SOGAR

INTERVIEW: SOGAR: STYLUS (2003)

SOGAR: ARTIST OF THE MONTH, MARCH 2003
by Michael Heumann


Sogar is Jürgen Heckel, an experimental electronic artist who was born in 1970 in Nürnberg, Germany and currently resides in Paris. Heckel began his musical career as a guitarist for various experimental musical groups in Germany and France—you know, the noise, feedback kinds of groups that we all know and love. It didn't take long before Heckel became more interested in the sounds produced from this style of music than from the music itself. He became fascinated in the many sounds that burp and creep from the wires, cables, mixing boards, and other residue of electrical appliances. Why, he must have asked, is electrical noise produced from a guitar considered music and electrical noise produced from a loose electrical connection not? Why can't the latter be noise?

The latter question is at the heart of Sogar's music, a music that is rapidly becoming essential listening for electronic music fans. Heckel's three full-length works—2001's Basal (on 12k), 2002's Stengel (on List), and 2003's Apikal Blend (again on 12k)—all take as their base matter the noises of electricity. These noises are then culled, separated, reprocessed, and reimagined by Heckel's adept mind into a magical array of shifting patterns and surreal soundscapes.

Basal, his first release, is the quietest of his works, and follows (to some extent) the 12k musical fusion of aberrant noise and esoteric harmonies familiar to those who have heard this great label's other releases (by the likes of 0/R, Motion, Taylor Deupree, and Shuttle358). The snaps and sparks of electricity are manipulated, in this work, into rather elegiac shapes. What I hear on this disk is the work of an artist who is trying, like a Zen gardener, to prune and order a chaotic sea of sound into something beautiful and interesting.

Stengel, the second release and the first for the new French label List, is a work of apprehension, paranoia, fear, decay, distrust, and confusion. It's wonderful. The work is saturated with odd sound combinations that are ground into each other, churned around, and then repeated again and again—all while a piercing, wailing hiss screams silently in the background.

Finally, Apikal Blend, the latest and best Sogar work, is a haunting melody of textures, rhythms, and energy that is as accessible as anything on the 12k label and is the equal of such essential works as Fennesz's Endless Summer and Random Inc.'s Jerusalem: Tales from Outside the Framework of Orthodoxy . The structure is the same as earlier disks: Heckel pulls out the discarded aberrant noises of everyday life and culls them into an aesthetic whole. However, unlike Basal and Stengel ,Apikal Blend manages to transform that electrical storm into a eerily enticing, entirely appealing collection of tunes that add some pop and groove to the cascade of hisses and sputters.

What's next for Sogar? Anything, really. Apikal Blend was released on 12k in January, and I'm sure he's busy creating a follow-up (if, indeed, it isn't already finished—Heckel does not seems to lack for inspiration). Will the follow-up be as good? Who can say? However, I wouldn't bet against him. He's an incredibly talented artist, one who has managed, in three works, to define a very direct, very intelligent aesthetic, an aesthetic that is founded on the simple notion that music is defined not by the artist but by the listener. To listen to noise and to hear music is the gift of a good listener: someone willing to pay attention, to listen to things no one else can hear, and to point out these sounds to others, so others can enjoy and appreciate what you've discovered. Here's hoping that Jürgen Heckel remains a good listener for years to come.

Quick Facts:

Location: Paris, France

Style: Experimental electronic music

Instruments: Computer, guitar, cables, aberrant noise, mixing boards

Labels appeared on: 12k, List

Starting Point: Basal

Essential: Apikal Blend
Sogar