Form Phallus Function (Otomatik Muziek; CS/DL)
For his twenty-fourth solo release Germany’s Nils Quak seems to be up to something a bit mischievous. The tape (of which there are only 40) is broken into a trio of tracks ranging in length from 11 to 25 minutes, starting with the opener, L’eclisse (translated: the eclipse). A sustained single bass tone grows in shaped pulsations. As there’s a bit of inclement weather passing over in the moment I’m trying to determine my own physical place as the sound becomes more of a buzz-based drone. Slowly wooden percussion enters at the edges of the contorted din, growing into a bit of a live wire work. When the central buzz dissipates another circular static balances the left/right channels, only countered by a watery effect, one side passive, the other a bit abrasive. When the atmosphere goes low, the exploration begins, and a set of layered, animated effects deploy.
About the piece I read that “the middle part could well be a lost reel of a mid-70s GRM gem, followed in the next movement by traces of arpeggiated rhythm.” In my search for these trace elements I discover Quak’s most effective when he keeps the filed minimal, restrained and peculiar – which he does with an artistic flair with the attention of a surgeon. The tiny buzz combined with assorted incidental parts and pieces is where this becomes a brilliant jewel. And not in a typical, repetitive microsound fashion, this is quite physical when its most scaled down. But he’s unafraid to break the glossy grip by aiding and abetting pitchy tones that shoot into the stratosphere.
On Kalter Aal we pick up the same curling, fuzzy feedback and slightly deranged static harmony, but this piece seems a bit more shrewdly ‘composed’. There’s a poker-faced-ness about the core of the atonal side here, it’s on one hand psychedelic, yet dips a toe into the sphere of low-fi noise. A lengthy test-tone drone that’s departed from the animated opener, a bit of a dirge in fact. Offene Runde starts where the last track left off, but adds a layered, shifting open circuit as if he’s playing with the amp output. Just when you thought you were safe an amplified beehive stuns and is phased in/out, becoming withdrawn as a handful of quirky effects and a wobbly alarm goes off towards the end. This track has the tarnished color of a vintage lava lamp’s globular innards, yet takes on a frisky attitude. The last five minutes are….everything! For all its pink graphics, this is one of those cases where you should not judge a book by its cover, or its title. Take shelter, it’s a pure sonic diversion.