[25 November 2008]
For nearly a decade, the Berlin duo of Markus Detmer and Timo Reuber have been developing an improvisatory piece, built on loops and electronically generated sounds, which they perform in concert. The piece, called “Stadtlandfluss”, is never exactly the same. Its permutations of tone, concept and rhythm vary according to the venue, the audience, and countless random factors that have impact on the two principals’ creative state of mind. As a result, this album is not really the Stadtlandfluss but a Stadtlandfluss, one iteration among many.
The piece is divided into seven tracks somewhat arbitrarily. You will not know where one ends and the other begins, unless you are listening on a player that intersperses silence between cuts. There is, however, an arc of movement, a narrative almost, in a piece that progresses from near silence (I thought my speakers were broken the first time) to euphoric cacophony, from far-off machine sounds to distant transmissions of radio voices. It starts slowly, a patchwork of long hanging tones and the zing of metallic power tools. You will not hear any overtly human element until “Radio” about 13 minutes in, and even then, the voices are obscured by static and erratic swoops of strings. And yet, though, rare, human sounds make up an essential element of the story. The piece crests in its two central cuts, “Hamanamah” and especially “Telemann”, the first a shivering adrenaline rush of electronic anticipation, the second all clangorous bells and frictive, rhythmic bowed strings. These two cuts are exciting in some primal, limbic way, particularly when they crescendo in a wordless female voice. The energy ebbs, the calm returns in “Strom” and by closing “Mein Herz, Mein Haus”, the sound has died down to a subliminal duet between a woman’s whispers and synthetic tones. It is, overall, quite a journey, one that brings you back to equilibrium, but not quite the same as before.