The Hafler Trio

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Everything about this two-disc set screams High Concept, from the elegantly minimalist cover design to the ridiculous packaging to the arch listening directives ("The recordings are designed for reproduction through loudspeakers; headphones will not give the intended effects, nor will copying to other compressed formats"). All of this would be forgivable, if only the music were worth hearing. Unfortunately, it's not. The two discs, each of which is over an hour long, contain radically reprocessed recordings of the voice of Blixa Bargeld (better known as frontman for Einsturzende Neubauten). On the first disc, he is recorded repeating a phrase in a whisper, in a hysterical scream, and in a normal speaking voice, but in none of the three cases would you recognize the sound as that of a human voice without reading the press materials. The processed sounds are reminiscent of the later phases of Alvin Lucier's I Am Sitting in a Room, which experimented with accreted echoes and harmonics, only much, much less interesting. The contents of the second disc are described by the label in this way: "Three 'meaningful' vowels were taken and arranged according to certain rules of Sanskrit. By repetition of these sounds, vibratory rhythms are created in the body to awaken the psychic fields." In other words, you get a drone that gradually develops very subtle nuances over the course of a half hour, at which point a sound that is recognizably human fades in, and the whole thing grows in intensity (without changing or developing in any obviously meaningful way) for another half hour, at which point it fades out again. This all might make a fine soundtrack for reading the pretentiously postmodern liner notes, but frankly, the whole thing ends up looking an awful lot like an emperor with no clothes. Not recommended.