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P16.D4 – Passagen

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P16.D4 - PassagenI’ve been struck by this band’s mysterious flavours since hearing them on numerous compilation LPs from the early ’80s, and then much later, on the Tionchor CD back in ’98 which gathered them all up in one (very odd) listening experience. ‘Nouvelle Concrète’ that was, and continues to be, inspired.. inspiring, with this collected umbrella of Passagen as a pathogen no doubt infecting a whole new generation of listeners with its sexy  unorthodoxy.

Bathed in a rich bronzed lustre, this lavishly packaged and detailed collection starts at P16 D4‘s 3rd album, Kühe In ½ Trauer, a thing of damaged beauty. A transition point of gothic malcontent and brooding reverberations that is still remarkably powerful, like a multiple gaze of Rasputin eyes staring madly into a dark disease of murmuring purr and detuned gyro. A spectacle choked full of irregularities and inventive textural clashes, oily bubbles full of whimpering canines and choral goo. The sheer majesty of this disc is awe-inspiring, a moth-lit richness of ailing  machineries and chloroformed organics.

The claustrophobic and ranty “Anselm Weinbergs Flucht in Den Odenwald” with its death star trudge, is a real dirgic joy, bespeckled in the detuned twinkle of dulcimer. Further textural interplays, a horror-show of sickening laughter coupled with squealing animals suffocating under thick pastry, finally fed into a screaming futility of elephant howl and smashed floor toms. The magical way “Default Value: Störeingabe”‘s looped choir, trapped in a lullaby of jarring rubs and plate exhales literally ruffles your head; explosions of oversaturated rock action and stereo-swapping antics jolting your hemispheres in a multitude of thrown-open perspectives. Something I’d love to force-feed Simon Cowell with just to see what beautiful mutations it spawned.

Winning the prize for the longest track title ever, must be: “He’s Afraid Of The Way The Glass Will Fall – Soon – It Will Be A Spectacle: The Fall Of A Crystal Palace. But Coming Down In Total Blackout, Without One Glint Of Light, Only Great Invisible Crashing”… A mouthful of glorious images which P16.D4 effectively chase with washing machines, ticking watches and slow punctures of percussion. A retelling of Poe‘s “Tell-Tale Heart” in a slow thawing of   clockwork ice, shivering cymbal savannahs and a toy doll’s mouth a-dribble with carpet tacks and cutlery. Wandering round Sainsburys with this in your ears is highly recommended, as it turns your weekend shop into a battlefield of strange un-nerving and incredibly satisfying noises, killing that dull florescent sterility in amplified surprise and inventive tangles. “Masse Mensch”‘s transformation of stadium chanting and clapping is an inspired one, totally intoxicating, as a deluge of locust-like hail splashes between fret acrobatics, climaxing on a Nuremberg rally of dynamic and powerful choral waves seemingly chanting NEVER NEVER NEVER.

Forming the basis for the next disc, Distruct, P16 D4 material was collaged with resources from the tape exchange fraternity of the ’80s. Nurse With Wound, Nocturnal Emissions, the prolific De Fabriek, Merzbow and a lot of more obscure contributors can be heard in the improv clatter and avant detunes that follow. The Nurse With Wound elements are instantly recognizable on “Kultstudien Zu Anselm Weinberg,” catching slurs of “Ain’t necessarily so” amongst that wobbly landscaping and phasic slurry. The others are harder to pinpoint, but thanks to the included notes you get a good idea of who’s doing what and where, revealing lots of surprising Tödliche Doris involvement.

As with the rest of the discs here, there’s some seriously beautiful stereo moments for all you headphone  appreciators out there. Coughing that actually swings straight through your cranium or atonal elves that are felt to actually run across your head with amphibian feet. The fallouts of dirty sax here are stellar, swooping vultures, with portions of dark wave gloom surfacing like weird approximations of SPK amongst the sporadic cut-ups as actual instrument use slowly dissolves into tape squeal and the contorted molestations of turntablism.

Nichts Niemand Nirgends Nie was originally a split double offering shared with Achim Wollscheid‘s Swimming Behaviour of the Infant Child and is the next in this chronological (re)examination. The p16 elements only are presented here and five collaboration tracks show a definitive shift towards electronics, displaying a less abrupt, more composed stature. This album shares a similar darkened hue with Kühe In ½Trauer, especially the latter half. Starts all pneumatic chatter and primitive firing of noise generators… a Ming the Merciless finger banquet of itchy Braille pins and comical relays of texture swapping. A typewriter seemingly made of spoons and gloopy plastic flying between the ears. “Virtuelle Altäre” is junkyard entrapments toggling between a funeral dirge of church organ, finally falling into a jarred toolbox of wonky angles.

White/pink noise flurries of “Neger Am Laster”‘ cut up into cat-tussling tones of abstract subtractions, and keyboard chords purring from their broken casings like newly hatched eggs. A lot of the tracks here are brilliantly sinister: the septic tank of ills that is “My Last Words Will Be…” is a prime example with its basement torture scene of muffled screams and gasps from behind halting scrapes of metal and heavy spectre breath. Other tracks continuing to conjure up a whole host of malign spirits, a marble index of wind-warped daisies, motorized chews and backward unease. The bonus “Ephemeral March of the Dead Monks” is an incredible carnival of macabra in itself, and just keeps giving, as if Fripp and Eno‘s “Swastika Girls” were rewritten with a taxidermed orchestra of putrid animals and an abrasive soup of noxious chemicals.

Tionchor‘s astounding variety and breadth of vision is quite staggering, and along with Nichts Niemand Nirgends Nie and Kühe In ½ Trauer, it is one of my favourites by the group. In the ’80s they seemed to have their feelers in almost every underground compilation out there, so omnipresent that at the time I was completely surprised when they never made an appearance on the cult Elephant Table album. The 19 tracks here span from ’82 to ’91 and feature a lot of live cuts and offcuts that give your head a right royal mix with a suitably rusty finger. The disc even boasts a cheeky remix of Progressive Disco ( a sneaky backward glance to Inweglos and Ralf Wehowsky’s former PD days) that revels in pure destructive glee – effectively shredding all residue of tunefulness.

Acrid Acme (Of) P16.D4 skips between noisy fragments like a faulty CD, pin-cushioning your head in a jump start of clashing contrasts. Tumbling from “Kriemhilds Rache” and its percussive sparring and crumbling crisp packets, to the metallic moths of “Their Coffin Shaped Clock” munching their way through rotting after-shadows of musical notation. The glitchy cannabilistic remix of “½ Trauer” for duo turntables (called “Half Cut Cows”) also seriously delights, a messed up jumble cake of fragmentary rock and glass paper castanets, elliptical groove cream that’s a dance with tattooing needles.

As you’d probably guessed by this point, anything and everything has musical potential/worth in P16.D4’s world view and the sleeve notes of all these discs boast the usage of many household wares: chairs, wardrobes, toothbrushes and wheelbarrows all figure. On “Interfaces” the combo of coal box, shovel and shaver is probably the most bewildering, a tourniquet of frictive torque, over and undercut in strange stereo shifting noises, a dialogue of velcro-like tears, fuzzing transmissions and obsessively observed gold, that shares a similar vibe to “Acrid Addled Azue”‘s gloriously reverbed closet misuse. “Zur Genese Der Halbbildung,” a 19min 49 sec exchange collaboration with Masami Akita (aka Merzbow) is another highpoint. A shardery of volatile compounds scrambled, skidding round with chinks and sped up organ injections and unravelling raggety hobos wrapped up in greasy violin, pressurised venting and the odd mangled shopping trolley. Exotic combinations floating momentarily on a sea of unpredictability, leading to a final cut that’s seriously cuckoo, a comedy of textures Irish-dancing over its own junkyard.

The penultimate disc, Three Projects, is a chop shop of industrialised flavours, emissions, odd DIY collages of contact mic abrasion that seem to jolt , seduce and worry simultaneously. Each burst clawing co-ordinates from the previous in pleasing angles and glimpses of intriguing narrative consisting of reconstituted Hafler Trio, Psychic TV, Amus Tietchens and many more live recordings. The four Merzbow collaboration tracks that end this disc are a slippery floor of malfunction, full of hissing contrasts and pristine bushwhackery, building up into the throbbing poultice of metallic delight that is “Virtue” with its subterranean vocal spokes, seagull skree and a previously unreleased dying harbour of a bonus.

Finally the collection is rounded off with Ethereal Ephemera,  collection of short films, graphic, textural and totally absorbing angular eye goo, monochrome visors of chaotic consciousness, screen flashing texts and blurred reflections that give tantalising glimpses to the band’s creative processes. The spontaneous mind flurries of “Improvisation Jan ’97” are just amazing, as the whole room is literally transformed into a music resource or the way the idyllic bliss of a summer’s day is viciously sucked into grassy statics and skewed angles on “Kühe in ½ Trauer.”

Without doubt this collection is worth every single penny, and thoroughly recommended.

-Michael Rodham-Heaps-

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