Review: Chemiefaserwerk – Collagen

cover“We live in a world of musical undo and versioning.” – R. Henke 

This quote sits atop the Bandcamp release description for Collagen. Of course, undo and versioning are the primary symptoms of digital music in the modern age: the transience and potential rearrangement of cloud-stored files, the infinite production scrutiny afforded by laptop-based home recording. Nothing is fixed. Even if the digital medium may be immune to the effects of passing time (unlike the mediums of cassette and vinyl), the audio within can be easily reshaped. Collagen returns this principle to the physical world. Using several tape machines, Chemiefaserwerk enacts the process of infinite adjustment; forever rewinding certain segments and running them again, anxiously adjusting playback speeds, cutting audio dead and splicing atmospheres together. Whereas digital versioning can be conducted cleanly and without leaving a trace, I imagine the creation of Collagen to be a frantic tangle of tape; an ungainly criss-cross of re-threaded spools and tape segments stuck awkwardly together, resulting in a soundscape that jerks and splutters through an endless state of indecision and distraction.

The record reminds me of those moments of mental hyperactivity; like sitting down for a moment of quiet solitude, only to realise that the mind is a cacophony of colliding thoughts and competing concerns (caffeine-aided, no doubt). Extracts of classical music and percussive exercise come warbling atop strands of drone, before decaying suddenly like soft objects dropped into acid. Strange analogue noises burst into view and then disappear, as though retracted in sudden, reflexive pangs of sound-editing regret. Collagen captures the anxious twitches of editing fingers – hands flying across knobs and hurriedly replacing one tape with another – as though Chemiefaserwerk is searching for something within the mess of archival capture. Field recordings are upturned like boxes in the attic; drones are picked up in bunches and frantically thrown aside; curious clacks and rustles are left to linger (examined closely, turned and prised apart) before being placed back into a state of silence. While there is undoubtedly love and attentive craft within the re-arrangement and merging of sound, there’s also the sense that such a process is the by-product of a much more significant pursuit – a quest to discover a particularly special, solitary second of sound within the crates of forgotten field recording and analogue recollection, like a scientist in search of a molecule which, according to hypothesis and relentless theoretical research, should be in here somewhere.

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