I approached Zeitkratzer only last year – and was delighted to experience near instant revelation as the ensemble’s acoustic rendering (via amplification) of the ear-scorching nastiness of Whitehouse added a squelching, fleshy goriness to each grotesque.
Here, on their third collaboration with Keiji Haino, the ensemble tackle five of fifteen texts created by Karlheinz Stockhausen in a flood of inspiration in May 1968. Each piece results from the entwining of the esoteric instructions – “play a vibration in the rhythm of dreaming” for example – with the interpretation made by each participating musician. As a listener, no conceptual background knowledge is required to enjoy the results because it’s remarkable how coherent and dramatic the consequences are. There’s a sour misperception that engaging intellectually with a music strips it of emotion and humanity – the music on Aus Den Sieben Tagen is a clear riposte in which instructions ripe with spiritual meaning, drive a conversation across ages between fifty year old words and the living decisions of nine/ten musicians. The music is fruitful; filled with happy chance while never sounding merely accidental.
Kore, composed by Zeitkratzer’s founder Reinhold Friedl, consists of two lengthy pieces performed by his troupe live in Hamburg in 2013 and divided, here, into four tracks. There’s barely a let up across the forty-nine minutes: each corner of the sound-field seethes and writhes with every swoosh, saw, gasp or clash between the musicians and their instruments caught in vivid, close-up detail. There’s a notable layering with constant string activity dominating the high-end and the rumble of bass and drums flooding the low-end – leaving the squeezed middle as battleground to be fought over. The piece commences with aggressive rise-and-fall over a thrumming backdrop. Track two, again, has a certain stasis as sounds wheeze, circle and shiver their way in and out of the spotlight. By track three we’re deep in the jungle foliage with instruments mimicking animal noise, then on the fourth piece the ensemble rushes toward maximal volume, then descends in a bare instant, to the tactile emptiness of barren space haunted only by the nagging sound of scratching, twinkling and twilight whistles.
I find Zeitkratzer unnerving and unsettling – and I love it. Their work is engagingly strewn with intrigue and adventure at all times; they’ve created a position between the worlds of electronica, industrial, classical and new music which is entirely their own.