a too much ignored musician, despite his output so far, and which runs back a few years, when he released records that could have been genre defining as Pan Sonic, but which we sadly ignored. The work on Stage is indeed for stage: it was composed in 2005 for the interactive dance performance Hybridome, produced by Avventure In Elicoterro Prodotti. For the first time, Steinbruchel takes sounds from piano (played by Bernd Schurer) and guitar (played by Thomas Korber), but they are hard to recognize. This new work is, if anything, a masterful introduction to the work of Steinbruchel and if you have never experienced real microsound music, then this is the place to start. Tones glides by, sounds forming small particles, looping gently around, cracks come alive and in all is a densely layered, but warm affair. A fine release? Yes, a fine release.
(vital weekly, the netherlands)