Marc Behrens
A Narrow Angle
CD (E71)

A Narrow Angle: Game Parlour Saint Fun
A Narrow Angle: Taipei Metro Easycard 500 NT$
A Narrow Angle: Temple Drink Vending Machine

Concrete sound recordings made between September 2005
and January 2006 in Taiwan, an island with three names.
Composed 2007–9

“During the last ten years I occasionally recorded at subway
trains and stations in various places, but in A Narrow Angle:
Taipei Metro Easycard 500 NT$ I focused on a very particular
aspect encountered in the Taipei Metro (hence ‘narrow angle’).
This piece is the second of three parts: part one focuses on
recordings from crowded urban game parlours; part three on
recordings from around a Taoist temple at the edge of the
forest north of Taipei.
  A Narrow Angle: Taipei Metro Easycard 500 NT$ is based on
recordings of the sounds of automated barriers in several
Taipei Metro stations, specifically when passengers activate
them with their electronic tickets (Easycards). Two different
signals can be distinguished: a tone (sine wave) when there
is sufficient credit charge on the card and entrance is granted,
and a squeak (sawtooth wave) which notifies the passenger
when the card needs to be recharged. Within groups of
barriers the beeping tones are slightly detuned (which also
depends on the position of the listener). Thus, a shifting
microtonal play of varying density results. This is mostly
noticed during rush hours, and clearly stands out from the
shuffling noise of the large masses of commuters.”
  Two days in a different city, its skyline a bit worn down, with
traces of recent fires, warped plastic façade elements flaking
off buildings, a burnt out KTV sign at the top of a rotten
concrete tower. Walking down the street with an artist friend,
we come across a peculiar kind of shop, its name alluding to
a ‘Magic Mushroom’. Through the window we can see a number
of machines, their unfamiliar elements suggesting an obscure
  We enter to check out what the place actually offers and are
greeted by a middle-aged man in a white laboratory coat.
In answer to my friend’s mocking questions he explains to
her (and she translates to me) that he uses a unique magic
mushroom to heal any problems in your body. To channel
and accentuate the energy present in the (dried) mushroom,
he uses some computer chips. The chips are stuck into the
meat of the mushroom, and the resulting bio-cybernetic
chimeras are embedded into resin.

Excerpt from The Mushroom, one of the five texts
accompanying A Narrow Angle

See also
Marc Behrens

Edition of 300 copies


Extrapolated from the environmental sounds of a video
arcade in Taipei, which were then heavily processed,
the frequencies of the first part of A Narrow Angle weave
together vibrant and alien sounds. These elaborations are
very much present in the digital-noise structures of Game
Parlor Saint Fun, and sum up very little of the arcade
divertissement, instead looking to emphasise the alienated
nature of the sequences. The second of the three tracks,
Taipei Metro Easycard 500 NT$, [is] marked by microtonal
play obtained by replaying the different sounds of smart
card readers which control the automatic barriers in the
local subway. Still in Taipei, but this time in a Taoist temple,
the project ends in an even more rarefied and spatial way,
evolving in strictly controlled constructions, whispered and
mysterious, clearly inspired by the religiosity of the place,
and therefore resonant of a gentle but intense energy.

Aurelio Cianciotta at Neural

A Narrow Angle combines electronic, I think entirely digital,
processes and sounds with field recordings. On the whole it
does this very well indeed, though each of the three tracks
has quite a different character. The opening piece, A Narrow
Angle: Game Parlour Saint Fun is a brisk, edgy affair made
up mainly of field recordings cut up, overlaid and mixed
with little bits of processed sound that has lost all acoustic
warmth and [has] become digital chatter. The track begins
with a boom, a brief burst of  busy, bustling sounds before
cutting to a rather lovely, murky [and] distant recording of
what sounds like relaxed street life. After a minute or so this
is suddenly consumed by a further blast of sound similar to
the first which includes some kind of manic Mr Punch-like
laughter buried in it. This lasts just seconds and we are then
returned to the cloudy calm. Throughout the track a similar
pattern is followed, though the bursts of sound begin to take
longer to dissipate, and each gradually dissolves through
digital processing. This all then slowly drops away into the
field recording sat below again.
  The second piece, A Narrow Angle: Taipai Metro Easycard
500 NTS, begins in a similar fashion as we hear hectic bustling
street sounds and chattering voices to begin with. Gradually
though these are transformed into squeaks, shimmers and
bleeps which slowly play out over the sixteen minute duration.
The field recordings pretty much disappear and the music is
formed entirely by these processed sounds, which actually
work quite elegantly together, slipping and sliding around
each other in a vaguely circular manner, though I must say
I preferred them when combined with the snippets of un-
processed recording in the first track.
  The final track, A Narrow Angle: Temple Drink Vending
Machine, a twenty-one minute long work, is my favourite on
the album. Everything is much quieter and mysterious here.
From the start we hear low murmurs that resemble very
distant sounds of industrial activity, but are probably just field
recordings slowed right down so that the slightest sound
becomes an elongated event. The digital clicking and phasing
that sits on top of these distant ripples is tastefully done with
much restraint, so the slowly unfolding sonic booms remain
the focus of the music. There are places where things are
allowed to build. Six minutes in the sound of streets is
[grows] and takes over the piece until it is savagely curtailed
to leave just the slightest traces of sound underneath. Things
carry on in similar fashion, generally quiet and restrained
with little flurries of activity every so often. With six or seven
minutes remaining however, the music is diluted right down
to a thin whisper of digital sound which eventually fades
away completely into silence. We hear nothing for about two
minutes until a gentle whirr, similar to the sound of a small
aircraft flying overhead, appears. It hangs in the air for the
last [moments] of the album, changing pitch once or twice
but never rising in volume, very gradually disappearing into
silence. There is a real grace to the way this track dismantles
itself and fades into nothingness.
  It is hard to think of anything quite the same as what
Behrens does on this album, which is very much to its credit.

Richard Pinnell at The Watchful Ear

Three pieces sourced from three different places: a games
parlour, a Tokyo Metro station and a Taoist temple, the sounds
altered radically and infused into quite solid constructions.
The first is marvelously violent and careening — pachinko-
like! — and, when played at volume, feels like being smacked
around the room. In a good way. The Metro piece begins with
a huge whoosh but soon settles in to an eerie reflection on
the two standard tones emitted by the turnstiles, one granting
access and a harsher one denying it. These are delicately played
with, adapted, layered into a shimmering matrix that’s both icy
and enchanting. The temple track I found the most compelling,
tending toward the quiet, with low booms and high whistles,
but erupting once in a while, an unexpected bell peal in the
relative silence. Really impressive and a fine release overall.

Brian Olewnick at Just outside