The ability to find sounds, interesting snippets of wavelengths hidden in plain sight, is an acquired skill. Putting them together into a meaningful collage is even more of a challenge. Like a filmmaker who can bring together the most poignant aspects of a setting, soundtrack composers and sound engineers give the visuals depth and physicality. In the compilation Gravity’s Drop Out (Tracks for Non-existing Movies, six artists deliver their soundtracks without the need of the visuals at all. Field recordings, drone, and free instrumentation combine in blooming loops, leading to trance-like images of their own. From minimal ambient pieces to full-blown, meticulous glitch tracks, the different perspectives that are presented on this piece show the creative potential of abstract music.
Gravity’s Drop Out contains tracks form mostly German musicians. The first artist featured on the release comes from an abstract sound collective from New York (now based in Germany), Pas. Their penchant for ambient soundscapes is focused on removing all musical restrictions on their work. Thorsten Soltau is a German musique concrète master who also performs in the Trans Industrial Toy Orchestra, utilizing circuit-bent and found toys. Margitt Holtzt is the German duo Martin Schramm and Holger Neuwerck. They are frequent collaborators with Soltau and their experimental leanings mesh well with this release. Herr (Daniel) Penschuck performs electronics-intensive sets and is also a collaborator of Thorsten Soltau’s, namely in the aforementioned Trans Industrial Toy Orchestra. Hamburger Nika Breithaupt is a visual artist and musique concrète performer, listed on this record as Nika Son. Finally, Ebinger makes an appearance on this release with foreboding, concrete compositions that grow far outside the scope of ambient music. Gravity’s Drop Out was produced in a collaboration between Thorsten Soltau and Robert Pepper of Pas with Soltau’s M.M. label presenting original tracks from the German underground. It’s the work of a family of musicians developing structures of sound from a common approach.
The compilation starts out with ominous layers of digital alerts, shaking electronics, and distant spiraled squeaking. It soon dives deep into psychedelic loops of plundered sound, manipulated synth backgrounds, and open space. Throughout the record, unique elements manifest in surprising ways. Notable elements include a child’s flute, a foghorn, and a brutally reverb-induced hammer. There are moments of melody and patches of dark ambient terror often seconds apart. Ambient scenes of distant crowds create showings behind the abstract noises of the foreground. Instruments are chopped up into mutilated rolls, and layers of German speech mumble over each other. Electro-acoustics tie together plunderphonics in what feels like the warm flicker of 35mm film.
One of the more unique tracks on Gravity’s Drop Out is brought to the surface as Ebinger pulls together “Gramo Memo.” Through cutting apart a deep, echoing upright bass and flute piece by half-second-long free jazz samples and rumbling stones, Ebinger creates a rather mysterious atmosphere. When a drum machine kicks in, pulling the track into the realm of glitch, the genius of these loops is unveiled.
The CD, released on Alrealon Musique, is housed in a paper case. The front cover photo is an appropriately so-plainly-Bourgeoisie-it’s-surreal scene of what could be from a mid-century French New Wave film. Gravity’s Drop Out seems to end prematurely, having only six tracks, yet each artist is given ample time to express their imaginary film in sound. The compilation allows for the German abstract musicians to pull together a collaborative vision built on improvisation and the physical aspects of daily life. Stolen and invented sounds are assembled into a single structure that’s fitting of its own visual accompaniment.
01) Pas – To Understand Colours
02) Margitt Holzt – Bears Head
03) Herr Penschuck – The Drig Bift Transition
04) Ebinger – Gramo Memo
05) Nika Son – Jöusan
06) Thorsten Soltau & Herr Penschuck – Screening: Delfter Blau Simultan And Urmutter: Holspiegelgondolier