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Different types of trance

The albums of Tanz Mein Herz, Natural Information Society and Driftmachine present different perspectives on trance music and minimalism. When the sound motif is looped is when they sound best, functioning outside of time.

Translation: Aleksandra Szkudłapska

6 minutes of reading, 210 minutes of listening. That’s how much time you’ll need for the three albums described below. Reading time is often provided online to indicate how much time you have to spend, so I’ve decided to loyally warn listeners about how long the following materials take. Think trance, meditation and being looped in sound.

Tanz Mein Herz, Natural Information Society and Driftmachine are fond of repetitive motifs, which become more colourful thanks to the space they build, their meditative form or the sonic boundlessness, which draws you in without respite.

The French ensemble play as if time did not exist. This septet of musicians from groups such as La Tène, Orgue Agnès or France experiments with music that’s situated somewhere between avant-folk and mantric-drone passages. The opening “Alor” is a drone bulldozer, a never-ending story that resonates and absorbs the ear with its gradually thickening texture. It brilliantly merges with the line of feedback-like sound into the second track, “Tales from the middle of the night”, which already features pushed-back drums and electric guitars. For a change, “Magical stones and shiny mud” is a light number based on a drawn out, monotonous motif, in the end coloured with guitars and marching drums. “Spiegel Haus”, my favourite on the album, undergoes a series of metamorphoses – each time, it seems that suspension and tension have already been exhausted in this long suite, and yet there are further turning points. The album, which lasts almost 90 minutes, is an organic odyssey led without restraint, where the most important thing is being locked in a loop, in a minimalist, near-obsessive vision of endless sound. With time, the weaved, peculiarly ritual form on Quattro shows that its essence lies in this hard-to-grasp moment where repetitive motifs undergo delicate changes, yet the main one – continuity – is the most interesting of all. Tanz Mein Herz could be compared to 75 Dollar Bill, Natural Information Society, maybe even Faust or Can. On Quattro, between catchy bass, massaging guitars, steady drums and synth background, they are not looking for rapture and extasy, but endless oblivion.

You could say that the new Natural Information Society album is actually not an album at all, but a state of mind. It takes time and – paradoxically – concentration to really soak in the entire 80 minutes of this release.Compared to their last year’s album Mandatory Reality, this is not an atmospheric contemplation, but wild, minimalist pulsation that loops and binds the ear. Evan Parker appears as a guest of the band, adding unique strength to the quintet – the saxophonist doubles up on the instrument, his passages dialogue with the ensemble, most often moving to the foreground. The band, though, offer brilliant collective counterpoints, chasing the Briton and speeding up the tempo. So while the beginning unfolds slowly and rather calmly, in the middle of the first part we already have a danceable, rhythmic suite, which smuggles the energy of a live gig onto the record. The evening recorded in London’s Cafe Oto shows a different face of Joshua Abrams’s ensemble to the one we’ve known so far. The amazing backdrop coloured by Lisa Alvarado’s pulsating tremolo harmonies is enhanced by the drumming of the disciplined Mikel Patrick Avery, which gives the impression of being trapped in a rhythmical structure. The bass, wooden sound of Abrams’s guimbri emerges and intertwines with Jason Stein’s winding bass clarinet, but the best moments are when the brass section alternate in offering their frivolous variations. The musical trance of descension (Out of Our Constrictions), a fully improvised material, has the potential to knock you out with its freshness, and has all the energy we so desperately need right now.

Andreas Gerth and Florian Zimmer offer trance at its most dehumanized – their minimalism involves pointillistic signals played against a background of silence, arranged in gradually unfolding sonic patterns. This is infinitely audible in “The Surge at the End of the Mind”, where sparse electronic threads, full of dub reverbs, gradually accelerate, leading the way through a dense rhythm. My favourite track on the record is “Albatros Follows a Killer Whale” – a groovy trance colossus, toned down, misty, faltering, yet building up into a narcotic vision. On the other hand, “Memories of the Lakeside” take on a slightly industrial, suspended character, tinged with post-dub. On their fifth album recorded for Umor Rex, Driftmachine build sparse sonic architecture that they try to rock to the limits of possibility. Their trance is hypnotising in their meticulously created impression of emptiness, heightened by murmurs in the background and reverberating beats emerging from afar. “Spume & Recollection” has that industrial taste, but the sparse bass line adds warmth that gradually transforms into outlines of melody. If the protagonists of Tarkovsky’s Stalker woke up, slightly numb, from their lethargy, they could tentatively dance to tracks from this album –these long, drawn out trance suites, where microchanges bring about a transformation of narrative. The duo juxtapose their sound blocks to give an impression of an infinite loop, yet at the end, we arrive at completely new musical revelations.

TANZ MEIN HERZ Quattro, Standard In-Fi
NATURAL INFORMATION SOCIETY descension (Out of Our Constrictions), Eremite/Aguirre
DRIFTMACHINE Spume & Recollection, Umor Rex