Why did I pick Vienna to use as a Metaphor for the rest of your life?
U has always displayed an unironic conformity to his own absolutely genuine / occasionally challenging ideal as to what a release should entail. After a series of predominantly, and (in the most loving sense) maybe begrudgingly, dance floor oriented EPs, ‘Vienna Orchestra’ is a long overdue insight into his core fascination as a musician; making complex and intriguing experimental pieces that belie the humble mode of their creation - recording from vinyl records and manipulating the audio on old school samplers. This LP is an insight into scores of hours of twiddling with loops and sequences to create music far removed from its source material (dusty classical records acquired on a trip to Vienna). This is a dense, blunted world, which holds the sound of a musician indulging their own ear’s obsessions and insatiable curiosity.
The record’s opening is reminiscent of Walter Schumann’s ‘Night of the Hunter’ soundtrack in its deeply unsettling, creeping feel. The droning high strings in the background prick your ears while, in the foreground, oddly syncopated staccato stabs provide the loping, lurching feel. You could be forgiven for momentarily comparing this to some kind of oddball, Deep Puddle Dynamics-esque excursion… but then the fun begins. Throughout the record, the most consistently striking element is U’s masterful ability to, with the use of relatively simple EQs, filters and basic effects, turn familiar and fairly orthodox sounds into futuristic and daring electronic experimentalism. Forceful strings become ethereal and strange in their timbre, long, drawn-out notes are oscillated to create warped riffs or motifs and the imperfections of the physical format are treated as an essential aspect of the soundscapes he creates (more on this later). His isolation of contemporary rhythms in the source material displays an impeccable musical ear. Moments of the album sound like beatless grime or techno - not in a “YO kidz, Shakespeare was the original rapper!” kind of way - but in the startling, often illuminating fashion they summon connections between styles of the past and present. It’s also fascinating and joyful to hear, in this context, the early rave producers’ technique of pitching one chord or note across several pads / keys to create increments of the scale that shouldn’t really exist. No doubt this would discombobulate a classical purist to the point of distraction but it is a constant delight to hear this fairly un-musical production technique applied within a tuneful, meticulous and unfamiliar paradigm.
There is wonderful conflict within this LP’s running time as well. On ‘Resurrexit’ a sudden refrain of vaguely Reich-ian optimism – a loop that bears echoes of that somewhat wide-eyed brand of 21st century American minimalist composition – is suddenly quashed by a cataclysmic stab that sounds like the cannons-and-all climax of the 1812 overture repeated with alarming, gleeful insistency. The closing track has a nightmarish quality reminiscent of Can’s ‘Aumgn’, where the listener is truly set adrift on the choppy tides of a perhaps inscrutable musical vision, leaving one clinging to reference points where possible, but without the comfort of orienting landmarks you must simply submit to the experience and land where it may take you. These stretches are few and far between though – for the most part ‘Vienna Orchestra’ is a focused and concise release, restlessly flitting between cohesive vignettes. Some of the tracks sound simply like beautiful, vocal-less songs and offer themselves in nakedly tender opposition to the less easy-going moments. One may find, in places, the securing anchor of the sound can be the reverberating record crackles. This familiar tone is beautifully employed; reminding you of the physical process of the recordings, creating a vivid aural landscape around the music and frequently comforting the ear, creating a feeling akin to settling into a comfortable position and really listening intently to some interesting weather. U would surely be pleased to have his work viewed in such elemental terms – like the cacophony of nature and the mysterious celestial tones of the stars.
"Where To Now? have caught something really special in their net: Vienna Orchestra is a jaw-dropping master opus from U; consolidating the frayed sample tekkers of his dancefloor releases for ManMakeMusic and Phantasy Sound with a fine-tuned instinct for experimental, avant-garde cut-ups and a wickedly playful, trippy approach to messing with convention.
Sourced entirely from a bag of classical records picked up in Vienna - hence the title, obvs - U’s sampler and EQ modules becomes a craft knife, filleting fragments from hundreds of years of musical history for choice phrases which are consequently effected and warped into these 16, succinct yet deeply absorbing and etheric soundscapes.
He’s certainly not the first person to do this, as Wolfgang Voigt, The Caretaker, People Like Us and many, many have done before him; but the way in which U isolates and manipulates his sample banks is strongly redolent of OG rave producers getting giddy with the pitch as much as Steve Reich’s phasing repetitions, whilst also recalling the uncanny nostalgia of Mark Leckey’s dreamlike, collaged soundtracks, and even the more bilious moments of contemporary club constructions by Rabit or Elysia Crampton.
This is a record to get really, deeply lost within. A massive recommendation!" - www.Boomkat.com