Friday, July 22, 2005

Gerald Donald

The latest Arpanet album, 'Quantum Transposition', is about to be released and if the advance press is to be believed we can expect its style to follow on in the same experimental manner as Dopplereffekt 'Linear Accelerator' and Der Zyklus 'Biometry'. It’s all a long way from the more accessible ‘Cellular Phone’, ‘Pornoviewer’ or ‘Speak & Spell’. Certainly Gerald Donald has taken a quantum leap regarding his song writing template, so much so that he may not now even consider his compositions to have one. The Linear Accelerator album must have come as a real surprise to the fans. I was certainly taken aback but I quickly took it to heart because it was so the opposite of what I had expected that it made me even more curious about it than I might have been. It made me want to find a way in and now fits into my usual rotation of CDs with ease.
The fact that Donald has now taken three previously accessible projects into such a different musical realm shows how serious he is about following this line of thought and composition. What this means for the next Japanese Telecom is anyone’s guess.
However, this should not have been such a surprise. With hindsight the most obvious flag to this new direction could be found way back in 1999 on the track ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ on the compilation of the same name. This long brooding instrumental sounds nothing like anything that has gone before it and would not have sounded out of place 5 years later on Linear Accelerator. Presuming it had to be a new track it looks like Donald knew exactly where he was going next and this compilation was the perfect opportunity to wrap up his Dopplereffekt past and signal his own future direction. Of course he spent the next 4 - 5 years known for that early Dopplereffekt sound and even continued to produce it himself for a few more years. On the eve of the second Arpanet album it's worth pointing out that was it's predecessor 'Wireless Internet' (2002) that first signalled his future immersion in a specific scientific subject on his albums. But the music has not yet been affected by this transition. This probably was just that, a transitionary phase.
It’s interesting that it took up to 7 or 8 years for Dopplereffekts music to reach a large audience, don’t forget these tracks all originally came out in 1995. Most people only got to hear them in 1999 when the compilation came out and that was still years before the Electroclash scene really took off and every compilation had one of their tracks, if not two, alongside Miss Kitten and The Hacker et al. It’s a real testament to how amazing those tracks are that they could stand up so well after such a long time and I believe still do and will continue to. One piece of trivia as far as compilations go was way back in 1997 The Advent included Porno Actress and Plastiphilia on their Konbination Phunk comp. But these are pacey re-edits by The Advent and the cut really is superior, so it’s well worth tracking down. I can’t help but wonder if some relationship developed between the two camps out of this as it was The Advents Kombination Research label that put out the Abstract Thought album.
The science lab artwork for the first 7” Superior Race(renamed as Master Organism for the comp) is so close to the posed shots of Linear Accelerator that it has to be an acknowledgement that this new sound was the fruition of what he had been aiming for at the beginning. All through Dopplereffekt there is a whole science theme, in the song titles, artwork and even their studio is referred to as Reactor Electronics Laboratory. There are other themes too like the more obvious facism and sex, but I guess the science has won out, for now. Taking the science theme to it's logical conclusion would mean that it would have to fully embrace the nature of the music and that is where we are today.
As far as collaborators on this stuff confusion reigns. If we go by the credits then Kim Karli is involved, to what extent beyond her vocals, we’ll never know. William Scott may have been central or not, he’s not credited at all on the Gigolo comp. Donald himself went through 2 pseudonyms as well, Rudolf Fisher and Rudolf Klorzeiger. If you look at the pictures of Kim Karli on the Dataphysix releases they don’t match up with the girl pictured on the Gigolo comp, and she isn’t credited here either, but To Nhan Le Thi is credited. At least this second girl does seem to match up with the one on the ‘Linear Accelerator’ cover, although no credits at all are listed here, not even a gratuitous Heinrich Muller!
Where next, can I see anymore clues? Well, I thought it was interesting that 'Linear Accelerator' got more accessible track by track. Most people would have sequenced it the opposite way, leaving that difficult 21 minute track till the end. It’s telling that Gigolo picked the progressively more accessible second and third last tracks on the album for the 12”. So maybe that means a move away from such an experimental sound. I don’t think we’ll ever see a return to the original sound either, but something in-between. I think by the way that that word might seem to have been over used by me in describing this music but I think it might be exactly the right one judging by the science themes. Gerald Donald might well see these tracks as experiments, the best examples of things he cooked up in his recording laboratory.


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