Posted on May 20th 2010 01:22 am
Type Recordings 2010
06 Tracks. 33mins58secs
Sanctity and sleaze. That’s what seems to advertise the cover of Jeff Witscher’s latest venture, and in a way, it is what he delivers as he swaps the realm of noise which constitutes the bulk of his work for sparse synthetic textures and soundscapes reminiscent of Cluster and Harmonia on one side, and of early Tangerine Dream on the other. But, while he could easily be associated with the wave of Kosmische-obsessed acts that are currently pushing electronic music back onto its natural experimental track, Witscher’s take on the genre is distinctively modern, somehow bridging the gap between the German pioneers of the seventies, BBC Radiophonic Workshop oddities and the ambient electronica that has been in a constant mutating process over the last twenty years.
In just half an hour, Jeff Witscher packs more meaningful electronic sounds than some have managed in a whole career, but his tracks are ultimately extremely minimal and linear. Take Razor. P+, which opens, for instance, as the cluster of sharp sequenced percussive sounds which frame its first half becomes much softer in its second, it is surrounded by fuller pulsating sound waves, but while this gives an impression of mass, the material used is actually pretty bare. This is an idea that he tackles again on Prize Mischief Hold to a certain extend, but the evolution process is far less sophisticated here. This is countered by the addition of layers of processed voices and electronics which appear to erupt from the hypnotic rhythmic pulse that weighs the piece down. Later on, this turns almost psychedelic on C.G. Mask as filtered sounds relentlessly bubble up to the surface, cast around a recurring three-note loop.
Despite its overwhelmingly electronic aspect, Witscher’s music is far from devoid of very real emotions. This is particularly the case on the dreamy and beat-less IV 18:54. Once again based on a looped arpeggio, although placed much deeper into the mix to appear in filigree, the piece changes almost imperceptibly over its course as peripheral sounds are slowly integrated into the main sound pool, then extracted again, yet, this leaves a strangely euphoric taste in the mind and wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the drugged up chill out zone of the late eighties’ rave circuit. Later on, L. Minx has also a strong emotional pull, but of a totally different kind. This is perhaps where Witscher expands his sound sources the most, injecting all sorts of noises throughout. This heavily contributes to create a somewhat oppressive and tense atmosphere, and at nine and a half minutes, this is an impression that lasts, and that concluding track Gas never manages to wipe out entirely.
Porcelain Opera is a fascinating collection of lush synthetic sounds, arranged into basic hypnotic songs, like one hears all too rarely these days. The key to this record is in its disarming simplicity. There are no obvious melodies or hooks as such here, Jeff Wischer’s focus being elsewhere, on assembling a coherent set of textures for each track, but this actually contributes to giving this record an aura all of its own.
The LP version of Porcelain Opera comes with an additional CD of material, Rogue Camera, which continues on a similar wavelength, but features more elaborate and rich soundscapes.
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