ponedjeljak, 30. ožujka 2015.

Klaus Maeck - Decoder (1984)

Spaljivanje društva audiokasetama u duhu W. Burroughsa.


Decoder, an underground film from the early 80's has developed to a somehow prophetic cult movie. With an unique engagement of exceptional players, who for the most part play themselves (FM Einheit of Einstürzende Neubauten, the true Christiane F. of the infamous Bahnhof Zoo, Genesis P-Orridge of Psychic TV and the American writer William S. Burroughs) and extraordinary music of the time, such as Soft Cell, Einstürzende Neubauten, The The, the film dramatizes the transcending innovation which punk brought to the fields of communication, like a perfect precursor for the cyberpunk genre.
Muzak, the artificial music product created by scientists and marketing experts to increase efficiency and enhance wellbeing, irrigates men everywhere. A young punk and hobby sound mechanic decodes this music and creates an antidote to provoke disturbances not only in the burger joints where he found this music. By recruiting street pirates to spread his twisted sounds via tapes (an idea directly taken from Burroughs' cut up manuals) the tumults turn into violent streetfighting (with real footage from Berlin's infamous Anti Reagan riots). The big corporations can not tolerate this and engage a shady agent to stop the antimuzak movement.
Muzak, by its very nature, has undoubted political significance. With this in mind, the authors of Decoder have achieved a blend of reality and fiction. Surreal, metaphorical imagery interwoven with music, words, and sound effects make this a musical action movie with a very physical impact and an exciting insight view in the subcultural ideas and aesthetics of the early 80's.

 DVD Cover1DVD Cover2

DECODER focuses on the sonic experiments of a disillusioned 'noise-freak' FM, played by FM Einheit (aka Mufti) of the 'experimental' music group Einstürzende Neubauten (1), who is experimenting with white-noise and infra-sound, recording the daily noises around him and mixing them in his home-studio. FM wants to know: "the connection between these dumb-faced and contented people, gorging themselves on one hamburger after another, and the monotonously happy muzak constantly oozing out of the speakers..." From his studio window FM watches the frantic movements of the streets. After having a dream in which FM sees his partner, Christiana (Christiane Felscherinow aka Christiane F.),walking in a post-apocalyptic landscape with a figure of an old man, dressed in shabby coat and trilby, and hearing the clipped tones of Burroughs'voice from his own cut-up tape-recorder experiments, FM awakes and immediately begins to experiment in his studio with his recordings of fast-food restaurant (H.Burgers) Muzak, a form of audio valium. A second dream depicts FM entering a small shop; when the shopkeeper (William Burroughs) asks him what he wants FM replies "Nothing special", and appearing uncertain of what he is doing or looking for, FM knocks over a box of electrical diodes. The shopkeeper, who has been carefully dismantling a cassette recorder, jumps up, strides over to FM and states: "You start from zero preconceptions - you want 'nothing special' - here it is". The shopkeeper gives him the dismantled machine.
While out walking and recording noises, FM enters an abandoned warehouse, inside he watches as a number of people drum repetitively on a various pieces of percussion. Small fires burn in a trashcans scattered throughout the buildings. As FM watches he is seen by the percussionists, who drag him into an inner chember. Here FM is seduced by the
flashing lights of a Dream Machine,while Buttoughs' voice asks "Is this machine recording?" Then the guru figure (credited as Hohepriester, and played by Genesis P-Orridge) questions FM's presence in the building, asking if the tape player was being used to trigger a virus. FM explains his reason for recording, and Hohepriester tells FM "Information is guarded like a bank and we have to rob this bank" . FM explains that he wants to utilize sound as a weapon.
FM begins to use his tape experiments as a form of anti-muzak, replacing the artificially soothing muzak of H. Burger restaurants with his own tapes, which- instead of inspiring placid catatonic consumption - create nausea and violence among the restaurant's patrons. The insurrection caused by FM's anti-muzak and infra-sound tapes increases, leading to large-scale riots triggered off by punks holding tape-players blasting out FM's tapes. In response to the growing defiance the Muzak Corporatin coerce reluctant hit-man Jager (Bill Rice) to kill FM. Jager, however, has fallen in love with peep-show model Christiana on one of his many visits to the "sleazy  sin city" of the Reeperbahn, initially unaware that she is FM's girlfriend. Finally, Jager, - who is tired of being the lackey of the Muzak Corporation - recognizes that Christiana loves FM, and is killed by a speeding truck. Maeck describes it, "In the end he knew he had to finish the job. He was in Love with Christiane and then he realized Mufti, who he should find and kill, is her boyfriend. So he says, 'OK. I'll finish the job in my own interests'but he couldn't do it in the end..."(2)
Decoder presents a uniquely political interpretation of Burroughs' work, and - via the use of Burroughs in the film's dream sequences - directly attributes the narrative's central concerns to Burroughs' tape-recorder experiments. Burroughs only appears in the film for a short time during the electronic-shop sequences (shot with the assistance of Peter Christipherson during Burroughs' stay in London for the Final Academy events which transpired in 1982), yet via the repeated use of his distinctive voice, and the use of the Dreamachine, Burroughs remains a powerful figure clearly present in the margins of the text.
special sound filtering and mixing techniques are employed in constructing a particular tonal sequence designed to increase efficiency and enhance wellbeing. Used to stimulate or soothe, it is suitable for large office or factory companies, supermarkets and restaurants, dentists and hospitals.
(1) Einstürzende Neubauten (1980-present day) are Germany's most famous avantgarde musicans/experimentalist, who have experimented with the very limits of sound and music, exploring the use of non-instruments. The group are notorius'for utilizing the percussive potentialities of scarp-metal, but have experimented widely with the rhythms and sound which define the modern world, ranging from; concrete bridges, heartbeats, drills, to burning oil. In the studio the band experiment with the very recording process itself, mixing, re-mixing, and cutting/up their music, via a direct engagement with the musical potentialities of electricity and the mixing desk itself. [ back ]
(2) Klaus Maeck, cited in KM: Interview by Tom Vague and Manuella Rickers. Hamburg (Germany), October 1984, in Vague [The 20th Century And How To Leave It], Psychic Terrorism Annual, #16/17, 1988 (1984), p.87. [ back ]

 main picture

An Interview with Klaus Maeck
exerpt from "Naked Lens" - Beat Cinema by Jack Sargeant, © Creation Books 1997

Jack Sargeant: What other films and work were you engaged with prior to Decoder?
Klaus Maeck: My first film was a ten-minute experiment on 16mm, with a group of young students at some kind of youth hostel programm,called Dream. That was made around 1976, and was about the only film education i had.In 1979 i opend the first punk store in Hamburg(germany), which became more of a punk hangout than a store.I had a cheap Super-8 camera, and we shoplifted enough film material to be able to shoot our little movie called Amok-a 'Koma' film production. No dialogues, the music explained everything; German punk and 'avant-garde' tunes, some English classic and Throbbing Gristle. Elements from Clockwork Orange, punk attitudes and the almighty power of television were the themes.
In the same year we did ...Und Sie Wissen Nicht, Was Sie Tun Sollen(...And They Don't Know What They Should To Do), the title is very similar to the German title to the famous James Dean film, the one with the car race[Rebel Without A Case]. The film showed punks in the quarter. In the end we added television footage of the busts of the German RAF (1) leaders, as they were led into prison. About a year later, in 1979 or 1980, the police cleanded up the punk quarter. Indeed on ereview in a good German daily paper helped a lot towards getting funding for the next project which i started to plan, or write about, in 1981/82. The working title was Burger Krieg(Burger War). The German word Burger standa for civil, so the title means civil war... eventually the title changed to Decoder.
JS: I wondered how you began to script Decoder, abd also what attracted you to Burrough's work, and these ideas in particular
KM: Well... I forgot to tell you about another experiment i did around 1977. I was totally inspired and excited by Burrough's cut-up idea so a friend and i collected Super-8 material to actually take Burroughs' idea literally. We cut the films into very small pieces, mostly only 2-5 frames, and glued them together in a different order, 'accidentally', according to 'chance'. The resultat was a film where you saw hardly anything, you could not catch what it was about, but there were some images which stuck in your mind. Not many friends were as excited as we were, and i have no idea where that film is today, although i would love to see it again.
So, anyway, i have named the main inspiration. I wanted to realize Burroughs' ideas and the techniques which he described in the 'Electronic Revolution', and in The Revised Boy Scout Manual and in The Job. These were my favorite books. I tried to read Burroughs' novels, but i got into them much later. I did not understand much of his own results, but i wanted to use these techniques. I didn't like Burroughs' as a writer or an artist, I liked him as a revolutionary. Being involved in political work in the '70s showed me that I never really felt comfortable in these circles; the legal approach to organazing groups and demonstrations, spreading information via leaflets and magazines was boring and did not agitate too many new folks. And it was getting more and more dangerous in a time when the militant factions like Movement 2nd June and RAF etc. grew, becoming more and more active. And so did the pressure from the police and state. The other option was going underground, but I was scared of prison. I always missed a fun aspect in all political circles. The subtitle of my freak magazine Cooly Lully Revue, which was produced in 1976/77, was"magazine for the radical joy of life".
My approach became different, especially when I left my political friends when they hated punk for being fascistic. And I loved Johnny Rotten for his revolution in show business(and I still do). I was concinced that the only valuable political work must use the enemy's techniques. From the 'Forward' of the Decoder Handbook: "It's all about subliminal manipulation, through words, pictures and sound. It is the task of the pirates to understand these techniques and use them in their own intrest. To spread information is the task of all media. Media is power. And nowadays (1984!) the biggest revolution happen at the market for electronic media. To spread information is also your task. And we should learn in time to use our video and tape recorders as Weapons. The fun will come by itself."
Being in the music business and participating in the punk and new wave explosion I became more interested in music. Muzak was one thing I found. Subliminal music to influence people's moods, to make them funktion better, or buy more. So my conclusion was similar to that of 'bands' like Throbbing Gristle; by turning around the motivation, by cutting up the sounds, by distorting them etc. one should be able to provoke different reactions. Make people puke instead of feeling well, make people disobey instead of following, provoke riots.
The new burger chains spreading in Germany, being a part of the decadent imperialistic American culture, were a good target for this subversive war-described in Burroughs' manuals. One of our original ideas was a actually use low,low bass frequencies in some scenes so that the viewer in the cinema should feel uncomfortable-to feel the movie! (again Burroughs' instruction for using infra-sound).
JS:How did you go about casting the movie?
KM:From the beginning of writing the script, in 1981, I involved characters I was living and working with. FM Einheit from Einstuerzende Neubauten was the ideal anti-hero, scrambling music in his underground laboratory, as in real life(Neubauten were my second favourites, after the Sex Pistols). To make a story I needed personal relationship, and I asked Christiane F. who lived in our 'commune' at the time. Only a few people knew it was the famous junkie girl who got rich early by the licensing of her book Children From Station Zoo. She had left Berlin where everybody knew her by now, and were it was hard for her to stay clean, as she was in those days. We lived in the middle of Hamburg's red lihgt district St.Pauli, full of peep shows ... so there was the clue. She played two persons; one in public,being looked at through holes and for money, and the other a very private person, who preferred to live with animals(frogs)instead of men. It was hard for her to find real friends, real love, in both the film and in real life, since many people were only after her money. The story came from there...
Well, and we needed a bad guy. An agent, not from the state or police, but from a big private corporation, like Muzak Corp, or H-Burger, as we called the burger chain(H,of course, stood for heroin in those days). And to make an exiting story we needed dubios characters, confusion...the agent was more interested in his personal obsession than in his job. Well, in the end our story became so confused that nobody could really understand what was going on- unless he studied the film carefully.That is also due to the fact that 'we' in the beginning were two writers. After the first 'draft' I presented the script to Trini Trimpop who had done one film before and knew about possibilities for financial support from local film institutions. We worked on the script together for a second version. Soon Trini introduced another friend of his was good at dialogues and additional levels. Getting more and more convinced that we could realize the film, finally Muscha joined the team to direct the movie (2)
JS: How did you get the funds to finance the movie?
KM:The first money we were promised was from Hamburg's Film Funds. I remember that one member of the jury of five was to become Hamburg's Burgermeister(chief of the local country and city government) later. However, they liked the script and gave 250.000DM-which was about half of the budget we needed. The money was only to be paid when we were able to get the funding for the other half. So we tried in Trini and Muscha's county and received additional funding of 100.000DM. Finally the Berlin based Kuratorium Junger Deutscher Film gave 50.000DM. What sounds so easy now took a lot of time-each time we had to manufacture a dozen scripts including calculations, illustrations, crew and actor proposal, and each time we had to wait another three months for a decision.
When we had the 400.000DM after one year(one year after the script was finished, although we kept changing and adding scenes) we decided to go ahead and start shooting. It was getting urgent since there was unique chance to get Burroughs' involved. I had written a letter to him explaining the script based on his ideas and asked him to participate. I head already met him my first contact with him was in 1980 when I visited him in Lawrence(where he still lives) to interview him for a German magazine. Well, he answered, saying that he would be open to participate whenever it would not involve too much time. And then this event in London came along- The Final Academy- organized by Genesis P-Orridge and others. I also had been in touch with Genesis P-Orridge, and we organized a time to shoot one afternoon - we had exactly one hour. The location was a small store for electrical appliances in Tottenham Court Road. The video-camera was operated by 'Sleazy' Peter Christopherson, also from Throbbing Gristle, and early Psychic TV. We soon realized that Burroughs was not too good at repeating any lines or movement so we told him to stick to the old tape player we gave him to dismantle. While we were shooting, changing angles etc. he just kept on dismantling this machine, and I think he enjoyed it. I also remember not being too happy about the performence of our two actors (Burroughs and FM Einheit), but what can you do in one hour?
Having finished, Burroughs left the store with a little gift for his participation - a bottle of vodka. In front of the store waited his two assistents, and a few more people. One of them was filmimg through the window, while we worked, with his Super-8 camera. Much later I learned that this was Derek Jarman, who used this footage for his film The Pirate Tape (1982). You can catch pictures of a very young Klaus Maeck in there. Nice little film,I like it.
JS:The film appears to have really contrasting scenes, using red and blue light to delineate various characters, how did that idea come about?
KM:At some point at the preparation of the movie we decided to work with Johanna Heer as the director of photography. We liked her last film, a New York underground movie called Subway Riders, which also starred Bill Rice. And we wanted him too, we lived his face and expression. There was no other choice for our agent. Asked to participate by Johanna he was happy to come to Hamburg for one month. The actual shooting of the movie took place in December 1982 in Hamburg.
We liked the extreme use of lightning by Johanna in her earlier films and gave her all freedom to do what she would like. She chose the obvious colours for the different characters, so Bill Rice always appears bathed in blue light, Christiane always in red. I am not the person to go into this too much, since I never really liked this idea too much. It was okay for the time, it was 'new wave'. Muscha was responsible for 'style', and sometimes he exaggerated.
JS: How did the film production work, given that you were working as a part of a group?
KM: The relationship between the four of us? You could call it perfect teamwork. You could also call it organized chaos. None of us was a professional,and most of the things we did, we did for the first time. From script-writing to budget calculations, from getting the necessary documents to work in the streets to set decoration, from continuity to wardrobe, finally the long process of editing and adding sound - we did all of this ourselves, and I never again learned so much about filmmaking.
I can still laugh about our naivety; until the first day of shooting we did not decide who was actually going to direct the movie. But quickly we learned that teamwork has its limit. Although any director needs good assistance there has to be one responsible person to decide. So the rest of us ended up as co-directors for Muscha, since he was the loudest and most secure in directing people.
Those four weeks of shooting were very intense. Including the main actors there was always about twenty people working, day or night, always close together, working hard. In these four weeks almost everybody had at least one 'breakdown' - where he could not stand it any more, when he wanted to drop out. But I think that is quite normal for such an intensiv team work. Paradoxically having worked at such a thing once, you get addicted to making films. Well, I felt that at that time. It can change your life! Well, it actually did; Johanna married the sound-man a little later, and the camera assistent fell in love with FM Einheit's wife,who left him.
JS: Can you talk a little about what happened when you began to shoot in Berlin...?
KM: Probably the most exiting footage we recorded was in Berlin when President Reagan visited. We knew that there would be riots, it was a popular game at that time. We went there with one 16mm camera and one U-Matic video camera, which we were set up safely on balconies. And we were in the middle of the action with three more Super-8 cameras.The game was to provoke the police. The political Scene in Berlin was big, and the police did not have many chances, we knew, and it was fun. Whenever the police were going to another area,we had time to think of something new to get them back into action. We placed 'tape terrorist'- friends holding tape recorders - to get footage for our film wherever the action was. So the members of Einstuerzende Neubauten were helping us too. Too bad that in the film our footage looks like archiv footage from television, because we had to use video and blown-up Super-8 material which both obviously look different in a 16mm movie.
The best story of all is that we were more than surprised that our script became true before we even started. Whwn we came to Berlin we realized that there were actually tapes spread around, distributed around the political circles, with the instruction to make further copies and then play them all at the same time, from Walkmans, from personal equipment in the homes through open windows etc. - and it worked!! At 11.00am you heard helicopters and shooting, although there were none.You heard Jimi Hendrix, and some German political band. The police had heard of this action and confiscated a lot of tape recorders the night before - as weapons! Too bad I never heard of such an action again, although I am sure that so many exciting incidents could be provoked by that. Today the technology is so much better and smaller you could do even better!
So, as you can guess from all this background, yes I was fascinated by the 'guerrilla' aspect of Burroughs' work. I was interested to see whetever it was possible to fight for your interests not on the streets, but from inside the system, through cultural media, like literature, film and sound. I realized what strange effects the combination of these media can have. Burroughs' films with Anthony Balch presented experiments from the '60s, and here we were in the '80s not having progressed too much in that field.
One Of my favourite movies was - and still is - Themroc(Claude Faraldo,1972) with Michel Piccoli, a french film. There is no dialogue at all in this film, omly the sounds which surround you, so these sounds and gestures and mimicry become much more important. In this film, Piccoli becomes bored to death by his factory job and drops out, stops speaking, passing through crowds with an animal - like roaring voice - in the end he catches a cop to fry him on his self-made grill.
The editing of Decoder took almost one year, due to time and money shortage. We had to work at night, at weekends.For the music we were proud to work with Dave Ball, who had been in Soft Sell, Genesis P-Orridge and FM Einheit. Almost every single sound in the movie had to be amplified by the adding of artificial sounds which was fun to do. But remember, this was all hand-crafted, there were no computers involved then. We ended up with various layers of sound tapes, all being put at the correct points by hand...
We will never know if the decision to wait for the 1984 Berlin Film Festival for the premiere screening was the right decision. Most critics did not like the film, they did not understand its background and meaning. We got bad reviews in Germany and so we were not able to find a distribution company. The film was shown at several European festivals, but was not screened in Germany until 1986 - another trick helped. Again we applied for funding, this time for the distribution. We found a small Berlin-based distributor who was able to get it into the cinemas by employing me as a kind of 'product manager' from the fund money. So I got a small salary for organizing the first and only tour through Germany. The film is still distributed today, but has no more than five to ten screenings per year,with hardly any income.
However, there is an exception; in Milan,Italy, a political/subcultura group named their magazine after the movie, and by now they should have about twenty issues of Decoder published(in Italian only). After getting more into publishing they started to translate the Re/Search books about Industrial Culture, William Burroughs', and other issues (3). Today they run a small publishing company doing their own books and working for the famous Italian publisher Feltrinelli. The film Decoder is shown in their squatted 'social centres' quite often. The last time I was invited to present and talk about my films was in April,1996, when more than 300 people came to see the movie. Around the same time they released it on video. At that event some guy walked up to tell me that Decoder was his first movie he saw and that it changed his life! See what you can do with film!
JS: One of the central scenes in many ways is the telephone scene between Mufti and Christiane, where they are both talking to each other on the phone , and the cameraq eventually pulls back, and you can see that they are in the same room.I was really fascinated by that, and wondered if you could tell me how the scene came about, and also - given the film's emphasis on electronic forms of communication - what are your opinions of electronoc communication, do you think that technologies like the telephone 'mediate' communication? I mean, it seems even more interesting given Burroughs' writings on the nature of language and the word...
KM: If you ask me details like why we made the telephone scene between FM Einheit and Christiane I feel uncomfortable explaining, because it is a visual abstraction, or an instrument to create a character. One aspect is that Christiane doesn't like to be stared at, she wants to hide. She loves it when her boyfriend(played by FM) speaks to her through the telephone, if 'he is in the ear'. No face: no view. Hearing is feeling. Hearing the pure word, with no images to distract the mind.
Or is it a hint that we even use technical devices to communicate whenwe don't need to, when we could communicate in person? There are many 'hints', many details in the movie, which nowadays can be interpreted as a wise prophecy, and so it might be it is nothing other than one transcription of zeitgeist at the time.
JS: DECODER seems to me to be the only Burroughs-influenced film which actually focuses on that side of his work, the entire underground technological thing, with the ensuing riots, and the tape-machines as weapons idea. DECODER seems almost to be unique in approaching Burroughs from a very political perspective; why do you think that is?
KM: Wha is there no other political approach to Burroughs in films? I don't know, and I would love to see more of that. Although I have often heard the reaction that Burroughs' ideas are too '60s or '70s, and are outdated. I do believe that so much more is there to learn from him. So many things that he described, analyzed, and prophesied came true. Cut-ups are as common in films as they are in commercials, or as they are in modern music. And now, what can we do with the internet?
JS: How did the Commissioner Of Sewers film come out?
KM: In 1986 I moved from Hamburg to Berlin. After being bankrupt with my punk store and independent record distribution, since the major companies came along and joined in, I was living on welfare. Now I had a new job in a small film distribution company, working on Decoder for three months, when I heard that William Burroughs was invited to read in Bremen(germany). I contacted him and invited him to read in Berlin on the same trip. It was his last public reading in Germany. I booked a cinema with 350 seats- we wanted to present Decoder as another premiere. Nobody knew how many people would show up. I think there were so many that more than 100 did not get inside. However, we were prepared to film his reading with two cameras and in front of a blue screen. The reading was at 10.00pm which was late for the old man. He went to sleep a little in advance and we had to wake him up at 9.30pm. First thing he asked for was a big joint, and totally stoned he entered the stage. But his reading was fantastic, and so was the reaction.
JS: Why did the film took so long to produce, from the actual performance to the finished video?
KM: It took me five years before I could edit the material - again due to money shortages. A professional video editing suite is very expensive, and I had to wait for a better chance. In 1991, living in Hamburg again, I met my co-producer who offered me the use of his studio for nothing, if he got 50% of all future income. "Fair deal" I thought, and I doubt he will ever see the amount of money which I would have had to pay.
JS: How did the visual effects come about, those colorful backgrounds while William Burroughs is reading? They're interesting because they remove the performance from any kind of 'real' context, from the 'verite' nature of most of the performance films that Burroughs - and the beats in general - have appeared in. The effects also go back to what I was saying earlier about mediated communications, about using technology to rewire speech.
KM: My idea from the beginning was ti illustrate his reading with background material. Well,I had time enough to collect that over the years. We used footagr done in the Berlin Zoo while he was visiting (incidentally, the zoo was the only tourist attraction he wanted to go to visit. The same happened years later when he stayed in Hamburg to work on Black Rider (4). Then there was some of my video-8 footage, shot during another visit to his home in Lawrence,Kansas, in 1990. And some excerpts from his own experimental movies, etc. Then images of the words typed onto a typewriter, these were words from book pages etc.
This was still enough, and I added another level by putting on some music, in order to create an atmosphere. Who wants to watch a reading? To serve all senses I wanted to involve all possible layers of word, image and sound - especially since the mixture of all creates something new, sometimes surprising. You put music to an image and it starts to live. You put an image to music and it starts to move. You put another image on top and it creates meaning, another life.
It is too bad I only had ten days to edit this movie, because parts of it are really just experiments which could have been more perfect, more sophisticated. As with Decoder I know what I would do differently today. But than again, Commissioner Of Sewers is a time document, nicely illustrated to ease the access to this brilliant man.
Be aware that for Germans it is not always easy to understand his American accent, even if you do speak English. And so many people here do not understand his humour, which is what makes him so funny and lovable.
JS: What are your plans for the future, do you see yourself making more films?
KM: By studying Burroughs' work, his books and painting, I got much more interested in art (and in the art of living). I am still interested in experimenting with all media, and with different approaches, the most exciting results I still find in the interzones, in various crossover of art and culture; between the lines.
I keep on writing, although not much of it is published yet, although there may be a first book of mine published in Italy soon. I keep on filming every few years, whenever there is a chance. And I started painting, much to my surprise I am more fascinated by it than I ever imagined. But I have my day-time job which fills most of my time.
In 1988 I founded a music publishing company called Freibank, with my partner Mark Chung. When he split from Einstuerzende Neubauten I also took over the management of the band, which is still going after 16 years. They were the first band we published, we soon started working for others such as Nick Cave, and Diamanda Galas. Over the years the spectrum widened, and nowadays we work with many artists and bands, and we became one of Germany's most attractive independent publishers. This keeps me busy, too busy to write new scripts or novels, too busy to make films. But my time will come again.
(1) The Red Army Faction, one of '70s Germany's infamous "terrorist" left wing organization. 
(2) Trini Trimpop and Muscha made the debut film with Humanes Toten(1979). 
(3) ReSearch was the San Francisco based sub-cultural journal, issues included The Industrial Culture Handbook (which focused on Burroughs-influence performers such as Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK and NON) and William Burroughs/Brion Gysin/Throbbing Gristle, which included extracts from Burroughs' Revised Boy Scout Manual, as well as interviews with both Borruoghs and Brian Gysin. 
(4) Black Rider was a theatre piece directed by Robert Wilson and featuring William Burroughs and Tom Waits. 

“Muzak is more than music.”
Decoder, a criminally under-seen Orwellian 1984 film, tells the story of the people’s revolution against an evil muzak corporation, beginning in the hallowed booths of uber-fast food chain H-Burger and spreading to the streets. In the world of Decoder, muzak is a sedative, an aural Valium, that controls the people’s creativity and emotions, as exemplified by the metaphor of the enforcement of junk food consumption.

Decoder stars German industrial musician F.M. Einheit (Einstürzende Neubauten), Lower East Side actor, artist, and scholar Bill Rice, and famous heroin addict and musician Christiane F. (Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo) and features cameos by author and artist William S. Burroughs and musician and artist Genesis P-Orridge (Psychic TV, Throbbing Gristle). While doused with art house affectation, Decoder delineates a relatively cohesive narrative of corporatism, control, and the power of noise.

Loosely based on ideas plucked from Burroughs’ 1971 essay collection, The Electronic Revolution, Decoder was encoded by a West German filmmaking collective consisting of: writer, editor, and producer Klaus Maeck, director, writer, editor, and producer Muscha, writer, editor, and producer Volker Schäfer, and Trini Trimpop. Lensed by Johanna Heer, the film’s blunted, monochromatic color schemes — primarily red, green, and CRT blue — demarcate character, mood, and motivation. Einheit’s character, FM, is arguably the film’s protagonist, a disaffected noise hacker-punk on a mission to infect muzak with noise. Of all the characters, FM is the least well-developed, but his haircut and percussive talents almost make up for the lack of character development.

Christiane F.’s character, Christiana, is a peepshow dancer-slash-herpetologist who simultaneously exudes a sense of preternatural wisdom and psychic human frailty. Rice’s character, Jager, works for the muzak corporation as a Raymond Chandler-channeling detective and on-call hit man. Genesis P-Orridge portrays the high priest of the black noise-pirates. In a pivotal scene, FM stumbles into the pirates’ warehouse and communes with him. The high priest advises, “Information is like a bank. Our job is to rob that bank.” Burroughs is featured in FM’s dreams and as an electronics equipment shop proprietor, who gifts FM with a disassembled cassette, advising that it is all he needs. Decoder bears the marks of a ramshackle production setup, but the film’s narrative is enhanced by its lack of smoothness and Hollywood conventions.

The filmmakers’ use of the instability between the German nations in combination with Burroughs’ theories of information are typified by the use of archival riot footage in Decoder. Having planned to plant tape recorders amongst protesters of Reagan’s state visit, they quickly learned that said protesters were already armed with cassette players loaded with war zone soundscapes of helicopters, gunfire, and so on. In 1984, Maeck told Vague magazine, “They put tape recorders in windows, and if you’re in the street and you hear all these noises and you don’t know where it’s coming from and you think where is that fucking helicopter, where is that shooting coming from? People got confused and angrier. It actually worked. They even busted tape recorders. They confiscated 200 tape recorders. It was really funny.”

What really sets Decoder apart from similarly themed filmic meditations on control, information wars, and revolution is the brilliant soundtrack. Sample the soundtrack in the audio section, below. And, if you’re in the mood, watch the entire film, in the video section. Scroll on, comrades.
- Samantha Anne Scott press1

Hamburg, 1983. F.M. is a youngster leading an idle urban life, totally alienated from his environment, and only active when making “sound experiments” in his home studio. Christiana, his girlfriend, works in a peepshow on Reeperbahn. A chronically depressed customer is infatuated by her and tries to get more closely acquainted. The relationship between F.M. and Christiana is cool and distant, except for the moments at breakfast, when they share the muddled visions of their dreams.
One day F.M. suddenly wakes up to the surrounding reality, as he notices how the inconspicuous background music at a hamburger joint may have some connection with the junk food. It dawns on him that muzak is designed to control and brainwash the masses, not unlike lobotomy. On top of its paralysing effects, muzak is also laced with subliminal messages. F.M. decides to go back to the bar and records the muzak for his own purposes. He starts to develop a form of “anti-muzak” in his studio, by playing the original material backwards, or at a wrong speed, or by mixing it with interfering factors like sounds of street riots or squealing frogs.

If you're even remotely interested in William Burroughs and/or counterculture, grab this. It's sort of historical, and somehow the idea of burning society to the ground using audiocassettes is a glorious one. As an added bonus, the riot featured in the movies are real ones (courtesy of ex-us president Reagan visiting Berlin in the early 80s).
I should have the soundtrack somewhere too - if anyone is interested let me know and i'll up it and post it in the comments area.


In a dream of his F.M. receives support for his one-man war from an old shopkeeper (William Burroughs) selling electronics spare parts. He gives F.M. a disassembled cassette with the advice “This is all you need!” While wandering around the city, F.M. runs into members of a shady cult, “the pirates”, who have taken over an abandoned building in order to practice their nocturnal rituals of “black noise”. The core of their high priest’s (Genesis P-Orridge) message is: “Information is like a bank. Some of us are rich, while others are poor. It is our mission to rob that bank” F.M. and the pirates decide to co-operate. They perform terrorist attacks in Burger Kings and McDonalds, armed with cassette players and anti-muzak. The customers get sudden nausea attacks and start rushing to the exits
The action continues around the city, until the mighty Muzak Corporation intervenes by sending agent Jger to track down the tape terrorists. Things get complicated when F.M. finds out that Christiana’s secret admirer and regular peepshow visitor is none other than Jger himself. All the while, F.M. and the pirates keep copying more anti-muzak cassettes and distributing them to people in the streets. Mass hysteria and general chaos ensue.

subota, 7. ožujka 2015.

John Eckhardt - Forests (2014)

Kontrabas za vađenje vremena iz šuma i močvara.


In special unity of form and content, „Forests“ presents John Eckhardt’s latest ventures into a secret realm of bass, space & time. After his pioneering, widely acclaimed solo-bass CD „Xylobiont“ on Evan Parker’s PSI imprint, on „Forests“ John Eckhardt perpetuates his passionate contemplation of the manifold physical and musical nature of his 120 year old sound device.
In nearly two hours of music for four double basses, developed by means of overdubbing, he takes the listener to unknown sounding forests and woodlands. In extended, organically branching and often dramatic pieces, he keeps seeking out places where smallest fluctuations in perception and in the connection of body and instrument are crucial. As in other projects of Eckhardt’s, polarities of observation and action, intuition and planning, atmosphere and detail are combined so continuously and intensely until something else emerges, and starts a life of its own…
Together with two hundred of John Eckhardt’s forest photographies and texts about music and making, the music is provided on a wooden USB memory stick. It is lying in a transparent box with moss, lichens, bark and other forest material. As the photography, it comes from Staksund, the Swedish forest land of the Eckhardt family, which John frequently visits.


John Eckhardt is a double bassist living in Hamburg, Germany. His activities range from solo improvisation and ensemble work to club and multimedia projects. His interests focus on “natural principles such as variety, dynamics and self-organization,” which he uses to explore “bass, space and time” in ”hyper-acoustic improvisation as well as in immersive architectures of sub-bass and digital delay.” He has released one solo album, 2008’s Xylobiont via PSI, and contributed to Mode Records’ album of Iannis Xenakis’ string music. His latest project is FORESTS, a multimedia USB package. The USB stick, itself embedded in a stout twig and nestled in a box full of moss and leaves, contains almost two hours of mesmerizing double-bass string quartets achieved through overdubbing his improvisations. It also includes Eckhardt’s own photographic survey of his heavily wooded, family ancestral land in Sweden, and two essays delving into the history of solo bass performance and Eckhardt’s own methodology. - dustedmagazine.tumblr.com/post/102025171761/listed-john-eckhardt

Subtle Lip Can - Reflective Drime (2014)

Subtle Lip CanReflective Drime

Klepet raštimanih holograma na vjetru. Esencijalno štivo.


Subtle Lip Can is a trio consisting of Bernard Falaise [guitar], Joshua Zubot [violin] and Isaiah Ceccarelli [percussion]. All three are members of Montréal’s fervent improvisational community. The textures they create are unique, rich and cover a wide dynamic scope, from contemplative soundscapes to frantic climaxes.

From a self-professed failed polygote, instagram photographer, and an adamant non-facebook user, comes this intimate, imitative, mirror-pond of mammalian spring-songs. The Trio brews up a plethora of sonic phenomena that echoes Morton Feldman's Triadic Memories, Art Pepper's Wintermoon (more in the rhythmic sense), and melted melodic moments of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring. These references are woven into a complex morphological lexicon that is intrinsic to the performers' fine-tuned intuitive capabilities. Overall, the album maintians its sense of authenticity in the way that the performers work with one another to reach a degree of catharsis.       
An esculent for audiophiles, Drime's refined spatial presence is quite palpable to the auditory nerve and as such, has the propensity to induce sporatic moments of subdued synaesthesia. Suble Lip Can's sophomore album, as the name suggests, pays its respects to tradition and is reflective of itself, suggesting that the trio has entered the Lacanian "mirror stage" in this phase of evolution. Punctual and accurate metamorphoses indicate that this caterpilar knows it will inevitably transform into a magnificient monarch.

Someone picking up Reflective Drime without having previously heard Subtle Lip Can might make certain inferences based on the cover details. Seeing that the group consists of Joshua Zubot (violin and mandolin), Bernard Falaise (guitar), and Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums/percussion), one might conceivably picture a trad-jazz trio riffing on tunes by Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt or some such thing. In like manner, track titles such as “Shuffle Stomp,” “Slam Hum,” and “Chackle Clast” could lead one to think the album might feature blues-based romps, be-bop, and concise solo statements by the string players supported by high-energy drum swing.
Well, all such expectations are certifiably dashed by the fifty-two-minute recording, which pursues an entirely other agenda from the one described above. Subtle Lip Can, which formed in 2007 and issued its eponymous debut album three years later, is no Hot Club of France, in other words. Laid down in 2013, Reflective Drime sees Zubot, Falaise, and Ceccarelli digging into ten improv-styled tracks with a hydra-headed unanimity of purpose.
The recording's uncompromisingly experimental tone is established early, with raw swathes of violin and guitar dragging themselves across a lumbering percussive carcass during “Siffer Shump.” Though comparatively more subdued, “Gull Plump Fiver” is no less alien in its overall comportment, though Falaise's playing does surprisingly flirt with jazz-styled melodicism in its textural shadings. In one seeming nod to conventionality, “Shuffle Stomp” includes wiry solos by Falaise and Zubot, albeit ones constantly besieged by the immolating undertow churning alongside. Elsewhere, crabby, atonal guitar shards butt up against glockenspiel tinklings and nocturnal violin scrapes in “Salk Hovered,” while “Chackle Clast” resembles some woozy convergence of spidery guitar picking and convulsive violin micro-textures.
Eschewing standard musical conventions of melody and rhythm, the trio burrows into its material, operating in a free-spirited improv zone and seemingly indifferent to notions of commercial potential or accessibility. Throughout the recording, the musicians appear intent on wresting from their instruments anything but the normal sounds associated with them. Put simply, Subtle Lip Can's pieces are less conventional compositions and more multi-limbed organisms undergoing nightmarish birth before one's ears. It ain't easy listening, as we like to call it, but the musical firmament should be large and open-ended enough to find a spot for the trio's highly individualized brand of experimental psychogeography. 
- Textura

 The first release back for Tanya Tagaq collaborator Jesse Zubot's newly (and thankfully) relaunched label Drip Audio keeps it in the family. Reflective Drime is the followup to Subtle Lip Can's eponymous 2010 debut, a project featuring Jesse's brother Joshua Zubot on violin alongside percussionist Isaiah Ceccarelli and guitarist Bernard Falaise. Unlike Animism, there is no opening Pixies cover to ease you into this album. It dives straight into the deep end, delivering an unrelenting assault of cacophonic timbre combinations, a blistering chaos of extended technique, scrapes and distortions, raw noise expressed through free jazz gestures.   
While evocative and thoroughly artful, its longer, dissonant pieces like "Rommer Chanks" can be difficult to get through, but when they reign it in a touch for tracks like the eerie space jazz of "Gull Plump Fiver" or the album's sparse, droning closer "Too Pins Over," the humanity of the Montreal trio's endeavour can envelope your soul. It's powerful and terrifying to behold. Unflinchingly, Reflective Drime boasts the ability to turn sound into colors and vice versa, which may look cool on paper to those who occasionally chew blotter, but the reality of which can be a bit much to handle for even seasoned veterans. - Exclam!

Album Review: New Canadian Music
Album Review: Le son du GrisliAlbum Preview: Exclaim!


Subtle Lip Can is a trio comprising percussionist Isaiah Ceccarelli, guitarist Bernard Falaise (of Miriodor renown) and violinist Josh Zubot. This CD, their debut release, stands among those albums instantly calling for a second, a third and perhaps a fifth listen after the first. The reasons are manifold, and all positive. Firstly, the practical impossibility of comparisons (although a few glimpses did remind yours truly of early Curlew, the Tom Cora era to be precise). Then, the brilliance with which the improvisers manage to defy anticipation by utilizing hundreds of different timbral characteristics – often contrasting – thus rendering the palette much more abundant and richly textured than one could expect by mentally picturing only three men at work. The sonic milieus are varying and constantly intriguing: raucous dronage, clattering raspiness, incendiary screeching, tickling repetition, over-charged lyricism, pungent dissonance. The musicians look for alternative methods to imperil calmness, without caring about hypothetical aesthetical judgements. This no-frills attitude keeps things on the scorching side of the matters, warranting 43 minutes of interplay that manages to distill juices even in the shrivelling components. It’s good to see someone who does not accept subservience to the improvisation market’s current laws; here’s hoping that we’ll hear again soon from such an unexampled unit. - Massimo Ricci

"The band’s invented a tonal vocabulary all its own; a language crimped, parched and folded; a sound that communicates a different kind of communion. Absolutely, most definitely essential listening." - Forest Gospel

"...the sheer amount of creativity and musicality seem to bounce unrelentingly from the speakers..." - Beat Route      

"The sheer distinctiveness of this trio's sound is a blessing: music this engaging and unique is a rare gift." - Exclaim!       "...it is the musicians' ability to maneuver as an ensemble - the sudden, breathtaking changes from breakneck flourishes and jarring textures to seductive reverberations that shimmer and disappear - that ultimately make this album so captivating." - Signal To Noise

"...languid microtonal free improvising." - Monsieur Délire

"Subtle Lip Can’s debut is a fleshy menace of sound; sound abounding in subtlety and carnage; sound with lungs and a heart. Simply put: it’s an album you can’t afford to miss. - Foxy Digitalis

"...a heavily reverberated sound-walk through a dangerous junkyard raining scrap metal. A primo storm of improvised noise." (9 out of 10!) - Montreal Mirror

"...a largely quiet but peculiarly invasive soundworld suggesting a musical attempt to explore the inner workings of disgust." - Paris Transatlantic Magazine       "It’s cutting edge stuff at it’s best, ...beautiful, moody, dramatic, and a thoroughly enjoyable listen." - Left Hip Magazine       "...one of my favourite releases of this year and, coupled with the recent Pink Saliva release, the sounds have me convinced that there’s something in the water in Montreal." - Spontaneous Combustion       "...consistently mesmerizing." - Bruce Lee Gallanter (Downtown Music Gallery)      
Album Review: Forest Gospel
Album Review: Pop Matters
Album Review: Foxy Digitalis
Album Review: Paris Transatlantic Magazine
Album Review: All About Jazz
Album Review: Left Hip Magazine
Album Review: Exclaim!
Album Review: Montreal Mirror (Scroll Down!)
Album Review: babysue
Album Review: Spontaneous Combustion
Album Review: Downtown Music GalleryAlbum Review: le son du grisli

Joshua Zubot Bernard Falaise Isaiah Ceccarelli

petak, 6. ožujka 2015.

Matteo Uggeri - Untitled Winter (2014)

Golemi kit jede zvukove.


Matteo Uggeri: composition, field recordings, trumpet; Franz Krostopovic: viola; Andrea Ics Ferraris: piano, guitars: Andrea Serrapiglio: cello; Mattia Costa: drums; Gaia: whispers; Raniero Casini: paint mixer; Agostino Brambilla: organ recordings in “Zadar”.

Its title notwithstanding, this work by Matteo Uggeri has more to do with a reconnection to the benign spirits populating the most serene REM phases and what can be classified as “sweet dreaming”. It is molded by ten tracks flowing one into another without breaks, thus improving already manifest tranquilizing features. I won’t even start to recount the moral fatigue and the out-and-out tedium oppressing my afternoons when subjected to flaunty albums from the same ambit. On the contrary, this is quite remarkable in its modest poise.
Several reasons were identified to vindicate my unmediated liking of Untitled Winter. Instrumentally speaking, one has to love the way single voices unfold – with no hurry – in conjunction with loops of uncertain provenance. The melodies and the geometries they depict are rather basic, yet deep enough to sustain involvement while causing a modicum of emotional consequence. A factor of aural contentment is the use of field recordings with a distinct compositional awareness, as opposed to the usual “filling material” formulation. Echoes of realness appear with a purpose, then fade away leaving us asking “why”; before the “because” has come, the scene has probably shifted elsewhere. And so, hesitation lingers on in spite of the continuance of an inward-looking calmness.
Neither minimalism – at least in the strictest acceptation – nor pure improvisation (although I’m sure there is some), a plausible explanation might be connected to the act of surrendering to the stream of unclear images and ineffable soundtracks lulling us to grogginess in the rare moments of kept-under-check tensions. By any means do not treat it as wallpaper, and listen. -

Like fish, Matteo Uggeri’s “Untitled Winter” LP is brain food. And like a fish, it travels through an ocean of ultramundane frequencies. The instruments and their players – Uggeri plays trumpet, while an illustrious list is to be found on the Scissor Tail Editions Bandcamp – swim amongst the type of meditative, floaty state that none of us ever really feel, and it makes for a fascinating listen.
A key component of Uggeri’s ensemble’s success is that they utilise space as an onion, unwrapping layers of flummoxed pacing and graceful re-shaping of the source material. A track may stop on a chord and repeat a while, or it may drastically careen away from its original intent in a blink of a second. This never-knowing, never pre-ordained sequencing is very refreshing and intriguing, as if you’ve not heard anything quite like it. The roots are in rotting improv music – sparse lines cohering into a bigger whole; a steak left to fester its bacteria in the midday sun, like no-one else wanted it in its past life. Much of the importance held by the listener on Uggeri’s non-compositonal, instrument playing contribution becomes righted in eigth track, “Untitled III”, where he hums out spellbinding trumpet moxie that unravels over sounds of footsteps and the nearby wind.
The percussion piece that follows, “Solfeggio No 33″ sees synthesiser being added to the brew of previous viola, cello, guitar and piano (work 2 is a seeming tribute to “Spiegel Im Spiegel” by contemporary classical composer Arvo Part, being aptly titled “Spiegel Ics Spiegel”). It’s one of the most immediately digestible tracks on the release, harmonising with ambient’s will ‘o the wisp, genteel droning and extra-generific potion summoning. It would also appear, like aquamarine mammals, that Matteo favours metamorphosis over set ways, a sorcerer with a bent to extemporise the present. “Tender Is The Night”, the closing cut is barely there, a field recording of setting down something or another; pen on a table; footsteps on study floor. It marks the mood of the record in an inscripted ink, but unlike a fish of jelly, the movements of this album are never a stinging sensation. Winter is welcoming for once. -

Die Geister Beschwören - Drawn To The Investigation Of Shadows + The Great Defenestration (2014)


Nekad se govorilo - famozno! Sada: "Ako volite Six Organs Of Admittance, Sun City Girls, Ghost, Earth, Dirty Three..."



Oryan Peterson-Jones: classical guitar, modified sitar guitar, electric guitar, baglama, pipa, tamboura, zornah, piano, harmonium, synth, theremin, vocals, percussion, samples & field recordings; Eva Restad: saw, vocals & Edda readings; Joey Binhammer: modified sitar guitar, bass, electric guitar, vocals & samples; Sarah Tremaine-Hart: violin; SSSam Smith: percussion & samples; Giuseppe Antonio Volpi: bass; Don Malkmus: trumpet; Zach Moran: trombone; Sean Barry: bass clarinet; Thom Washburn: drums; TJ Thompson: drums & vocals; Dana Janssen: percussion; Andrew Pritchard: percussion; Katarina Rohsmann: vocals; Amanda Nevada Lacy Griffin: vocals

When Oryan Peterson-Jones made contact to point me towards this album, he wrote “recommended if you like Six Organs Of Admittance, Sun City Girls, Ghost, Earth, Dirty Three, etc”. Thus he established a record of sorts, naming an entire clutch of bands of which – believe it or not – I never heard a note. Perhaps this lack of material for comparison is what let me appreciate Drawn To The Investigation Of Shadows more over the course of scattered plays in the last five months or so. In fact, beyond illustrious reputations and stylistic dimensions, this work was evidently designed with finely tuned ears and a definite taste for instrumental abstraction of the purest variety; furthermore, as the thing lasts less than 32 minutes, the risk of weariness is excluded from the beginning. And, did you see how many people helped? In spite of the numerous hands and voices, the music does not reveal itself as untidy or wild: everything appears to be at the right place in the right moment.
So, let the reviewer continue the game initiated by this Portland artist, namely that of finding points of entry in the psychedelic-but-not-too-much universe depicted by the two tracks. Consider that the project’s name translates as “call up the ghosts”, and that peaceful guitars, strings and theremins are prominent in establishing atmospheres between dreamy and bucolic, in any case quite removed from “urban” contaminations. However, keep also in mind that you won’t find the witless trademarks of drugged disorganization: no “warped nightmare” vocals, no low-cost replicas of Pink Floyd’s taped laughs, no amorphous bullshit justified by third-rate “cosmic trips”. The basic substances are predominantly folk-tinged, occasionally (and intelligently) utilizing field recordings and anthemic streams with just the necessary hints to remote latitudes and resonant auras, plus a few unexpected solutions warranting the birth of authentic interest in the listener. If anything, the lone entity to which I managed to relate Peterson-Jones’ vision is my old buddy Mirko Uhlig (currently AWOL) in his Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf embodiment. The genuineness of the intuitions and the credibility of the orchestral vibrancy are indeed pretty similar.
In a nutshell, this music is still innocent. Enough for me to sing its praises.  - Massimo Ricci


The Great Defenestration (2014)