Asmus Tietchens – LITIA (Die Stadt)

The Anti Group – PSYCHOEGOAUTOCRATICAL AUDITORY PHYSIOGOMY DELINEATED (Die Stadt)

Mirror – STILL VALLEY (Die Stadt)

You wouldn’t believe how fascinating ugliness can be, sometimes. This becomes brutally clear when listening to the old-fashioned drum machines that constitute the skeleton of much of Asmus Tietchens’ Litia, originally composed in 1982 and 1983. At that time, Tietchens’ interest in synthetic structures was nearing its end, yet even so this album is spectacularly weird: fake disco rhythms go on for minutes lodging robotic melodies full of ironic twists, pulses and pseudo riffs à la Devo coupled with flows of dissonance, bass lines predating Tietchens’ dive into Industrial territory that immediately followed this last release on Sky. The extreme contrast between Tietchens’ creative overflow and the limitations of the machines he used (which he describes in the liner notes) led to an apocalyptic warp of conventional synth music: there’s no lyricism or serene meditation here, only a cold, detached look at the pointless beauties of pop – don’t forget this came out at the beginning of the MTV era when Simple Minds, Depeche Mode and the New Romantics ruled the charts. The bonus tracks – always a thrill on the Die Stadt reissues – include music from the rare 10″ Rattenheu and other archival material, contributing to 64-plus minutes of utterly destabilizing, abnormal yet highly intelligent music in which, as is often the case with Asmus Tietchens, substance prevails over appearance.

Also up to Die Stadt’s usual high standards is the 16’30″ CD EP by the Anti Group (it says in the press release that Andrew McKenzie aka Hafler Trio, M. Hogg and R. Baker “may” be the operating brains behind it all), which could just as well have borrowed the title of an old Djam Karet record, Suspension and Displacement. Starting from silence, an incomprehensible murmur moves the still air around the ears while a repeated muffled piano chord establishes a slow pattern over which alien funeral choirs, blistering frequencies and schizoid electronic oscillations become more and more dazzling, until everything stops in time to leave the last 30 seconds to a series of belchy outbursts that have absolutely nothing to do with the pretty ethereal atmospheres heard up to that point.

Equally dedicated to thorough decentralization of any known procedure, Mirror’s Christoph Heemann and Andrew Chalk are once again joined by Jim O’Rourke on Still Valley, a new magic potion of illusions (vinyl only, soon to be followed by a different CD version), whose flux is centred on a cyclical figure, a sort of flanging chorus made from undecipherable sources – a synthesizer or just looped guitar harmonics? The musicians scrutinize silence while gently padding the surroundings with electronic lumps of morphing drones, swells and voids that take up residence in our cerebral waiting rooms, trying to communicate something that our intelligence struggles to understand, converting them instead into broken codes cancelling meaning and feeling. Inscrutable and magnificent.

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