RENE HELL: "PORCELAIN OPERA"
There's been a bit of a buzz about the new Jeff Witscher album on Type.
Grateful to finally get the opportunity to hear it, but unfortunately I really didn't like it that much.
Some plus points first: it's, uh, beautifully produced, sequenced, packaged. And it's nice and short. 34 minutes: that's a *proper* length for an album.
Parts of the record are relentlessly dull, I'm afraid. "IV" is possibly the worst offender: it unrolls slowly, not much happens - sure, I get the point of it - but it lacks any sort of poignancy or delicacy; and it's pretty low on timbral colour. I'm sure it's meant to be muted and minimal, but instead it comes off as hollow and uninteresting - a sort of monochrome, one-dimensional Terry Riley-eqsue affair. I'm not getting any sort of narrative whatsoever off this. That in itself could probably be interesting - a track in which all meaning is sucked out - an absence; a negation - but this just strikes me as an exercise in something.
Opening tracks are often meant to ease you into an album: "Razor" starts with a repetively lurching synthsound - which is pleasant enough in itself - but the 'quirky', delay-effected voices that spin in and out of the mix soon start to grate. This track isn't exactly big on ideas. The bubbling liquid sounds that infiltrate the second half of the piece are quite, well, 'nice', but that short-delay sound irks somewhat. There's also a drifting quasi-organ sound that reminds me a bit of a sequence on side two of Kevin Ayer's "Confessions of Dr. Dream" LP. But now I want to listen to that, not this.
"Prize Mischief Hold" sounds like an old Throbbing Gristle B-Side, with Chris Carter dicking around on his Roland while Gen does his nasal-y whine-y thing in the background through backwards reverb, yet more delay, etc. Again, why would I want to hear this when I could go back to the source, listen to an old TG or Normal track? The accompanying PR piece makes great play about how a lot of modern electronics are rooted in kitsch and referentiality (whereas this isn't), but I'm not exactly hearing much here that sounds 'new' or challenging or even particularly interesting to me. This fails for me for exactly the same reasons why a lot of the Ghostbox releases score so low on my own personal Ipsos-Mori Worm.
Sometimes it doesn't pay to be old, y'know: too many things remind you of other things that you've already heard. And - I'm sorry - but mere 'context' or rolling out the H-Word doesn't necessarily transform something a bit lame and half-arsed into The Emperors New Soup, irregardless of what certain philosibloggers might think.
Sometimes I think it's a bit about who your mates are than the quality of the music or its conceptual underpinnings.
Still, I can't fault the production here. But damn it - I can't think of much else to say.
"C. G. Mask" is more of the same: repetitive, minimal synthline, bubbling oscillators and treated vocals. It's all very...nice. But, again, there's something missing from this - it's curiously unengaging...about two-and-a-half minutes in there's a brief Tangerine Dream (Virgin Era) interjection that leaves me wanting to listen to "Rubycon" or something. This is all, so...errrm: frustrating. I can't put my finger on what this LP is lacking which makes the originals so fullsome.
Perhaps it's a sense of adventure or exploration. The idea that there's a future out there waiting to be grasped, rather than a past ready to be recalled or reclaimed.
I'm sure this album'll find a home with people who dig that whole coffee-table electronics thing - safe, middle-stream, middle-class avant. Stuff that reminds you of the good stuff. IF this is pastiche, then it doesn't work for me. If it's not pastiche, then it's startlingly bereft of ideas.
"L. Minx" is more of the same: elements from the previous tracks re-arranged, re-jiggled. More of that annnnnnoying metalicised short-delay sound. The filtered voices don't sound sinister or alien or disturbing or funny; they just irritate.
They don't tell me a story.
Go and buy an old Cluster or Harmonia album or else tell me I'm wrong. I don't really mind which.