Two Superb Auf Abwegen Comps


aufabwegen50. ausgewaehlte geraeusche – Various Artists
DEGEM CD 15: XV – Various Artists

RECOMMENDED: The German/Swiss Auf Abwegen imprint run by publisher/curator Till Kniola (Köln) and Christian Bláha (Zürich) semi-regularly releases some of the best abstract/experimental music on earth while maintaining a schedule of live gigs/events.They tend to the vast discography archives of the preeminent composer Asmus Tietchens, for instance. In between 2016-17 they released two incredible compilations that, since I was taking some much needed respite while working on my book, only recently came to my attention. And though we do not review compilations, it would be regrettable not to at least mention the power and creativity in these two volumes.

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The extensive double cd/book set is a mostly sold out edition of 1000 copies, aufabwegen50. ausgewählte geräusche (2016; Auf Abwegen) serves as the label’s epic 50th release, and it is plumb-packed with assorted gems, of varying shades, tones, colors and unexpected awkward beauty. This DVD/Digibook with its 82 page booklet in German/English features a ton of various essays and info on each artist, and is almost encyclopedic regarding the who’s who of experimental sound over the last three decades all put together by Dr. Johannes Ullmaier and Kniola with sleek matte design by Robert Schalinski.


These ‘selected noises’ are mostly unreleased tracks, 29 included here, many house favorites: Das Synthetische Mischgewebe (free dissociated noise), Thomas Köner (tonal ambient), Maeror Tri (hyper whirring drone and effects), Cranioclast (buzzing layers), RLW (disembodied minimalism), Frank Bretschneider (delightful static), Fetisch Park (rubbery beats), Konrad Kraft (multi-channel transmission), Christoph Heemann (a sea of low-fi static impressions), Achim Wollscheid (wooden tick-tock + wires) and Tietchens (watery microtones) – as well as lesser known artists (to this reviewer) with incredibly activated work by: Kontakta, Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf, Column One, Schachtanlage Gegenort and several others, many whom have been at it for three plus decades.

Check out the label on Bandcamp

This is an intriguing long listening session that will bring more exploration than embarking on a rain forest adventure, exploring the Orient, sailing to a few desolate islands, scaling through the hidden walkways of Venice and back again. In other words, this is a perfect maze of classic experimental music, from ambient/drone hollows, to the most abstract, this tends to go for a balance that defies what is generally heard by adding a level of sensory atmospheres that are warm to chilly.


The second volume of note DEGEM CD 15: XV (2017; Edition DEGEM/Auf Abwegen) is a label collaboration with budding imprint EDITION DEGEM (the German Society for Electroacoustic Music), run by Ipke Strong (Leipzig) and Jan Jacob Hofmann (Frankfurt). This volume is curated by Clemens von Reusner in an edition of 1000 copies, packaged in a sweet 6-fold digipak exquisitely designed by sound composer/artist Marc Behrens, who also makes a formidable appearance here.


Unlike the above mentioned compilation, this one has eleven tracks, and of these I’ve only been exposed to a single artist’s work (Behrens). His track Clould (2nd Movement) is a tight montage of soundwaves, motors, and ambiguous sensory perception. Through the many successive small actions he’s managed to fast-flicker edit a track with precise machine-like punctuation, figuratively, etc.

Where do we direct our attention then,
which direction shall the next step lead to?
I mean, to an abstract sound,
to a technology devoid of obstacles,
to a tonal non-delimination.  – Feruccio Busoni

Tiny particles blaze and spew over a tired drone. The ghost in the maschine, run by a man who constantly surprising us with his experimental compositions. And that’s just the beginning of an otherwise sublime collection of tracks brought together by von Reusner (also a composer in his own right), who obviously has an ear for moody atmosphere and near fanatical detail. For example, born in 1947, composer Dirk Reith‘s contribution is like getting lost in a darkened china shop so to speak, it’s magical and bold, and his use of sound effects are quite tactile, all the while a roaming drone expands and contracts.


There are extreme (mostly) minimalist pieces included here: Gerald Fiebig, Martin Supper, Gerald Eckert, Claudia Robles-Angel – each with its own visionary tweaks and artistic rendering. And then there are the hearty explorers of atonal sound effects that conjure the unexplored realms of the mind like Hans Tutschku‘s 10 minute long fantasy Remembering Japan – Teil 1 or Sibylle Pomorin‘s hissy performative piece, Raumklang 1 Und 2, it’s got a stealthy anonymous presence that is quite infectious. The bells and other effect manifestations on Wilfried Jentzsch‘s sumptiously disorienting Bells Evolution are just that, and this 77 year old composer works in mysterious ways, with a primordial re-imaging of the instrument, fireworks and all. I’m fascinated to hear his work for the very first time – true music to these well-seasoned ears – and for me, the standout of the collection. I feel like while listening to this record I am given the key to a whole new, unexplored world. These are some composers that speak in illusory tongues, so resounding to me – and that, my friends, is exactly what a great curator does – opens a brand-new Pandora’s music box where I’m allowed to color between the lines.

Countless nods in the direction of Auf Abwegen today, and here’s to 50 more!……

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