Michael Fahres :: Tibataje (Testtoon)

The record transports the listener to a stark world, one of prelapsarian parameters, one where ritual and wildlife convene over the beat of the drum.

Michael Fahres :: Titbaje (Testtoon)

I was recently listening to Mark Kermode’s “The Soundtrack of my Life.” He’s probably not that well known, he’s a BBC film critic and does other cultural pieces. He’s always been a little bit pleased with himself for me, but I must admit his podcast on movie scores has been great; and it got me thinking. Many of the same ideas of modern soundtracks are tethered in ambient, drone and industrial. The amplification of the everyday, a concentration on the overlooked, the paring back and stripping down before re-building; all have been, and are still being, explored by electronic experimenters. But within film, and in music, there has been a return to tradition. Testton’s latest by Michael Fahres marries the sometimes disparate past and present.

This German is no stranger to sonic sculpting. For some fifty years the German musician has been carving chords, teasing tones and flying in the face of convention. Despite being in his mid sixties it seems that Fahres still hasn’t shook that all pervasive audio alchemist streak.

Tibataje comes with a back story. Recorded on the Canary Island of El Hierro, the three piece album employs island’s unique topography to create sound. Traditional drums made of wood, zinc and goat leather were placed next to the looming volcanic walls of Risco de Tibataje, the remnants of a volcanic crater. The drums have been toyed with, moved closer and further from the rockface to produce different rhythm patterns. Street sounds have been accentuated, the cry of a gaggle of birds cackling against trundle of a car. The record is split into “Abseits,” “Jenseits, danach,” and “Davor,” but none are linear works. Instead each piece is a collage. Disparate parts are collected, combined and dissolved. The entire album is centred on the El Hierro. Rumbles of percussion are cut through with sweetened tinker toy sounds, tribal tempos tempered by tranquil tones. Atmospheres melt into one another as division disappears. The record transports the listener to a stark world, one of prelapsarian parameters, one where ritual and wildlife convene over the beat of the drum.

Tibataje is not an album you can really drop in and out of. Yes the tracks have borders but they are blurred as the listener is guided through the mysteries of the mountain’s edge. At times the LP can be claustrophobic, those circling beats closing in. It can also be quite repetitive as it’s very hard to discern differences. Undeniably this is an alluring and interesting project, but one where some of the exotic gloss is dulled by tautology.

Tibataje is available on Testtoon.

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