Review: Erik Bünger + Jan-Filip Ťupa – The Empire Never Ended

Erik Bünger + Jan-Filip Ťupa - The Empire Never Ended All we know about the strange 78rpm vinyl discovered by Thomas Knoefel is that it was probably recorded in 1948, and that the content was deemed to be somehow unsafe (as indicated by the notation of “Dangerous! Do Not Play!” on the original record sleeve). The audio is a man babbling in a language unknown, somehow musical in terms of his dramatic intonation and constant adjustment of pacing. Either it’s the inane spill of a malfunctioning mind or the man is a gateway into a sinister elsewhere. Hell, perhaps. He’s a transmission vessel, channelling a voice from a reality beyond our own. Without recognisable linguistic meaning to cling onto, we turn to the musicality of phonetic construction: the strange dips and bounces in pitch, the stumbling syllabic rhythm that gently slurs some sounds and squashes others into rapid fire.

The cello of Jan-Filip Ťupa traces the path forged by these musical elements, with his instrument synchronizing itself with the movement of the voice. He impeccably matches every single syllable; every tiny acceleration; every extended pause. Intense concentration hangs in the air like the static of low fidelity, or a chandelier poised and swinging gently, taut with potential energy and delicately at ease. How does Ťupa know the exact point of re-entry after the speaker’s extended pauses? He must be listening to the microbial shivers of those vinyl pops and clicks – the sub-narrative of interference and background noise (a dog barking, a faint breeze).

Or perhaps his concentration tips over into a state of telepathic, time-travelling trance? After all, we do not know the content of what Bünger and Ťupa are channeling. They play a dangerous game. The recording is like a mysterious box discovered in the depths of a cave, adorned with Rune engravings, opened for the first time in centuries. What demons awaken themselves within this musical exercise? Will Bünger’s music be unearthed years later as an anonymous artifact, thus furthering the journey of this demonic gene and commencing the cycle all over again?