Repeat, Modulate

Thomas Brinkmann’s new album What You Hear (Is What You Hear) is remarkably simple in concept, neat in construction and satisfying in resolution.

It’s based around repetitious loops that subtly shift, whether through the actual modulation of effects and tone or just via the unavoidable sense of resonance and transformation that excessive repetition always generates.

It’s particularly simple – quaint even – because all the tracks are simply named after colours; each ostensibly being a representation of its associated hue. This is neither a groundbreaking concept nor an ingenious application of minimalism, but there’s something successful in its disarming lack of (over?)complexity, deft self-referentiality and touches of profundity.

The most ephemeral and touching piece is aptly titled Bleiweiss

…while a moment of calculated intensity is delivered by Agent Orange. The subtle confluence of the horrific title and chopping helicopter-blade rhythm arrives like a surreal intervention of reality in amidst an otherwise inward-facing and peaceful framework (albeit one with moments of abrasion).

There’s so much about this that reminds me of William Basinski: the loops, the melancholy, the simplicity of concept, the unfussy execution, the oblique but all-too-real interjection of horror. Sometimes these stripped back, uncomplicated pieces of quasi-commentary achieve more than they set out to.

Talking of William Basinski, he’s released some new things – once more melancholic, once more fuzzy and bright, once more repetitious. A meta-repetition if you will. It’s nice though; built around an indistinct piano figure that repeats and – not so much disintegrates – but flickers.

Check out Cascade as well, released concurrently.

Repetition isn’t always pretty (and modulation isn’t always subtle):


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