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Asmus Tietchens
Zwingburgen des Hedonismus/Mysterien des Hafens
(Die Stadt) CD

 This is the ninth installment in Die Stadt’s ongoing series of reissues of early recordings by the venerable (and prolific) German musician Asmus Tietchens. Zwingburgen des Hedonismus/Mysterien des Hafens collects two very different single-sided releases from 1987/8, along with an unreleased bonus track, “Faircomp 1k,” which is a reworking of “Zwingburgen.” As most regular listeners to Rare Frequency are surely aware, I am an ardent fan of Tietchens’ music, embracing almost everything in his multifaceted oeuvre from his ultra-spare contemporary output to his avant-lounge project, Hematic Sunsets. My ardor does have its limits, however, and Tietchens’ experiments with Fairlight CMI synthesizers from the late eighties generally fall beyond my personal musical pale. Since the first two tracks on the Zwingburgen cd feature the Fairlight, I suspected that it might be tough-going, and it is. The soft, dated huff of the Fairlight is unmistakable on both long pieces which are structured around ponderously repeating piano and choral motifs. It’s truly a rough, tedious 40-minute slog.

Fortunately, the Fairlight is front and center for only two-thirds of the cd and the final two-part track, “Bubendey Notturno / Ritual auf der Halde” is a real Tietchens corker. Named for two industrial harbor areas in Tietchens’ hometown of Hamburg, this piece seethes and pulsates with dark intensity. According to the liner notes, the piece incorporates strange, uncanny sounds that Tietchens recorded using underwater microphones and there is a wonderful liquid metal undercurrent that is vintage Asmus: mysterious, ominous, and quite beautiful.


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