Stockhausen ensemble member Johannes Fritsch is the latest subject of Metaphon’s beady-eared curation, presenting the German composer’s first solo vinyl, a compilation of fascinating, otherworldly, tape-fluxed processes that juxtapose electronic drones and concréte elements with shakuhachi, flute, viola and percussion, recorded 1974 - 1982.
A chance discovery of a violin in his uncle's attic at just seven years old was all the motivation Fritsch needed to throw himself wholeheartedly into music. In Cologne, he studied with Gürzenich Orchestra's principle violist, discovering electronic music along the way. In 1964, he joined the Stockhausen Ensemble, leaving in 1970 (after the notorious Osaka World's Fair performance) to establish artist cooperative the Feedback Studio alongside fellow former members Rolf Gehlhaar and David Johnson, later developing the first composer-owned publishing house, Feedback Studio Verlag. 'Hochtöner' was recorded at the Feedback Studio, and features Gehlhaar on percussion, with Johnson playing flute and synthesizer. Fritsch plays viola and tape, folding in traces of folk and pop - behind tape-screwed flute drones and ghostly electronics.
The piece develops at a snail's pace, taking the time to seep into each instrument and process, allowing listeners to absorb the varied textural and tonal qualities of each element. 'Kyo Mu' is even more impressive, almost double the length and recorded in 1982, with Fritsch taking a similar role on viola, tapes and electronics, and Hitomi Endo on shakuhachi. Here's where Fritsch's processes really get to shine - he lets Endo's entrancing flute take the lead, but backs them up with pulsating electronics, filtered tidal sloshes and discomfiting analog drones.
There's little else quite like it out there, Fritsch's control over the electronic elements is masterful, every so often erupting into squealing oscillator noise, crashing down to earth with phasing shakuhachi wails. It's a sound that's poetic, perfectly paced and always exploratory, connecting cultures, folk and avant-garde traditions.