Music Review: Ekkehard Ehlers

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Ekkehard Ehlers


[Staubgold Records]

There's this poem by Frank O'Hara called "Why I Am Not A Painter." The writer describes the creation of a poem. "One day I am thinking of a color: orange," and he writes and writes, but never explicitly about the color. "There should be so much more, not of orange, of words, of how terrible orange is/ and life." Last year, Ekkehard Ehlers issued five EPs based on compositions by a series of artists that he admires. Those five records have been compiled on a new CD called "Plays," which includes all five EPs, on which Ekkhard Ehlers "plays" blues great Robert Johnson, free jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler, avant classical composer Cornelius Cardew, film director John Cassavettes, and german author Hubert Fichte.

Ehlers is interested in what exactly it means to make music that is "inspired by" other artists. These pieces don't bother to emulate the artist that inspired them-Ehlers makes music on his own terms, without the benefit of obvious musical cues and references. His music is light pastiches of minimalist electronics and musique concrète. It sounds a bit like Aphex Twin's "Selected Ambient Works Volume II," or perhaps the more Reich-influenced drones of the Wolfgang Voigt (aka "Gas") album called "Zauberberg."

And yet, while this music is so minimal that it borders on silence at times, the textures of this music are intensely visceral. Perhaps the most impressive track on this record is "Hubert Fichte 1," which is the least melodic and most sparse song on the disc. The track is built around a single tone, an intensely quiet noise that nonetheless is precisely the pitch that is most uncomfortable for human ears. This song is the human equivalent of a dog whistle-practically imperceptible, but excruciating, guised by the illusion of innocuousness. Like the artists that inspire him, a large part of Ehlers' art is in implication. He doesn't have to speak the music of their art-it speaks for itself.

Michael Baker


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