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Robert Henke - Atom/Document


ROBERT HENKE - ATOM/DOCUMENT (Imbalance Computer Music)

Of all the artists that have emerged from the Hardwax/Chain Reaction axis in Kreuzberg, Robert Henke has long been associated with experimental ideas and an almost algorithmic attitude towards the music he creates. Perhaps this is a dusty meme that has long been stored in his mind since the early days of his love of the likes of synthesizer legends like Jean Michel Jarre, certainly for one he is the most exhibitionist of this group of musicians, putting together visual ideas that syncopate with the evolving soundscapes he produces. Whether it be the epic grandeur of “Studies for Thunder” or the drones of “Layering Buddha”, a concept is never far away when Henke is about.

“Atom/Document” and the ideas behind conception with Christopher Bauder can be found here. As an audio/visual idea, it verges on the slightly preposterous, but there’s an odd beauty about the balloon that I personally find quite invigorating, and given their propensity to have a mind of their own, using them goes against the strict confines that electronic music often operates within gives the project an unusual character. As a live performer, Henke has often failed to live up to his potential, and this sees him producing music in a much more confined enviroment and space, with some interesting results.

It is of course difficult to write cogently about this particular piece without having any visual documentation of the performance, and as such I will have to concentrate on the music itself. The most noticeable aspect of this performance is the use of treated piano, which provides Henke’s music with the sort of classical edge that one wouldn’t expect from him, placing him nearer contemporaries such as the Raster-Noton collective. After a traditional drone-like start, “Atom/Document” dissolves into a series of pieces that have their own character, yet fail to coalesce into something more coherent. Piano and percussion clatter together, but it’s not until the 6th track, “First Contact” that these ideas seem to be realised properly. Fans of Henke’s Monolake material will be pleased with the stuttering rhythmic workout of “Diagonal”, yet it feels somewhat out of place with the tone of the album as a whole, and the last two tracks seem to verge more towards Henke’s other works on ICM.

As a cohesive musical piece, “Atom/Document’ is rather quixotic, and as such fails to deliver something coherent. For all his technical qualities, I feel that Henke has never really added a personal touch to the music he makes, and whilst this LP is but a product of an experimental audio/visual project, it does sum up the appropriately mathematical attitude he has to making music.

Toby Frith

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