Review: Aalfang Mit Pferdekopf – Mutatis Mutandis

Mutatis Mutandis is sparse and at a distance. It hums and crackles into an empty space, swamped by a reverberant gloom that brings to mind an underground sewer system, complete with intermittent drips that snap on impact with cold concrete. As it progresses, the distance dissolves at the hands of its persistence; the drones appear to close in as the “raw” sound and its reverb offshoots starts to blur into indistinction. The most compelling aspect of this 38-minute piece is the way in which atmosphere – tangible at first, easily attributable to physical space – gradually fades into abstraction. Objects become blobs of shape and colour, with their impact increasingly defined by their sensory quality rather than their environmental associations.

Central to the music are a variety of ghostly and characterful drones, and it’s difficult to tell whether they’re organically or electronically sourced. Sometimes they resemble the metallic vibrations of a singing bowl (albeit stripped of attack), while on other occasions they quiver and moan like hidden phantoms in mourning; they collide into various harmonic shapes and eerie glimmers of overtone, floating between pitch and dynamic seemingly without compositional intervention. Often I find myself reminded of the ominous afterlife sirens of the late Harley Gaber for the music’s muffled and haunting ethereality.

What follows the main piece is a solitary minute of noise cleaning: sharp jets of fizzling static that punctures the listener’s meditation with its starkly contrasting abruption. Personally I’m unsure as to whether this conclusion is really necessary – while there’s something refreshing about such a violent shattering of atmosphere, part of me would have preferred the eerie subtlety to have remained throughout, so as to leave the music’s memory to linger as an unshakable haunt.