CD: SSSM 105 [2002]


I was a little taken by surprise by this German-Japanese collaboration, expecting as I was something a little noisier, especially given that Contagious Orgasm's associates include the likes of Sudden Infant and Richard Ramirez. Perhaps Telepherique have a calming influence; and it does say on the back of the novel translucent CD sleeve that the album was inspired by a walk in a German forest. The result is a set of five rich, organic collages that are closer to the ambient atmospheres of FSOL or Banco de Gaia than your typical Japanoise insanity.

I would suspect that the artists' process was very much more improvisational than these comparisons would suggest, however, as each piece seems to grow into the space allowed for it, evolving over time (the shortest is seven minutes) and exploring the interplay of its constituent sounds and the textures that arise from them. Analogue synthesisers provide a consistent framework around which the rest of the music creeps, like vines around a trellis; voices, chimes and clangs, snatches of percussion, processed field recordings, keyboard pads and movie atmospheres wind around them, fragmentary and heterogeneous but never disjointed. By track 3, 'Schaltvorrichtung' ('switching mechanism'), more regularity begins to appear, with a simple motorische rhythm on the left-hand speaker carrying along a grandiose orchestral loop.

'Einstellknopf' ('adjusting knob', insert joke as required) is almost dance music compared to the first couple of pieces, with an urgent bassline sliding up and down in pitch at a foot-tapping rate while arpeggiators throw squelchy electronic sounds back and forth -- but soon enough the drums fade and the bass expires, and the listener is dropped into a much darker place, surrounded by indistinct voices, cries of animals, Middle-Eastern pipes, the sounds of boots (or hooves?) on stone and the rattling of unseen mechanisms. Eventually the artists leave us to our imaginations with the sound of old-fashioned sirens and flames crackling all around.

Although not to everyone's taste, this album is a lovely piece of work, an exercise in bold spontaneity and barely-constrained chaos, marred by the occasional crackles and snatches of distortion - bad distortion, not good distortion - that are presumably an artifact of the performance process. (I'll eat my hat if it turn out it was all composed on a laptop.) Also the low end of the frequency spectrum is way too overpowering - bad overpowering, not good overpowering - meaning I had to turn the bass all the way down on my stereo in order to hear the rest of it at a sufficient volume.

By the end of the CD you'll feel like you've been taken on a journey into the unconscious and left to fend for yourself, although you have to wonder, what exactly did they see in that forest?


[Telepherique] / [Contagious Orgasm] / [SSSM]

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Other reviews

Congatious Orgasm + Government Alpha: [Heartstrings]
Congatious Orgasm + Telepherique: [Crosses Deeply]
Contagious Orgasm + Zyrtax: [DNA Loops]

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