007 Acoustic Tales
Posted In: Acoustic Tales, Antonymes, Christoph Berg, Field Rotation, Nils Frahm
Comments: 16 Responses
“Acoustic Tales”, the new release on Fluid Audio by Field Rotation, is more of a trip to another country than it is an album…
Where albums are generally collections of songs, this release is comprised of territories, each vast in scope – rolling hills, panoramic horizons and acres of fields. Each track is a full day in this wilderness – traversing hillsides, rivers and embankments, up hill and down dale. Each trip is undertaken differently, with the sun in the sky throwing different angles of light and illuminating hidden aspects of the terrain.
Christoph Berg built this world throughout a two-year period, with the stated aim of integrating the literary traits of Kafka and Hemingway into an auditory form, seamlessly blending cinematic character with a subtle and mature melodic personality. The restrained arrangements are draped around melancholic yet triumphant airs, representing a dramatic leap into the assured and dignified confidence of a skilled practitioner at work.
Nils Frahm at Durton Studio in Berlin has mastered the project from analogue tape, and the deep corners of the tracks are tactile and textured as a result. Assisting is cellist Danny Norbury, adding signature flair on ‘Tale 4’.
Continuing Fluid Audio’s well-established tradition of elaborate and bespoke presentation, the letter pressed packaging draws together themes found in the gaunt vignetted 20-page booklet with stunning photographic artwork by Antonymes. The artwork and music is also presented in conjunction with themed poetry from Estela Lamat, continuing her association with the label.
Also in continuation with Fluid tradition this limited release will be constrained to 200 copies, not to be reprinted.
The literary worlds Berg is channeling often represent alternate worlds to the ones we inhabit, reimagined as familiar but distant metaphysical versions of places in time. “Acoustic Tales” is the same – a window into a black and white slow motion landscape, embodied in a master class of modern classical composition, textural acoustic sound design and subtle electronic layering.
Available mid December: Anyone on this mailing list will be given the opportunity to reserve a copy with a one off 24 hour pre-order coming soon.
“Acoustic Tales” by Field Rotation, the most recent release on Fluid Audio, could be something approaching a modern classic.
Without being overly hyperbolic (and one could be forgiven for being skeptical about a review from the site releasing it), it is without question the high water mark of Christoph Berg’s career thus far, and threatens sees him leap into territory many would not have expected to see him occupy. After I reviewed Christoph’s release on Hibernate from earlier this year, “Why Things Are Different”, I could not have honestly said I would have expected this from him within the same calendar year.
The album is the culmination of two years work – musical creations from 2009 to 2010, a collection of pieces intended to replicate in auditory form the literary short stories of Kafka and Hemingway. Whilst the ambition may sound horrifically pretentious, the execution is flawless and Berg has blended many elements (strings, electronics, subtle percussion, drones, textures, hiss, foreground and background melody, organ, piano, field clatter) to create a release that sounds at once familiar but distinctively original.
The album is clothed in the characteristically elaborate Fluid Audio pressed packaging, in this instance themed around black and white photography of rural and industrial landmarks. I was fortunate enough to see the video accompaniment to ‘Acoustic Tale 9’ as my introduction to the piece, and was impressed with the consistent tone and theme that the designers have managed to impart on the production – it all reads as a roadmap to an undiscovered or remote territory.
The photography in the 20-page booklet is really quite striking, as is the previously mentioned video. Danny Norbury has also contributed cello to one track, and this record in its entirety feels like a “sum of its parts” – contributors working towards a high standard and all achieving that common goal. Estela Lamat contributes poems, similar to the last Hessien release on the label but the tone is more direct and fractionally less elaborate than “Obelisk|Stelea”.
Rereading the last paragraph, it strikes me that tone here is indeed the key – that quality being an almost an indefinable element, and it can be all that can distinguish average work from great work. The TONE here is fantastic, and I’m not talking about a musical tone – rather an ability to marry different elements without resorting to cliché, or cheese, or to overplay the elements.
A mark of a mature artist, and here in spades.
I’m reminded of several contempories – Loscil, Max Richter, a less morbid Erik K. Skodvin as a starting point – some bass surges at the tail end remind of Solo Andata’s bottom end experimentation. Some delayed guitar notes bring to mind post rock minimalism, and some incredibly moving chord changes in some tracks bring to mind post rock’s direct emotional heft also.
It’s also worth stating that mentioning common touchstones should not be confused with direct comparison – the overall character of the music is such that it has its own distinct personality. That personality is by turns hopeful and resigned, and it never sinks to outright despair – the overall mood is one of restrained cathartic release, and it is an affecting one at that.
The mastering deserves to be singled out for high praise – the production is something else. Clean, crisp, warm and enveloping; the project was apparently brought to disc from analogue tape in Berlin and the process was worth the time. Nils Frahm, the mastering engineer, has worked some magic here.
This year has seen some great records, some of which were released in the last month or so. I’m confident we won’t see something of this standard within the last few weeks, so I’m confident in saying it is one of the best of the year.
Those lucky enough to secure one of these rare gems will doubtless return to it repeatedly over the years. Get one if you can.
- Review by Alex Gibson for Fluid Radio