Jan St Werner – Miscontinuum (Thrill Jockey)
Seminal electronic musician, Jan St Werner, releases his new album. Louder Than War’s Paul Scott-Bates reviews.
If there’s one thing that’s always predictable about a new Jan St Werner album it’s that it’s always unpredictable. The third in the Fiepblatter series, following on from last year’s schizophrenic Transcendental Animal Numbers is another leap into the impulsive mind of one half of Mouse On Mars.
Containing five spoken word passages (‘performed’ by Dylan Carlson of Earth) and six experimental ambient pieces, Miscontinuum is again testing and not one for anyone wanting an easy listen. For anyone that has heard his work before, it’s not easy on the ear. This may be part of the charm – never knowing what twist or turn will come next, or in what form or direction Miscontinuum will continue in its very unique way.
Not content with the spoken excerpts being just that, St Werner adds whispering and incomprehensible voices which are looped and sliding to create disturbing side-tracks. The album has been performed as an operative live performance in Munich and a radio play over a four year period whilst it was perfected and finalised, and with added involvement from Markus Popp (Oval) and Kathy Alberci and Taigen Kawabe (Bo Ningen) completes a complex album concept if ever there was one.
To understand and absorb the concept of the album is a challenge in itself. Claiming to investigate misunderstandings in time and memory, the phantasmagorical storyline thankfully requires more concentration than to listen to the album itself.
It is typically Jan St Werner. Ambient drone with often curious effects, it staggers, it glides and it provokes exceptional contemplations and unanswerable conundrums. The form and presentation of Miscontinuum has yet again to be admired as he strives to be the ground-breaking and inimitable force that he is.
It is however, frequently arduous listening and one almost wishes that the content could be reined in occasionally. As ever, always worth a listen or two to fully appreciate where the voyage is leading.
Ending on a light note, am I the only one to think the sleeve looks like the reverse of Michael Jackson’s Thriller?
All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog and you can follow him on Twitter here, and on Facebook here. You can also follow him on Twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news.