Ephraim Wegner & Daniel Bisig’s “Jetzt” reviewed by Fluid Sonic Fluctuations

Welcome back to the the Fluid Label Focus on CRÓNICA, the label with which I originally started this review series. CRÓNICA’s been very active this year with new music and audiovisual works coming out every month and sometimes even every few weeks, so it’s time to catch up and look at the two recently released releases on the label, today starting with this new album by EPHRAIM WEGNER and DANIEL BISIG titled JETZT. It’s a mixed media release consisting of the main audio album, available for download from Bandcamp as well as the audiovisual version of the piece Jetzt available to watch on Vimeo. The album features two long pieces, the first, Jetzt is a collaboration between the two artists while [269.17, 278.81, 300,77 | 260.33, 312.68, 377.24, 518.55] is a solo work by EPHRAIM WEGNER. In the download of the release you will find these in 16-bit/44.1kHz CD quality audio, together with the album cover in rather high resolution 2906x2906p as well as a PDF. In my case this is review copy press PDF containing the details of the music as well as audiovisual part of the release, the tracklist and credits as well as two frames from the audiovisual version of Jetzt, used as artwork in the PDF.

Now, onto the works on this release themselves. Both EPHRAIM WEGNER and DANIEL BISIG have studied Science until a very high level, hold a master’s degree and are active in programming based arts in various programming languages as both academic researchers and in the creation of art based on scientific research and systems both artists have created. In the case of DANIEL BISIG, he also has a special focus on visual art in various forms like algorithmic films and audiovisual installations. Indeed, also on this release both artists have created two works that use programmed and design processes and manipulations that use a mathematical model, the Markov Chain (Jetzt) and a designed scale of frequencies ([269.17, 278.81, 300,77 | 260.33, 312.68, 377.24, 518.55]). While these works are also obviously related to the artists’ published studies of research and system development, the experience of listening and watching these works themselves on its own and the textures and compositional development in both pieces is quite easy to get into. This works especially well on the strongest piece, title track number 1, Jetzt (stereo). The piece was created by processing the poem “Jetzt” by Max Bense through a Markov Chain which creates randomised strings of words out of the poem’s original composition which are then “performed” by a female voice through speech synthesis. While the process itself in description might make it seem like a dadaist like AI text collage, the actual resulting sounds in the composition are much more like drone. Albeit, glitched up drone, as it’s clear from the textures created from the heavily stretched artificial voice pronouncing the words that the drones are created from the fast repetition of sonic particles that make up those sounds. However the speech manipulations themselves are also often accompanied by additional electronic sounds. For example the wind like noise that builds up at the end of the first half of the piece, the electronic drums in the second half and Noise added to the vocal drone. The piece has a very gradual stretched progression, moving from drone, to the wind noise, to a percussive part and finally ending in a pretty intense kind of Noise drone finale. The music has got quite a hypnotic, if somewhat ear-piercing ambience to it with the high amount of buzzing high end giving the drones a phased buzzing texture that is very rich in overtones and resonance. It definitely feels like clouds of sharp resonant sound engulf the sonic space, while the wind in the middle adds some contrast and a thunder like tension to the piece out of which the vocal drone emerges like a mysterious alien voice. The percussive part featuring a bouncy glitch like kick and noisy snare like percussion is quite jumpy with a lot of irregular rhythms, heavy distortion manipulations of the voice as well as noise modulations which quite naturally move into the noise Drone ending. All in all, it’s a nicely evolving piece of music in which the separate sections do give the music a little twist of adventure , but the drones still remain a good focus in the piece. The audiovisual version of Jetzt matches the music with abstract computer generated visuals that depict organisms and abstract imagery that matches the music quite well, not being too one on one, the visuals do flow in sync with the music but also don’t literally try to show you how you should see the music, leaving room for your own interpretation of the music visuals combination. The abstract imagery has a very painted look to it that looks very realistic, making some parts look like animated paintings depicting round, curly, rectangular or spiralling shapes that keep changing, evolving and moving. All imagery is focused around the centre of the frame, which has a white background on which all imagery appears. Highlights in the video are definitely the dark unstable circle that appears sometime before the second half, when the hollow wind noise enters in the music as well as the rougher sharper, noisier and more square imagery that appears during the intense finale of the music. A great audiovisual work and the imagery has a lot of variation and dynamics to it that make for a captivating and enjoyable experience. The second piece on the audio version of JETZT is [269.17, 278.81, 300,77 | 260.33, 312.68, 377.24, 518.55] which is based around an alternate tuning system devised by EPHRAIM WEGNER. As mentioned before this is a solo piece in which the sounds are created using sine waves and noise and the aim of the piece is to let listeners focus on the richness and density that combinations of the frequencies listed as the title of the piece offer in the piece. The music is quite a bit more subdued than Jetzt, feeling more like an atmospheric Drone Ambient piece in which the noise is similar to a spring breeze, building from varying combinations of tones to the main drone of the piece. It’s not as varied as Jetzt in its composition, being more continuous and mostly focused on the droning tone combinations. It does make for a great meditative deep listening experience however as the subtle shifts in harmonics, resonances and slow progression offer some vibrant sonic textures to dive into. The composition, moving from tone combinations to drone ambience to glassy resonance is rather good too, though admittedly the beginning of the second half of the piece features some odd sounding noise glitches that don’t work that well in my opinion. While not distracting, that element felt as a bit of an awkward combination with the tones and wind noise. Combined as a whole however the piece definitely is a good listening experience especially in the rich textures within and is a fine accompanying piece to title track Jetzt on the album. 

All in all, JETZT is a good mixed media release by DANIEL BISIG / EPHRAIM WEGNER with title piece Jetzt being the strongest piece on the album, featuring the most balanced composition and sonic shaping. The audiovisual version of Jetzt is a great experience too with inventive and gorgeous looking animation combined with a great synergy between visuals and music that makes it an adventurous and dynamic audiovisual journey. [269.17, 278.81, 300,77 | 260.33, 312.68, 377.24, 518.55] also features some great hypnotic textural work and while the composition is not as balanced as Jetzt, it’s still a great deep listening experience that forms a good subdued 15 minutes of introspection after Jetzt’s fiery finale. A good intriguing release of quality work by both artists and another great release on the CRÓNICA label. Recommended for fans of microtonal music, Drone Ambient that also leans towards Noise, listeners interested in creative (science based) musical programming and algorithmic compositions and anyone looking for a compact but varied and dynamic release of art crossing both visual and musical art forms. Go check JETZT out. Orlando Laman

via Fluid Sonic Fluctuations

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