Review of Looping I-VI (And Other Assorted Love Songs) [12k1028]

Haunted Ink (US)

I recently read a fascinating science fiction novel called Dark Universe by one Daniel F. Galouye. It tells the story of a group of people who live underground in a world completely removed from light (hence the title). The people in this world have adapted to this darkness; they don’t know even know what light is (they think it’s a person), and exist perfectly well using sound, smell, and touch instead of sight. The main character uses “clickstones” to create sound waves in an area; these waves enable him to perceive even the subtlest details (like whether a person has long or short hair, or whether a person’s eyes are open or closed).

I am reminded of Dark Universe as I listen to Frank Bretschneider’s latest CD, Looping I-VI. The 12k web site notes that Bretschneider is a fan of science fiction novels, and that he envisioned his work as a science fiction story of sorts, with a beginning, middle, and end. I wouldn’t be surprised, then, if Dark Universe was the basis for this musical story. It’s a work of slowly building loops, clicks and whirls that echo in bubbly depths, and deep chasms of mutated sound waves. It sounds like a Dark Universe to me.

Bretschneider is probably the foremost purveyor of minimal dance music. His plentiful output over the past decade (under his own name and using numerous pseudonyms, like Komet) usually revolves around icy-sharp, glitch-fused beats. At its best, his music is as good as dance music is likely to get. But Looping I-VI. is a departure from that formula. There are grooves, there are clicks, there is minimalism, but the emphasis is on atmosphere, not rhythm.

This is, as I said, a story. It begins with a slow, mumbling wave (kind of like a dense, dark passageway); eventually, tiny echoing clicks are added to the mix. The clicks then melt away, revealing a whole cavern of deep, oceanic waves and hard thumps. Then, at “Against a Blue Background,” the thumps mellow and a melody emerges (like the emergence of life in an otherwise lifeless valley). This life grows and builds into other melodies, and these melodies all play together, mixing with the stray noises and echoes that lumber into view. Then the melodies slowly die out, replaced by sad simulations, silence, damp fuzz, and emptiness, which then mutates into new melodies that play and dance together before falling into yet another respite of cold echoes.

The album is one of death and rebirth, new musical life growing out of the embers of the old. I glimpse at least four sets of deaths and rebirths spread over 42 minutes. I like to imagine that each of those clicks and melodies revealed a different face or contour to a cavernous, dark world, and that the music, taken as a whole, tells the story similar to the one Galouye tells in his novel, of a character who spends his life searching for an elusive entity known only as “light.” In this case, perhaps each of the magical melodies that surface here are glimpses of light, or what he thinks is light, revealed in the only language he knows, sound.

But the content of the story is immaterial. The key to the success of the music on Looping I-VI. is that it gets me thinking, wondering, imagining. This is inspiring music, and it’s one of the best works in Bretschneider’s impressive career.

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