Boomkat Product Review:
In a remarkably variegated and enigmatic turn, Ekkehard Ehlers paid oblique homage to his favourite artists on his classic but relatively unknown album Plays, namely; Cornelius Cardew, Albert Ayler, Hubert Fichte, John Cassavetes and Robert Johnson.
Compiling Ehlers’ five thematically connected 12”s released between 2001-2002 for both Staubgold and Bottrop-Boy, the collection makes for a fractured and uniquely sequenced listening experience ranging from impressionistic abstractions to more subtle meditations on his subjects.
In the case of Robert Johnson, that results one part of desiccated slide guitar twang and jangle more akin to Derek Bailey’s free jazz improv, then surprises with a swing redolent of his Auch releases, whereas with Albert Ayler he presents one piece obviously gesturing to a sort of fluid free jazz tension, and another section of brittle, cranky glitch.
It perhaps gets more interesting when his subjects aren’t musical at all. On John Cassavetes he captures something of a wistful cinematic nature redolent of Fennesz at his fuzzy best, then a decidedly optimistic, even romantic upturn in the 2nd dedication, whilst German author and ethnographic researcher Hubert Fichte provides inspiration for one piece of poetic glitch and sloshing post-dub tech dynamics laced with 4th world vocoded voices, and a humid trip into psycho-tropics.
In other hands, this amount variation could be a mess, but with Ehlers it just feels endlessly inventive, unpredictable, and, despite being nearly 18 years old now, refreshing singular.