There are few artists as thoroughly credentialed across dance music and Classical new music as Cristian Vogel. But what’s astounding about Vogel is, having ventured out on the precipice of those bleeding edges of both worlds, he still stands on tiptoe there now. Chilean-born, UK-raised and academically-trained in the 80s, and now a leading voice in Berlin’s scene for the past 20 years, he’s no less prolific today than in the past.
But let’s not just wax poetic – let’s have a listen to the latest.
We can love the fact that Jamie Lidell, Vogel’s former mate in Super Collider (the duo, not the software), has run away to Nashville and turned to (beautiful) crooning in his own take on soul. But if you wonder what happened to Vogel, yes, he’s teaching at Red Bull Music Academies, yes, he’s making music at wine tastings in Barcelona, yes, he’s showing off the latest the crazy-deep Kyma sound system research. And yes, that’s him above digging through crates inside the metal cage in the basement of Tresor. (Vogel was the first UK artist to climb onto its label in ’94, back when the scene was more insular-German.) And yes, that will be him tonight creating immersive sound on a bill with Robert Henke and others at Berlin’s Passionskirche.
But wherever you are, if you want to escape into worlds of sound that require close listening, that light up the music-listening portions of your brain (animal lobes along with frontal), grab a pair of headphones, strap in, and go along for the ride.
Eselsbrücke came out on Sub Rosa (via Bandcamp) at the beginning of July. It’s almost neo-Classical electronic music, with pristine, bell-like tones recalling classic “tape” pieces from early digital pioneers, though with a freedom and improvisatory ease. This is lab techniques, as enjoyed in times that don’t require retreating into academic white towers. Those sounds flow into organic clusters of freely-flowing rhythm, rippling like gentle ponds, South Asian-style cycles of percussion gently ticking away the time. By halfway through the fourth cut, “Snaker,” these are excited into a reigned-in freely-jazzy rhythmic solos, before blasting off into higher-orbit ambiences on “Ballad” or nervously scampering across metal surfaces on “Particles.” It’s fitting it was mastered at Laboratoire Central, Brussels – it could be a cinematic soundtrack to particle physics research.
(For more, Belgium’s Sub Rosa is going all manner of adventurous stuff, with the likes of Luc Ferrari.)
The label Boogyizm, straddling Berlin and Frankfurt-am-Main, responds to the release with their own mix, titled – apparently by a cat crawling across their keyboard – S-MAX – ESeLLLSMX003. Strap in for an amusement park journey through what seems to be every avant-garde trace imaginable. Keep listening, and things go a lot more club. And Balinese gamelan, because, really, Bali still out-avant-gardes most of us in a beautiful way. They shine a light on musical connections far afield from what you might hear on Eselsbrücke – meaning if you haven’t quite acquired the taste yet for avant-garde electronics, you might listen to this mix first, a base camp on your musical adventure before you hit the summit.:
Vogel also responds to himself – at least a past self in dialog with the present – via a montage of his own compositions:
If you fancy this sort of wild sonic landscape, don’t miss his Station 137 netlabel.
For a history lesson, Cristian Vogel worked with Shitkatapult to return to the 1995-96 era for “Sleep Debt.” Apart from clearing out the last of surviving vinyl, you can return to Vogel’s label imprint of the same name, digitized from vinyl. (That should work just fine, like pouring from a small glass into a big glass, as I recall us establishing last week.)
Find it on the Shopkatapult store; more info and sound previews on the label site:
And there are lots of other Vogel originals on the Shitkatapult SoundCloud stream. You can even hear what he was playing in 1995 – and in this era of collapsed time, maybe find inspiration for your own take on 2013.
But you’ll also find, alongside frenetic dance tracks, beautiful undersea ambiences like his “Moved by Waves”:
— or, alternatively, deep grooves like “Voidster”:
So many terrific artists, while always a pleasure to hear, are successful because you know what they expect. With Vogel, it’s still exciting to hear what he’ll do next.
And that can even be true on a Monday evening in summer. Cristian Vogel joins live sets by Monolake (a repeat of his excellent The Ghosts in Surround), Prokyon, and Pharoah Chromium.