Music

B. Fleischmann: Angst Is Not a Weltanschauung

Photo: Kerstin Anders

Electronic artist Bernhard Fleischmann explores the nexus of machine-driven precision and messy, unpredictable organic life…with a little help from Daniel Johnston.


B. Fleischmann

Angst Is Not a Weltanschauung

Label: Morr Music
US Release Date: 2008-12-09
UK Release Date: 2008-11-17
Amazon
iTunes

Daniel Johnston has, more or less, made his name on unruly, all-natural talent, the sort of songwriting acumen that cuts through every kind of personal handicap and gets to a messy core of truth. Lo-fi to the point of alienating some listeners, he seems unlikely to have much in common with electronic music. The genre is, after all, clean, cerebral, and detached. It evokes human emotions through cool, synthetically-derived sounds and scratchy, perfectly timed beats.

It is, therefore, sort of a shock to hear Johnston’s wild, frayed voice emerging out of Angst Is Not a Weltanschauung, by Berlin electronicist B. Fleischman. Johnston takes unembellished charge of “Phones, Machines and King Kong”, singing a capella for the first minute of the piece. He is singing his “King Kong”, an emotionally fraught imagination of what it is like to be a monster in love with a beautiful woman. It’s a metaphor for Johnston, obviously, but also for the way that genuine feeling can be thwarted in our cold, efficient modern age. It seems to say that we are all monsters when we are in love. We are trapped in a web of expectations and standards and responsibilities that simply cannot allow us to rampage on, unchecked, in pursuit of our desires.

“Phones, Machines and King Kong” comes about halfway through Fleischmann’s album, but it makes sense to start there anyway. The piece is only the most dramatic instance of what Fleischmann is attempting all along: to nurture human warmth and emotion in the austere beds of electronic music. This is not a new project for him, or for likeminded artists on the Morr Music label. Fleischmann’s last album, The Humbucking Coil in 2006, layered gorgeous, repeated acoustic guitar licks on top of data streamed rhythms and tones. Yet this time, he goes a bit further, adding voices -- his own as well as others -- to two-thirds of the album tracks. Twice he employs a duet -- William Van Ghost singing the male parts and Marillies Jagsch the female -- to add even more complicated layers of emotional dissonance to his songs.

Consider, for instance, the track “24.12”, where at a chance supermarket aisle meeting on Christmas Eve, a man asks a woman why she’s so happy. Her answer is startling. “Because my husband’s life ended / The asshole is gone / I celebrate life alone”, she says in the most matter-of-fact way possible. The song gets all its drama from this wildly unexpected exchange. The musical elements -- a twitchy, schussing beat and rich blots of synthesizer -- could not be more restrained. And yet there is something in this vivid scene that erupts unexpectedly from the beat and subsides just as quickly under it that is very much like life.

There are a handful of all-electronics cuts that showcase Fleischmann’s skill with rhythm (he’s trained as a drummer) and playful mood. “The Market” is maybe the best of these, its drum cadences splintering into complex fractal beats, as piano chords and a simple guitar melody move up and down in the mix. (There is a single group shout of “No” near the halfway point, but this does not really alter the tune’s instrumental focus.) “Last Time We Met at a T&TT Concert” is more restrained, its minimalist rhythms modestly embellished with keyboards and perhaps some sort of accordion.

The loveliest of all the songs, though, ponder the intersection of human and artifice, both in the music and the lyrics. In the opening “Hello”, Van Ghost greets the tools for songwriting -- voice, piano and blank white paper -- against a modest arrangement of piano and synthetic drums. Fleischmann himself sings the haunting “Even Your Glasses Miss Your Eyes”, which closes out the album. Obliquely, he sketches a recently emptied home, where all the furnishings seem to share his loss. “So who is going to take care of your sheep?” he asks. “And who is now stroking your cheek? / Even your glasses miss your eyes.” The song is more fluid than most on the disc, with glowing sustained keyboard notes and a slippery vocal melody, but it still has enough artifice in it to make us sad, not just for the lonely lover, but for the glasses left behind.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image