Tomas Korber/Ralf Wehowsky
Walküren am Dornenbaum
CD (E83)

This three year-long collaboration begun in 2006 when Korber and
Wehowsky embarked on intense recording sessions in Eggenstein,
where the latter resides, lasting several days. The output from
these sessions forms the basis of this work, augmented by additional
field recordings and various electronic manipulations. Korber and
Wehowsky used the same software which allowed them to exchange
the pieces at any stage of the compositional process, so that every
detail of the music could be shaped in a truly collaborative manner.
The result obliterates the borders between improvisation and
composition, spontaneity and careful planning.

Tomas Korber (Zurich, 1979) received a basic training in clarinet
and music theory alongside guitar lessons. He discontinued these
studies after five years, shortly thereafter teaching himself to play
electric guitar and use the computer and other electronic devices
for music making. Korber has written compositions and played
improvised music since the early 1990s. He is a prolific solo artist
and performer; his work includes film scores and music for dance
and theatre, as well as numerous collaborations. In 2009 he was
awarded an artist residency in New York City by the Department
of Cultural Affairs of the City of Zurich.

Ralf Wehowsky founded the group P.D. (later renamed P16.D4) in
1981 and the label Wahrnehmungen in 1980, which was renamed
Selektion in 1982. P16.D4 was a highly influential and experimental
group. Their concept of materialaustausch (material exchange) was
developed long before the term ‘remix’ was coined. They performed
at punk and No Wave festivals as well as at the bastions of academic
avant garde such as Ferientage Neuer Musik in Darmstadt. In the
early 1990s Wehowsky adopted his RLW moniker. His quiet, highly
complex style of composition is based on artifacts of instrumental
and electronic lateral noises.

Edition of 300 copies


I really don’t sweat my inability to distinguish the what or whom
of collaborations like the one heard on Tomas Korber and Ralf
Wehowsky’s Walkurnen Am Dornenbaum. I am fairly surrendered
to the ambiguity and the erasure of discrete roles this duo achieved,
the result of their three year exchange of sound files drawn from
basic material created over several days of playing together in 2006.
This hasn’t always been the case in my history of listening to difficult
. Walkurnen Am Dornenbaum sounds like interactive concrète,
the signifiers of improvisation and composition, not to mention
authorship, rendered irrelevant.
  Wehowsky aims for this, as he said in a 2005 interview: “In ideal
circumstances there is no unique authorship, no separation between
composer and performer, and a constant exchange of ideas and
musical material.” Hard on the ego. Happily, collaborator Korber
seeks these sorts of confrontations, subsuming his guitar-based
sounds within the duo’s joint chopping, mixing, transpositions of
speed and source material, and general sonic fuckery. The six tracks
comprising the whole are little more than suggested demarcations,
as Walkurnen lurches and reels through myriad micro-structures,
fun-house events and dramatic crescendos that gasp and expire
into barely audible hiss. This is a fantastically shaped, raw and
ragged collage. Attuned specifically to its striations of ideas and
details, you'll hear many of its musical cells reiterated and echoed,
a snip of sound disappearing, then foregrounded with distortion,
oscillation, mangled leitmotifs, even recurring themes. There are
wisps and whips of thin ghost tones, wheezy Carnival of Souls
organ chords, saturated noise and moments of sustained serenity.

Jesse Goin at Crow with no mouth

For some reason, I associate the music of Ralf Wehowsky with that
of Arnold Schoenberg, not because Eggenstein-based Wehowsky
has ever invented a system to ‘assure the supremacy of German
music for another hundred years’ (yikes!) or ever been seen as the
leader of a so-called “school” (though many musicians have sought
him out as a collaborator over the past couple of decades), but for
the simple reason that it can often seem rather and dry and intimi-
dating at first, yielding up its secrets only over time, after many
concentrated listens. Wehowsky hasn’t performed live for a long
time now, and shows little interest in doing so either (the logistics
of a day job have as much to do with it as the aesthetics of impro-
visation): his preferred working method is slow, patient treatment
of raw material, either his own or that of his many collaborators.
If architecture is ‘frozen music’ (Goethe), then Ralf Wehowsky’s
music is audible sculpture, with each sound fussed over, chiselled,
dusted and polished and right where it should be.
  On Walküren am Dornenbaum his working partner is Swiss guitarist
and composer Tomas Korber, who spent a few days chez Wehowsky
back in April 2006 recording instrumental source material that was
subsequently augmented by the addition of various field recordings
and batted around between the two musicians in a process of
extended manipulation. ‘The result obliterates the borders between
improvisation and composition, spontaneity and careful planning.’
Indeed it does. It’s often dense, almost opaque in its accumulation
of rumbles and drones, but also, when you’re least expecting it,
spare and angular; at times instruments and processes are easy
to identify (Wehowsky’s queasy old organ pops up on a number of
occasions, and there’s some harmonica and stuttering table guitar
at the opening of Abstieg der Geisterseher), but it’s often quite
impossible to work out what’s being played, or what’s been done
to the source material. Sure, one could describe it, I suppose, to a
point — this happens, and then that happens — but that would be
about as useful as describing a piece of sculpture.

Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic

Walküren am Dornenbaum is a brilliant collection of tapework
composition and electronic noise, and indeed could prove to
be one of the more exciting projects I’ve heard associated with
Ralf in some time. This work represents a compression and
intensification of studio sessions, field recordings and mutual
software manipulation, to create these six works of great clarity,
purpose and import.

Ed Pinsent at The Sound Projector

You can certainly pick up hints of crowd noise, birds, perhaps
insects and other naturally occurring sounds, but they're consist-
ently used in a non-referential manner, purely as sound elements,
blocks adapted and nestled into a thick and rich framework. There’s
a ‘concrète-ish’ sound to it, in a sense, but the vernacular is quite
different from what one normally encounters, much less refined
(a good thing), ruder even. Even the gentler pieces, like the fifth
track, have something of a whip-like aspect, the twangs carrying
burred edges, darting between echoing clinks, voices and high,
organ-y tones, creating a marvelously complex, hurtling-forward
environment. Great work, that one especially, something I’d love
to experience in a multi-speaker space.

Brian Olewnick at Just outside

Throughout the six pieces there isn’t a sound that doesn’t warrant
a closer listen. Every second of music is made up from carefully
constructed other parts, shredded here, glued back together there,
twisted about, changed completely, added to something else...
There are no simple drones, no use of everyday guitar feedback,
no slamming doors or children in the playground, nothing so easy,
nothing so obvious. Nothing lazy. I struggle to understand how
two people can make something so meticulous in its construction
and yet at the same time so erratically edgy without a clearly
defined plan, or a lot of arguments along the way. Listening to 
Walküren am Dornenbaum is a constant adventure, like stumbling
through a thick forest when just about anything is possible behind
the next tree. The intensity of the sounds draw you in, throw you
about a bit and then drop you out the other side.

Richard Pinnell at The Watchful Ear