Gerald Fiebig | Gasworks
From what looks like an intensely researched recording by sound installation artist and composer Gerald Fiebig comes five live pieces (2010-16) relating to the former gasworks in Augsburg-Oberhausen (built in 1915 to turn coke coal into gas for the town) in collaboration with EMERGE and Christian Z. Müller. The album contains “processed recordings of the sounds of gas and industrial machinery, stories told by a former gasworks employee, and live improvisations in the echo chamber of the large gas tank.” Fiebig has been recording for just over a decade and has a fairly large discography over this short period, he is also the owner of the former label/magazine Gebrauchtemusik. The gasworks, being the subject of this record still stands, fully preserved today.
As this opens with post-industrial, it sounds like a giant pilot light has been switched on. It’s coming from a kitchen stove, but honestly sounds as though it’s from one of those military testing sites where they have sub-sonic planes in the distance (I’m actually in a flight path and hear this somewhat regularly). It’s a wall of whitenoise, almost similar to the urgent gush of a waterfall. As EMERGE (Sascha Stadlmeier) works his processing of these electro-acoustic tonal changes, you can vaguely hear something of a melody forming, and swirling in a vortex echo chamber. On Ohrentauchen mit Echolot the listener will be engaged by what sounds like a rainstorm, with a host of animated rattles, peeps and clamor. Evidentally Fiebig has brought in his toybox to play with, though instead of engaging like a child, he managed to give each of these oddities a chance to solo in moans and other sudden reverie. It’s engaging and a little haunted to be honest.
Nach der Industrie is a 2007 interview with an old-timer, Johann Artner, who was one of the workers at the gas facility (1947-89). Fiebig intersperses gaseous emissions into the two-hour discussion (here edited down to a 26 min. piece). A transcript of his ventures (in German/English) appears here. The tape is run to show the vicerality (and versatility) of tape, highs and lows, hiss and channel swapping. As the speaker laughs to himself bells are introduced and his voice, with all its vintage is a wink to ‘been there, done that’. It’s refreshing to hear such an obscure subject matter captured in this stylish balance between documentary and Fluxus. The voice alone, no matter what language you speak, carries volumes of experience.
After a very short intermediary piece, Ohrentauchen mit Echolot that trudges like a broken kickstand within the shadows of depth, we are on to the conclusion. The radio piece Echoes of Industry with architect/musician Christian Z. Müller is unique in the way in which it starts with a spinning clack-track contraption initially resembling a printing press (actually a textile machine). In just over fifteen minutes there are dramatic pauses and searing shifts in atmosphere. Between the echoes we experience high tide and finite detritus amid near silence, and the sudden flare of horns as if some out jazz outfit are about to trounce us with an Ornette Coleman-style jab. But that never really comes to pass, rather becoming more a thick foghorn that could also be the call of a killer whale. But as the horns continue in closer succession the metamorphosis into avant jazzers comes to pass, like ships passing. It’s a vivid picture painted on murky seas.