TO:39 – Rehberg & Bauer “Ballt”

CD – 10 tracks

Track list:

1. Oh (2:15)
2. Toll (4:03)
3. Heng (4:54)
4. Pah Drei (2:18)
5. Hey (4:50)
6. Recol (5:43)
7. Troik (7:58)
8. Pah Eins (3:08)
9. Nah (7:44)
10. Pah Zwei (4:02)


VITAL (Netherlands):

Of late I have been encountering CD’s of contemporary music that seem to be almost symphonic in content. Whether this is because of the repetition of motifs, either as melodies, or in the actual arrangements, or because of the processors used I’m not sure. (Somebody, who shall remain nameless, unless I see wodges of loot, noted that this might make a good demo-CD for the LISA software. I have no idea – I don’t know what LISA does at the best of times , and when she’s in the company of the Twins of Digihurt, it’s perhaps best left a mystery. Who gives a fuck anyway…it’s what you hear what counts, innit ?). Back to the top…this new release by Rehberg und Bauer is a perfect example of just such a ‘symphonic’ composition. It’s the second part of a trilogy that started with ‘Fasst’ in 1997, and it’s an excellent example of how creativity can mature if given time. While this CD is divided into separate tracks (all with names that sound as if they were constructed from letters pulled out of a hat), it makes no difference if I listen to this sequentially or in shuffle mode – it continues to make perfect sense, and there is a graceful flow to it that now pours, then snaps and snarls as it escapes from the confines of the speaker-boxes. It is amazingly organic – there are extremely granular textures that are eroded by fine, persistent spray into endless escarpments. Boulders are rolled around on the sea-bed by thick, menacing, inky seas. Wind buffets and whistles around resistant crags. Intoxicated, unidentified creatures attempt to converse as thick Orkney fog tightens around their throats. Rock melts, crystals form. The gods of ketamine stagger blindly. Shapeless things stammer-stutter. New life strains against the resistant crust, pushes harder and, breaking through into ochre light, luxuriates and starts to glow…

What an exceptionally cool CD this is; something I am sure I will never tire of. It’s already in my top-ten for 1999, along with several others released by this innovative and quite superb label in London. May the Twins prevail ! (MP)

City Newspaper (USA):

As far as music’s concerned, the so-called digital renaissance goes way beyond MP3, DATs and Pro-Tools. For electronic musicians working on the fringes of the new world-wide scene, it’s opened a whole new realm of sound. The clicks and popsof a CD player skipping out of control, the aural nuances of DAT, a FAX machine on the fritz: this is all determining a new mode of compositional thinking. But more important ly, it’s the only way musicians are actually commenting on the digital age. Sheer bafflement tends to be the most frequent reaction new listeners have to this music. Comments like “That’s music?” aren’t too uncommon when introducing people to the work of Peter Rehberg and Ramon Bauer.

Stationed in Austria, R&B have been huddled around their laptops, exploring digital sound possibilities for a few years now. And they’ve released some exemplary work by a wide range of digital sound artists through their Mego label. Ballt follows 1997’s Faßt as the second part in a trilogy the duo is recording for the Touch label. But where Faßt found Rehberg & Bauer constructing massive side-long sound sculptures sourced from malfunctioning equipment, Ballt is a more open-ended, but less random affair.

Rehberg & Bauer build most of their pieces from rhythm on up, creating persistent yet strangely fragmented clusters of sound which often grow unsettling. Things seem to get almost personal on Ballt , which consistently plays with your expectations like an aural endurance test, shifting at will from the almost inaudible to the mind-numbingly noisy.

The Wire (UK):

Three years ago, General Magic (Ramon Bauer) and Pita (Peter Rehberg) defined the tone of their Mego label with a stream of CDs exploring a warped brand of digital interference drones. Strangely hi-tech minimalist and grainily lo-fi at the same time, they collaged loops and riffs out of the glitches in their Powerbook music programs, creating not just a set of abstract noise sculptures, but something more compellingly driven that sparked off accidental changes. As a press release for ballt. underscores: “The computer is an optically biased medium. . . and its music composition software is framed in the language of graphic design. The trick is to transform the parameters of these definitions and defaults.” Now that electronic music has got generally glitchier, that message seems less subversive, and the tracks here, with their uncoordinated loops of Geiger counter crackle, fax whirr and percussive stutters are not so shrilly intransigent. But there’s been a shift in their approach too, as if they’ve started to filter other ‘musical’ possibilities – perhaps from the more melodically orientated Cologne scene, or the sound sculpting of :zoviet*france: – back into the music. ballt. tracks are still abstract, crisp and minimalist, but there’s more leeway in the kind of music explored – they might turn out to be abrupt noise riffs, hypnotic pseudo-Ambient grooves or more freeform and textural. The opening piece shows the duo at their dimension-breaking best: a scudding, accelerated crackle that oscillates rapidly between the left and right speaker channel, widening occasionally into fax-like strips of tone, then suddenly shearing into a Merzbow-like caustic digital boom which fades in and out of view organically, like the breath cycle of some deranged cybernetic animal. But the next track adds more melodic, descending tones beneath its whirring intensities: a bleak Illbient Techno that gradually gains the gravitas of a slowed down Bond theme, surrounded by digital miasma.

The changes here are quirky, delving in and out of different musical parameters on the border zone between noise art, Ambient music and more hallucinatory atmospherics. Some tracks work arhythmic grains of noise into a cyclic cybernetic judder with shades of drum ‘n’ bass, while others slip into more drone-like grooves, filtering tinny registers or addingchild-like spangles of harps and shooting stars. By the last track, they’ve reached a point closer to Paul Schütze’s recent work – a dream space centred around a slightly dissonant organ drone with bleeps, xylophone and percussion rattling about like bones.

JC Smith (USA):

Ballt. is a collection of spastic electronic noodlings which caress the generator, the hum and subdued squeal of electricity in motion. “Oh” is hiccuping static that creates a scraping, disjointed rhythm; “Toll” spits out deep fried, throaty distortion that is woven into a strange reverberating vacuum, transformed into vibrant, shimmering, brittle electronics with a dramatic synth undercurrent; “Hey” sounds like swords being sharpened, but the inherent electronic edge shears the perception until it is obviously an illusion; “Recol” includes a metallic insect pseudo-percussive rhythm, decorated with thin glass tapping and injections of static; the throb of “Pah Eins” is of the sweeping distortion vein, kinda slow motion whip snap with crispy recording edge; “Pah Zwei” has a rubber blip feedback, upon which alternating sounds infect: dripping sounds that are not wet, a drone tone that makes one’s neck spasm (twitch), scattered, broken bulbs – a more agitated take on what Pan Sonic creates? Hmmmm, maybe – though this definitely explores different channels within the current of electricity (for the sake of electricity) induced music. Kind of like cleaning one’s ears with steel wool Q-tips.

Outburn (USA):

Viennese sound artists Rehberg & bauer create an ominous and intergalactic crunching of pulsating computer malfunctions, screeching material. and grinding machinery with a mind of its own on Ballt, the second part of their unsettling trilogy. Something has gone terribly wrong. I don’t think it’s supposed to sound like that…help me.

Net (USA):

To create BALLT’s handsomely textured corrupt-file fabrications, Mego label main men Peter Rehberg and Ramon Bauer crunched and mulched recordings of their live hard-disc performances. All the elements of music rhythm, melody, tonal and timbral reciprocity, expression are present here, but they’ve been dislocated, distorted, and garbled to the point of indecipherability through massive editing and processing. The orchestrated digital impairment of BALLT confronts the listener with an insistent question (“what is music?”) and a provocative answer (“this is music.”).

Even more intriguingly, BALLT suggests that the decomposition of electronic sound is no less natural or desirable a process than the rot that reduces fallen trees to fertilizer and the erosion that wears mighty mountains to sand. Electronic gibberish and wayward data spill from every track. The stuttered, channel-hopping static of “Oh” and the effusive signal leak of “Pah Drei” are extreme scenarios of machine malfunction. Worm-like viruses infiltrate “Pah Eins,” chewing a devastating course through susceptible code. “Toll,” “Troik,” and “Hey” find an icy, glimmering beauty in this dissolution of data, while “Recol,” “Heng,” and “Nah” zoom in upon the blips of rewired rhythm that push their delicate, blossom-like heads up through BALLT’s rich layers of digital dirt and decay. (another enthusiastic misreading?)

Gonzo Circus (Belgium):

Wat is het verschil tussen het geluid van een ijzerwerkplaats en een cd van Rehberg & Bauer? Geen! Ze maken allebei ontieglijk veel lawaai. Wat is het verschil tussen de eerste Peter Rehberg & Ramon Bauer cd (<> uit ’97) en de zopas verschenen tweede (Ballt), allebei op Touch? Op het eerste gezicht weinig. De verscheurende powerbookterreur van het Wenense tweetal raast en kraakt als vanouds met fatale resultaten voor je speakers. Maar er zijn ogenschijnlijk toch enkele andere ondefinieerbare invloeden binnengeslopen. <> moest het vooral hebben van opengespatte en verhakkelde industriële machineritmes met occasionele invullingen van statische frequentiestiltes (‘Supa Zwei 1-12’). Rehberg & Bauer haalden de inspiratie voor dat werkstuk, getuige de titels, vooral uit de hen omgevende ijzer- en betonrealiteit. Op ‘Ballt’ wordt de pijnlijke geluidsgrens op een subtielere manier verlegd. De indruk is dat hier wat noise teruggenomen wordt en dat iets grondiger en gestructureerder te werk gegaan wordt bij de digitale afbraakwerken. Alhoewel! Da’s natuurlijk een relatieve uitspraak want ‘Ballt’ boort zich vanaf het eerste nummer ‘Oh’ letterlijk in je oorschelp als een of ander vreemd insect dat het op je hersenen gemunt heeft. Op ‘Toll’ maakt de computerherrie plaats voor een symfonischer (?) benadering van het begrip noise. ‘Hey’ is zelfs een relatief rustige track met zijn ondefinieerbare geluiden van metaal op metaal en zwiepende elektronica. Het piepende ‘Recol’ en vooral ‘Troik’ daarentegen ontaarden opnieuw in een schuimbekkende aanval op je gehoorzintuigen. Op de drie laatste nummers (‘Pah Eins’, ‘Nah’ en ‘Pah Zwei’) slaat de metaalmoeheid toe en wordt effectief wat rustiger te werk gegaan. Het strekt Rehberg & Bauer tot eer dat ze voortdurend op zoek zijn naar een andere benaderingswijze van het begrip antimuziek. Waar het allemaal naartoe moet, is na dit tweede deel van een drieluik nog niet helemaal duidelijk. ‘Ballt’ is een hard te verteren en compromisloos ding dat je niet onmiddellijk in de supermarkt zult horen. Maar met voorsprong de beste noise die er op dit moment gemaakt wordt. En met de stellige zekerheid dat je na beluistering met gescheurde trommelvliezen en bloedende oren afdruipt. [pw]