I received my copy of Fall Seliger Geister in a large package of promo albums and was immediately taken with the total lack of information on it. There were no liner notes, no context, and no clue as to what to expect, except for a blurb on the back stating that “some ghostly sounds were supplied by Raionbashi, Berlin, notably alarums and excursions.” Given that Seliger Geister translates to “blessed spirits,” it was safe to say I had a ghost album on my hands. Still, it would be a mistake to listen to Fall Seliger Geister and expect the usual post-industrial handling of ghosts and the supernatural. Ralf Wehowsky has been recording under the moniker RLW since the early 90s, drawing from and discarding influences from a motley musical background to become a notable force in musique concrete.
Anyone who likes their spirits conjured up via slow-burning dark ambient will be sorely disappointed by this album. The ghosts in Fall Seliger Geister aren’t the kind you feel; they’re quite literally ghosts from a machine. Pulled from Wehowsky’s personal sonic environment and given a second life in the composition, the digitally enhanced field recordings transmute ordinary sounds, musical or otherwise, into, well, a lot of different things. Rain, a busy street, what might be a trumpet or piano—the past lives of these samples are obscured via layers of effects and processing until they scarcely resemble their former selves. That’s not to say that the compositions lack a sense of atmosphere; only that it’s a more mechanical variety of unnerving. Wehowsky’s arrangements are the aural equivalent of a jump-scare horror movie, and are, at times, more akin to cut-up noise than concrete. Creaking doors open without warning to reveal a screaming choir of processed strings; voices emerge from clouds of static that suddenly swell and dissipate just as quickly. There’s certainly nothing random about these arrangements, but the transitions are sharp and immediate—a gut-wrenching listen.
Being in a state of constant suspense is exhausting, and the album’s brief forays into more traditionally “atmospheric” soundscapes come as a relief. The tense piano drones at the beginning of “Alberts Geister” are almost immediately shattered by what I can only describe as a shrieking choir of needles. That might be a clumsy description, but some of Wehowsky’s geister defy the conventions of musical vocabulary. There are textures over layers behind whispers here, and when one considers the artist’s labor-intensive methods of manipulating found sound, it adds another dimension to an impressively arranged album. These sounds and textures are sometimes too synthetic for my personal taste, but these are his ghosts, not mine.
Whether numbing or abrasive, RLW’s blessed spirits are numerous; they lie in wait and swarm the listener when it’s least expected. While Fall Seliger Geister may not be compelling to me, it shows real mastery on behalf of the artist, and a skill that must be respected.
01) Pseudolog I
02) Aus dem Irgendwo
04) Aus dem Nirgendwo
05) Ein Gespenst Geht um
06) Alberts Geister
07) Pseudolog II
09) Pseudolog III