While sticking to its trademark sound of dark, sample-heavy electronics and modern composition, the Miasmah imprint has made a departure of sorts with its latest release, this album by Belgian sample technician Kreng. “L’autopsie...” fits perfectly into the label’s roaster but ventures onto a more performance-based, theatrical approach than catalogue numbers 1 to 9.
Indeed, the album compiles 18 pieces composed for separate theatre productions. And unlike many other releases originally conceived for an art or theatre context, most of the tracks work very well without their original context. Marimbas, percussion and violins are intertwined so intricately that it would be hard to forget that these compositions are in fact based on samples. The melancholic strings and piano passages of “Caliban”, the ritualistic percussion of “Aspyxia”, or the uncanny drones of “Mythobarbital” are among the most atmospheric compositions you’ll hear all year. But in their entirety they do not make for a consistent album. The short pauses between tracks come as audible interferences; a lot of tracks seem to be cut off rather randomly, which, as the album progresses, comes across as a lack of finesse even though it stands in sharp contrast to the meticulously sculpted sample constructions.
“I liked you better as a cat.” – Spoken word samples feature more prominently here than on any other Miasmah release. And indeed, Kreng has scored more than twenty theatre and dance productions, most notably for the Abbatoir Fermé group. “L’autopsie” is his debut, and a promising one indeed, comprising old European ‘Kaffeehaus’ lore and b-movie horror soundtracks in a way I’ve never encountered before. The press release references Cage, Moondog, Morricone and Feldman, but I’d like to add Weill to the list for his critical (yet inclusive) take on bourgeois lifestyles and for “L’autopsie”’s strangely Weimar Republic feel.
Kreng, then, could be the Luis Buñuel of experimental music. It would be interesting to hear an originally conceived album, though, as the frustration remains that this is only part of what clearly was an audiovisual work of art. The cd can only hint at those ‘Gesamtkunstwerke’, which is why, again, I recommend DVD releases for such collaborations (for further ramblings on that matter, see my review of Peter Rehberg’s “Work For GV 2004-2008”). 7/10 -- Jan-Arne Sohns (24 June, 2009)