If, Bwana/Gerald Fiebig – Split (Attenuation Circuit)


If, Bwana/Gerald Fiebig - Split (Attenuation Circuit)

Normally known for CDR and digital releases, the Attention Circuit label has begun expanding into the world of vinyl. This split 12-inch, their second wax release, features Al Margolis (as If, Bwana) and Germany’s Gerald Fiebig, is limited to 100 copies and provides both artists sixteen-odd minutes of ambient stretch room.

It’s worth mentioning that this split sees the two artists sharing source materials across their tracks. The If, Bwana track “Fie’s Big Organ/Recorders for Augsburg” takes organ recordings made by Fiebig, and overlays them with recorders played by Margolis. Fiebig’s “Sustained Development” uses parts of the same organ recording, with the addition of other samples supplied by the artist’s bandmates in the Jesus Jackson trio.

If, Bwana’s track begins promisingly: there’s sustained tones overlaid with shrill piping recorder notes. The ominous wavering pedal notes from Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo soundtrack appear, and the whole affair has a very Hermann Nitsch/H.P. Lovecraft feeling to it, and the woozy sawing of recorder pitches provides an intriguing sense of movement, until there’s a natural breakdown around five minutes, where the limits of human breath bring quietude.

The second part of the track – reminiscent of a group of waterbirds on a lake, of some kind of grouped, anguished calling – is more effective. Problematically, it doesn’t develop much from the seven-minute mark until track’s end. The conclusion is slightly weak – the doom-tinged soundscape peters out – but it’s also neither innocuous enough to be background, nor considered enough to be foreground. A shame, considering how striking parts of the track appear.

Gerald Fiebig’s ‘Sustained Development’s features the same reedy organ tones, but with more organisation. They’re constructed in waves, creating a feeling of motion, of tidal drift. It’s a slow-burn piece, but seems more at home in the ambient Nurse With Wound part of the world; its slow iterations and feeling of bobbing, rising waves would sit well with any fans of NWW’s Salt Marie Celeste.

Around the nine-minute mark there’s a subtle, higher-pitched noise, a tremulous beckoning that’s answered with a larger, rounder, response. There’s the sense of communication between intelligences, of interstellar gaps. And then, weirdly, it turns very zen. Slight organ swells, higher-pitched tones and a feeling of expansive nothingness – but not in the same, oppressive way as before. It’s contemplative and ends with the introduction of field recordings of birds in a move which brings a real sense of completion, of journeying.

As ever, the split release risks highlighting a difference of quality. Here, the quality is with Fiebig, for sure.



About Author

A curmudgeon, writer and sometime musician. He has played Japanese drums in Japan, guitar badly in Australia and will never be as cool as Keiji Haino. (But then, who is?)