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Erikm (Luc Ferrari) & Thomas Lehn
Les Protorythmiques (Room 40) CD

 This recording documents a 2005 live performance by Swiss musician erikm and German analog synth virtuoso, Thomas Lehn. The piece, “Les Protorythmiques,” began as a collaborative project between erikm and musique concrete elder statesman, Luc Ferrari. The aim of this project was to create a system in which, according to the liner notes, “sounds and compositional parts could be substituted and transformed in an almost improvisational setting.” When Ferrari’s health deteriorated (he would die later that year), the nature of the project changed rather dramatically, and for this live performance, erikm invited the extraordinarily innovative Thomas Lehn, whose analog modular synth playing is truly extraordinary. For the concert, erikm used recordings culled from his and Ferrari’s first joint project, the excellent Les Archives Sauvees Des Eaux, which he chops up and processes in a variety of ways, using the system devised in collaboration with Ferrari. At times the combination of erikm’s on-the-fly sample manipulation and Lehn’s warm, gurgling synth work gels quite well, as the two create a pleasingly undulating ocean of sounds. But overall, in spite of the strengths of the artists involved and moments of inspiration, the results are a decidedly mixed bag. Too often the manipulation of field recordings and spoken interviews is awkward and downright jarring with an overabundance of loud, stuttering voices that sound like a stuck, damaged CD (or, as an astute reviewer noted damningly, unnervingly like Max Headroom). While not without its compelling moments, in the end Les Protorythmiques fails to cohere.

-Susanna Bolle


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