Ekkehard Ehlers – Betrieb – Digital
24bit FLAC - €7.00
16bit - €6.00
Before lo-fi tape hiss and filter murk became the preferred ways of fucking up your music, all we had to rely on was the glitch. The early 2000's were the swingin' glitch years, when clicking, skipping, beat-repeat and buffer-delay seeped into every ontological stratum of music-making.
But it wasn't just flashy winks teased into indie pop-dance, facile quasiclassical crossover, and bookish sound art. Glitch was a grand, sweeping, sea-change in how people listened to recorded music. The idea that the act of editing was now elemental, unconcealed; that seems to be the legacy of experimental electronica's golden years.
And at the heart of it all seemed to lie this curious little album by Ekkehard Ehlers, made of nothing more than mashups of two of the previous century's musical sea-changers, Arnold Schönberg and Charles Ives. A high concept, even for haughty times. Not exactly the stuff of poetical dreams, right?
But in the decade to follow, Ehlers would become well-known for balancing the heart precariously upon the intellectual sword. In his follow-up to Betrieb, the "Ekkehard Ehlers Plays" series, the mere thought of Cornelius Cardew and Albert Ayler were brought to bear upon a new tradition that had yet to figure out how it felt about feeling. And as any proper first album should, Betrieb could have no better stated this mission of pitting concept against intuition. To this day, Betrieb continues to articulate the epistemology of its era, as much as it offers timeless auditory delights.
HEM's 24bit remaster represents a significant update to the original sound. The original masters were transferred to 1/2" tape, and then treated to a remarkable journey through hand-wound patch cables, bespoke acoustics and humming transistors.
Ehlers' music not only stands up to the analog treatment, it shines: Clicks and pops have become fuzzy glowing points of starlight, while once-foggy atmospherics have become layered, multidimensional skeins of strings and smoke.
Betrieb was once the thinking-man's feeling-music (or the feeling-man's thinking-music). But it is now, simply, a transportive listening experience: Finally the monument it always aimed to be.