Lou Reed/Zeitkratzer – Metal Machine Music (Asphodel)


Having been in limbo for some years following the performance from where these recordings are edited (Festspielhaus, March 2002), Zeitkratzer’ rendering of Lou Reed’ now acclaimed (once shunned, at least at a retail level) Metal Machine Music is a curious project. Listening to the original record, Reed’ willingness to dispense with structure and song form is counter pointed on this new scored rendering. Gone are waves of uncontrolled tonal feedback and sheering noise and in their place are focused gestures that re-etch the shape of the original pieces.

The combined vision of Reinhold Friedl and Ulrich Kreiger, the Metal Machine Music project takes the core of recorded document and casts a net of notation across it. The process could truly bring an abrupt end to the rich character of the music, but interestingly Zeitkratzer have successfully sidestepped these pitfalls. Where the noise and dynamic volume of the pieces once reigned supreme, this new version sees the texture of the original recordings brought to the fore. Instead of attempting to match the blistering heat of the amp valves cooking at high volume, Friedl and his partners seek to extend the overtones and shimmering qualities of the guitar in the original piece. The results are successful, the composition not only representing the original, but also developing a highly personal impressionist take of the MMM record. The addition of Reed concluding the live recordings with some trademarked guitar man-handling appears to only resolve the lifecycle of Metal Machine Music – a cycle that started with the record being criticised as purely noise, and now being celebrated as a vision of contemporary composition.

Lawrence English