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I recently stumbled on the playlist and mixcloud audio for a show on FSK Radio Hamburg called Ausflug. The curator is Horst Petersen, who operates under the pseudonym Jetzmann, and he’s an electroacoustic musician with a pretty impressive body of work of his own, such as scoring dance productions, various collabs, etc. During this particular set, he did something very logical, simple, and effective: he played Fun House tracks and their Funhausen derivations back to back. First “Down on the Street,” then “High in the Attic.” Later, he reversed the order, and “I TV I” was followed by “TV Eye.” Listening to the contrast reminded of the great emotional divide between music sculpted on a computer and music propelled in real-time by moist human hands and feet fucking up wood, wires, metal, and plastic. I never set out to duplicate the spirit of a band playing full-on and primal with Funhausen, but still, the fact was made plain by Jetzmann’s juxtaposition that cyber-dependent construction can rarely match the passionate delivery imparted by human beings blasting full volume and united in the fucking moment. On a visceral, elemental level, Funhausen sounded puny next to the unrestrained violence of The Stooges.
I’ve worked in the alternating arenas of isolated electronic expression and band-based instrument wielding for some time now, but I came to the former after years of doing the latter. At this stage, I’m not a loyalist to either method; there’s things about both modes that I find rewarding, and I’m glad I can move between them. But I tell ya, the spirit will rise much quicker when buffeted by a screaming Ron Asheton fuzz-wah guitar eruption than if cradled by a low-end, plug-in distorted noise sheet (not that I don’t like that… Jeez, I can be a contradictory motherfucker).
I’m not going to get into the nuances of this argument (I have a life, believe it or not), except to say that I’m well aware that there are all kinds of options when making “electronic music” (such an inadequate catch-all), and that the physical manipulation of devices and self-made instruments has a long tradition in various sub-genres thereof. I myself attempt “playing” rather than looping as much as possible in my solo work. Even with Funhausen. For example, for “Soiled” I sampled Dave Alexander’s “Dirt” bassline, isolated the notes as much as possible, assigned them to different pads in my sampler, and played what became the “Soiled” bass line with drum sticks on the pads back into the computer. The result is far from metric perfection, but it was fun. That’s right, fun. Remember that?
So, thanks Jetzmann, for reminding me of the everlasting potency of The Source, and of the reasons I started trying to play music when I was a kid. You gave me a back-to-earth moment, and we all can use that from time to time.