Ekkehard Ehlers

Politik braucht keinen Feind

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With Politik braucht keinen Feind (which roughly translates to Politics do not need an enemy), Ekkehard Ehlers made a conscious attempt to sidestep the aesthetics of his previous solo effort, the critically acclaimed Plays. Much more abstract, this album doesn't have the fragile immediacy of its older brother. It engages the listener on another, more cerebral level. It presents three works. Closing the set is the 20-minute "Woolf Phrase," composed for choreographer William Forsythe and previously made available on the Whatness CD Music for William Forsythe. A re-composition of string ensemble recordings, it is the piece coming closer to the music found on Plays. The other two pieces are quite different. Each one was put together using sound fragments from an instrumentalist. In short, using his computer to transform and stack samples, Ehlers plays the player. The technique is not very different from John Oswald's plunderphonic electro-acoustics, John Wall's sound reconstructions of free improvisations, or even Bob Ostertag's make-believe group improvisations (the Say No More series). And despite an undeniable charm and artistry, Ehlers' pieces don't share the same level of interest as them. "Mäander" features bass clarinetist Burkhard Kunkel. The third movement focuses on breathy gargles slowed down to reveal their grain. The effect is mesmerizing. "Blind" is sourced from the cello of Anka Hirsch. Her already extended techniques (an unorthodox use of bow pressure, in particular) are enhanced by electronic pitch shift and a form of "orchestral" arrangements that make her sound like Hans Reichel's ensemble of daxophones. It would have been easy for Ehlers to repeat the recipe of Plays. Instead, he chose another path and, if the results are not as beautiful, at least he comes out of it with his artistic integrity intact.

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