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Allerseelen Goes Back to the Beginning with “Frühgeschichte III: Autdaruta”

Allerseelen, the long-running project of Gerhard Hallstatt, will be familiar to many if not most of our readers both through its extensive discography (twenty-one albums to date) and through Hallstatt’s writings in the AORTA journal and other forums. Frühgeschichte III: Autdaruta is not a new album but rather a reissue of the second Allerseelen album, dating back to 1989, and as such one should not expect a sound in line with releases from the current era. Rather than the increasingly prevalent electronic aspects of recent albums, Autdaruta is a predominantly analogue affair with minimal electronics present. The drum machine pulse frequently encountered on more recent outings is almost entirely absent, and while loops are part of the construction, in line with the subject matter (on which more below) they are, for the most part, sampled from lo-fi recordings of shamanic drums, rattles, violin, and less easily identifiable sources. Taken as a whole, this gives the album a sound somewhat akin to early Hybrids recordings. It is certainly much more unsettling and disturbing than the more serene soundscape of the current materiel.

Gerhard Hallstatt

One of my favourite aspects of Hallstatt’s music has always been that each release is quite definitely thematically focused (insofar as largely instrumental music can be said to be), and by fortunate accident the set of interests informing the project—’esoteric’ archaeology, mythology, religion, and other obscure facets of European history—are ones which I share. In this instance, the music is inspired by a tale of murder and mysticism from the frozen north. In Hallstatt’s own words:

‘Years ago, I read in the book Shamanic Voices: A Survey of Visionary Narratives by Joan Halifax about a shaman in Greenland named Autdaruta. I was fascinated not only by his name but also by the magic and tragedy of his fate: He seems to have murdered several people in his youth. Later on, he became aware of his magical and mystical powers and became a famous shaman, visionary, and storyteller to his tribe. Many years later, he for some reason decided to become a Christian. His spirits warned him not to convert. They told him that they would leave him forever, but he did not listen to them. After his baptism, he suddenly realized that his magical and visionary powers had gone. Even his name, Autdaruta, had disappeared: He was given the Danish name Christian Poulsen. Knud Rasmussen got to know him on one of his Thule expeditions to Greenland. Autdaruta was one of his guides as he was familiar with the many fjords and the strong currents in the region. Rasmussen spent a lot of time with him and wrote down many of his narrations for his book The People of the Polar North:

“His eyes always made me doubtful. I only remember to have seen that timorous, despairing look in the eyes of a stricken reindeer. Sometimes a twitch would shoot across his face that would give him an extraordinary resemblance to a tired and tamed wild beast. And that was about what he was. The ruthless murderer had been appalled one day by his own deeds; and now he was tamed–though whether it were the priest or the remembrance of his own deeds that had restrained him, who shall say?” (Knud Rasmussen, The People of the Polar North)’

It would be easy to forgive an album so early in such a prolific career as juvenilia or a mere curiosity, but fortunately, Autdaruta is quite able to stand on its own merits. While it does not hit the heights of later albums (of which Neuschwabenland remains my firm favourite), and I would not single it out as an ideal introduction to Allerseelen for the uninitiated, there is certainly a great deal to enjoy here both as a snapshot of the very early stages of developing what became a recognizable style and as an engaging and interesting album in its own right.


Track List:

Tracks 1-10 Are Untitled.

Written by: Jael Edwards
Labels:
Aorta (Austria) / AORCD18 / CD
Indiestate Distribution (Russia) / IST091CD / CD
Electronic / Post-Industrial