Review: Thorsten Soltau + Preslav Literary School – Grün wie Milch / Alamut

Although recorded and edited back in October 2010, Thorsten Soltau’s side to this split wasn’t actually mixed and compiled until September this year. Such a gap may have been employed to make Soltau’s sound library start to feel like just that – a sound library – rather than a collection of memories and potential anecdotes around the journey to capture the sounds and the sources that created them; to refresh the artist’s perspective on what is essentially just audio, and shake the sound free of pre-existing connotations. But perhaps not; who knows. What I do know is that this is essentially heavily looped, heavily layered musique concrete, with a touch of emphasis on the “musique” aspect. “Grün wie Milch” often feels a bit too clumsy in its transitions (not in an enchanting way that leaves the frayed edges of process untouched, but in a manner that feels too obvious to these ears), and it’s perhaps too congested with sound at points, but Soltau’s sound combinations are undeniably gorgeous for the most part. Guitar noise clunks in front of fragments of radio static and ambient snippets, slipping into beautiful marriages of lo-fi conversation, whistling feedback and amplified rustle of stylus on vinyl. The incessant looping is a prominent feature, and not only prises sound further from their original signifiers but also brings in a slightly musical attitude to rhythm and repetition.

Continuing the utilisation of recycled sound, Preslav Literary School fades out its opening German monologue to unveil a starry, shimmering reconstruction of a J.S Bach fuge. Chords overlap eachother so that a dissonance lingers between them, with haunting organ tones vaguely tracing a melody while ultimately feeling lost in mystical freeform. The section during which a phased fifth-interval drone takes precedence is considerably less interesting than the flowing chord progressions before it, but the broken, stuttering loop that follows it is an instant redeemer. It crumbles and distorts as a weathered outline of its former self, stripped of timbre and emanating as indistinct drones; a bit like one of William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops. It follows on very nicely from Soltau’s sonic bustle – a long exhale of relief after the overlapping rhythms and claustrophobia of the audio metropolis before it, and a chance to cast the mind out of concentration – and out of orbit – following Soltau’s boisterous (but rewarding) demand for listener awareness. Pretty good stuff.