Music

Harald Sack Ziegler: Punkt

Tim O'Neil

Anyone who's ever shelled out serious money for one of those Guided By Voices boxed-sets -- yeah, I'm looking at you, Mr. More-Money-Than-Common-Sense -- should feel right at home here.

Harald Sack Ziegler

Punkt

Label: Staubgold
US Release Date: 2005-11-08
UK Release Date: 2005-11-07
Amazon affiliate
Amazon
iTunes

Listening to Punkt, the thought occurs to me that the experience of sampling German songwriter Harald "Sack" Ziegler's discography must be very similar to that of a non-English speaking foreigner discovering Guided By Voices for the first time. It's not a perfect analogy, but bear with me. Ziegler has apparently been around for over 20 years, releasing a large percentage of his output exclusively on vinyl or tape. If anything like America's sprawling lo-fi scene exists in Europe (and for all I know it might, but I'm speaking theoretically), it undoubtedly sounds something like this: badly-recorded, occasionally slapdash and just plain bizarre. Some of these "songs" aren't even a minute long -- "Entenquak" is merely 48 seconds long, a small sketch, a chorus repeated twice over a bizarre tape loop that sounds like something left on the floor of an Einstürzende Neubauten reocrding session.

Now certainly to my knowledge Robert Pollard never had much use for drum loops. But Ziegler offers the same kind of manic inventiveness, a precocious prolificity crossed with a seemingly pathological unwillingness to develop most ideas past the level of the barest sketch. Anyone who's ever shelled out serious money for one of those GBV boxed-sets -- yeah, I'm looking at you, Mr. More-Money-Than-Common-Sense -- should feel right at home here.

But with that said, I am infuriated by Ziegler for much the same reasons that I usually am with Pollard. Sure, there are lots of weird ideas here, but many of them are so rudimentary as to be just annoying. Many times he will introduce an interesting tape sample or looped melody part, but they never seem to go anywhere or do anything in particular -- just the sound of them being odd for a minute or so is enough to satisfy Ziegler. "Barbie & Ken" is just over a minute long, featuring a clattering drumbeat accompanied by Ziegler and a small child singing something about, um, Barbie & Ken. I can't really tell because it's in German. The language barrier wouldn't be that much of an impediment if a large percentage of the tracks weren't sang in a faux-chipmunk falsetto. The nearest corrolary to these weird fragments is not so much GBV as They Might Be Giants' throwawy recordings -- Dial-A-Song remnants such as can be found on the Then collection.

While the vast majority of Ziegler's output, at least insomuch as it is represented on Punkt, is damningly cursory and willfuly bizarre, it is not without a certain charm. When he drops the chipmunk vocals and allows an idea to develop past the fetal stage, he's not half bad: "Gross Genug", near the end of the disc, features Ziegler's unadorned voice and a slight liano melody. It's a nice track -- very much so, in contrast with the lo-fi chaos that preceded it. But again, it's all of one minute and 52 seconds long.

I just don't know what to make of Punkt. This is lo-fi experimentalism at its purest and most unaffected, and unless you're a junky for that kind of oddity, it will probably trike you as more frustrating than not.

4

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