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Shock Late

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Voice Crack

Shock Late

format: LP | catalogue: Emm LP 06 | year: 1999

Voice Crack? Everyone wants Voice Crack! Norbert Möslang and Andi Guhl, the two Swiss musicians who form the duo of that name, have been on a tight schedule lately. They've been much in demand at international festivals and have worked with the jet set of electro-improv: Jim O'Rourke, Günter Müller, Erik M, Metamkine, Otomo Yoshihide, Hecker etc. - not to mention their legendary performance with Tom Cora (R.I.P.) at the '97 Moers Jazzfest.

Things looked different in the early nineties: Möslang and Guhl were only known to a small circle then, and the reissue of their first album on Cologne's Urthona label, though a sensation in its own right, went almost unnoticed.

Möslang and Guhl started out 25 years ago as pure improv musicians, playing reeds and double bass respectively. Their first LP release, "Deep Voices", saw light on jazz mothership FMP in 1977. Even then they had expanded the typical idiom of their trade with radical sounds produced on home-made instruments, a metal percussion kit and early electronica (Prepared Tape Deck, notably). Three years after, their second LP appeared on FMP's sublabel Uhlklang, this time almost thoroughly devoid of traditional instrumentation. And then "Voice Crack came out. The recordings on this album had originally been designed for an art exhibition; little did anyone know that it also contained the germ for future developments in electronic music.

"Voice Crack" exclusively featured the sounds of tampered-with consumer electronics. Everyday "instruments", from radios to remote controls (and Barbie dolls, for that matter), were given the special treatment to produce sounds that none of these unobtrusive and seemingly harmless objects were likely to give off. It is pure joy to just look at this machine park - and no wonder the pair have made themselves a name in the realm of fine arts, too.

The duo played at ear-splitting volume, only rivalled back then, in the early eighties, by the likes of Borbetomagus, to which Voice Crack entertain friendly relations since their American tour of 1986 - a friendship that has spawned three interesting releases. From then on, self-produced records appeared in casual sequence, although stage performances remained a rarity. None of the established improv festivals seemed interested in their "corrupted appliance" approach.

This changed in the mid-nineties, when Tom Cora and conductor Butch Morris (also a dissident jazz trumpeter) invited them to co-operate on projects, and Jim O'Rourke became one of their main advocates. It was a time when the electronic paradigm gained hold in improvised music; another innovation being the duo's move towards less noisy work. Henceforth all kinds of listeners were able to grasp the infinitely various sounds coming from their unique equipment, and it became evident once more that Möslang and Guhl were above all brilliant improvisers: Not only can they make sounds, they know what to do with them.

It's a kind of sensitive touch, which may be experienced all along "Shock_Late": There are loops and repetitive elements which, although never quite in sync (Voice Crack won't use sequencers), still blend in perfectly with the whole. Although this is improvised music, it's flawless. It's Voice Crack music. Embedded in its carefully constructed layers are the duo's trade mark explosive sound events, which seem to have been placed with more delicacy than ever. It often sounds more like the shadow of some big bang, or like someone shooting into a pillow. Or as if they had dissected an explosion and used only some selected splinters.

"Shock_Late" clearly shows that Voice Crack are alive with the urge to push frontiers. The sense of permanent surprise, which is achieved not superficially, but by concentration and persistence, will be easily shared by any listener.

The LP also represents a breach of traditions at Entenpfuhl. The label has so far specialised on debut albums (by Schlammpeitziger, Jim O'Rourke, C-Schulz and Frank Dommert). We've gone out of our way to turn out "Shock_Late", because - well, first, you simply can't say no to Voice-Crack - and then we haven't had anything from them since their 1986 LP "Kick That Habit".