Compositional improvisation from the electroacoustic duo....
Hannah Skrinar 2003-01-17
Electronic performance duo Furt (aka Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer) have been quietly dismantling the boundaries between improvisation and composition for some 16 years now. Barrett is a composer of dense, knotty works (often termed 'New Complexity') while Obermayer works in free improv trio Bark!
Defektkicks off with "Plint", the most 'difficult' and rhythmically disjointed piece of the four. Derived from one of the duo'slive performances, it's a sparse, slow-moving mix of Cageian prepared piano sounds, which at one point becomes a mesmerizing duet between left and right speakers.
By contrast "Gute Nacht" is dominated by warmer textures and a comforting drone background reminiscent of the Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds", over which is superimposed a flickering rush of processed sounds. Brief classical music interjections (all presumably from Schubert) seem to have been carefully selected so as to make them very hard to identify, and although this might not be to everyone's taste, all in all this is a highly enjoyable 5 minutes.
The most derivative piece on the disc is the anti-Fascist "Volksmusik", which begins with a marching band loop reminiscent of Charles Ives, minus the crunchy harmonies, and features the voice of Charlie Chaplin (taken, I imagine from The Great Dictator), as a sort of camp cross between Hitler and Basil Fawlty. Full of dark undertones, and complete with a long, drawn-out orchestral climax (shades of Wagner or Strauss; hard to tell which exactly), it's both humorous and disturbing at once; a gripping combination.
The best is kept till last though. As soon as the 45-minute masterpiece that is "Ultimatum" begins to unfold, the listener is transported into asonic world that could come from another galaxy. Superbly crafted and incredibly inventive, "Ultimatum" (dedicated to Stockhausen) holds the attention with ease. It's music that has the formal rightness of a late Beethoven quartet, yet rhythm is its least important element. Although the pace varies often, the piece never sounds segmented. It's in every respect a great piece of music, and alone is worth buying this CD for.
On the whole, Defekt is a varied disc which stands repeated listening; a strangely therapeutic and superb musical experience.