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GEBRAUCHSMUSIK (2006)

Gebrauchsmusik (LAMP006), my second full length album, was released by Lampse Audiovisual Recordings in 2006. It is a semi-conceptual album work, initiated in early 2003, while I was still a student of composition.

The germ of the work was the intention of challenging the barriers between "high" and "low" within contemporary classical music, in this case between "absolute" music and "functional" music made for a specific purpose. (Anyone vaguely familiar with the post-war modernist climate should be familiar with this silly schism.)

Gebrauchsmusik is a collection of thirteen tracks, all written for a specific (and sometimes deliberately vague) purpose, but still with the aim of retaining artistic complexity and integrity.


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LISTEN:

Excerpt from track 2, "War Music, 1st perspective". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]


Excerpt from track 5, "Death Music, 1st perspective". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]


Excerpt from track 9, "Art Music". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]


Excerpt from track 11, "Consolation Music". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]


Excerpt from track 12, "War Music, 3rd perspective". [ DOWNLOAD MP3 ]



REVIEWS


WARP RECORDS ; WARPMART

* "Warpmart Recommends", nov 2006 *

Far grander in scale and reach than last years excellent and rightfully bigged up here 'Exercises in Estrangement', this album uses the neo classical richness and imagination of that album as a place to jump off into other directions of spiky baroque strangeness. It starts with Reanimation Music which tosses a female voice through a series of blistering effects, turning it inside out.

This is just the start of a great album where Fjellstrom seems to overturn every given idea of normality, deconstructing every detail and pulling the floor away just as you feel you are getting comfortable, the album tellingly finishes with the sound of a deep miasma of grainy detailed sound like the musical equivalent of deep fog.



THE WIRE (#275, January 2007, by Jim Haynes)

An intertwining jigsaw puzzle of orchestral composition cohabitating with digitally mottled electronics, Gebrauchsmusik (Utility Music) is comprised of 13 pieces, each of which is inscribed with a highly charged allegory, covering such subject matter as war, death, fairytales, festivity, and art. Deliberately distorting and confusing these allegorical elements, Swedish composer Fjellström seeks to present his ‘utility music' as a grand statement about the human condition. He may be an exquisite alchemist in transforming the electronic into the symphonic and vice versa, but Fjellström‘s ability to apply his aesthetic craft to the conceptual conceits of the album is sorely lacking. The lugubrious atonal clusters of "Festivity Music" are far from being jubilant, and the muffled vocals and infernal crackle of "Fairytale Music" are far more unsettling than the wooden-horse clomp of "War Music". Even if these are intended as reconstitutions of archetypes, Fjellström's structures are baroque musical ellipses that complicate rather than illuminate.



TEXTURA

If Marcus Fjellström's Gebrauchsmusik (German for ‘Utility Music') appears to suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), it's purely by design as each of its thirteen pieces was written with a unique theme—war, art, festivity, sadness, death, and resurrection—in mind. Fjellström's provocative second sojourn into post-classical electro-acoustic composition and uncompromising but in no way displeasing; if anything, it signifies a radical move forward for the Swedish composer. The material thoroughly blurs the line between electronic, Musique concrète, and classical realms with many pieces unique fusions of all three types.

The album opens unsettlingly with the macabre “Reanimation Music” wherein a dead body seemingly is dragged along the muddy ground while a possessed female choir quivers dissonantly alongside; equally disturbing is the dirge “Festivity Music” whose sickly sounds seem to rise from the catacombs. With their thrumming percussive clatter and jittery mechano-rhythms, pieces like “War Music, 1st Perspective” and “Dance Music, 2nd Perspective” call to mind George Antheil's Ballet Mécanique. In “Art Music,” Fjellström appears to play the insides and outside of a piano and then shreds the results using an electronic blender while the ethereal “Consolation Music” features what sounds like a bow being drawn across the edge of a saw against a glass orchestra backing. Though hints of other music surface—“War Music, 2nd Perspective” comes straight out of the Chain Reaction bunker, the funereal “Death Music, 1st Perspective” evokes the horn-drenched haze of Ingram Marshall's Fog Tropes, and the spectral “Fairytale Music, 1st Perspective,” with its muffled voice, ripples of vinyl crackle, and flowing orchestral tones, could pass for a Philip Jeck homage—Gebrauchsmusik transcends such derivative moments due to its remarkable stylistic reach.

January 2007



ALMOST COOL MUSIC REVIEWS (rating 7.25 / 10)

On his second album Gebrauchsmusik, young Swedish composer and producer Marcus Fjellstrom has created a release of eerie post classical music that doesn't pretend to be friendly or warm. In fact, the title of the release roughly translates (German) to "utility music," and his squirming compositions bristle with electronically-filtered strings, prepared piano, and percussion. The result is an album that's definitely on the uneasy side, with track titles that reference both War, Death, and Fairytales (but certainly not ones with happy endings).

"Reanimation Music" opens the release and sounds somewhat like you might expect given the title, as layers of heavily-filtered voices twitch and moan while trying to break free from some sort of digital morass as sloshing percussion and filtered woodwinds make an even more unsteady backdrop. "War Music, 1st Perspective" follows, and it's easily one of the best tracks on the entire release, as skittering, chromatic beats swarm together and create a rustling backdrop for some broken piano notes and pitch-bent strings that sound downright horror show.

As mentioned above, both "Fairy Tale, 1st Perspective" and "Fairy Tale, 2nd Perspective" are definitely more on the haunting side of things than something you'd want to play for a small child before bed. The former features muffled voices speaking out some unintelligible words under more dissonant strings, while the latter is flat-out evil, with the voice again coming back as more distorted screams and moans play out alongside queasy string stabs and gritty static.

So the album goes, with themes being revisited depending on the track titles and ideas being presented. All three parts of War Music are more rhythmic, with chattering percussion and heavy tones, while the Dance Music pieces take on slightly lighter feels, but still move as if encumbered by grit and decay. As expected, the two Death Music pieces are deep drones that are dark enough to imagine them simply being the accompaniment to having your own casket lowered into the ground. Even though the total running length of Gebrauchsmusik is under fifty minutes, it feels longer because of the cold and oppressive compositions. If you're interested in wallowing, this one won't nudge you out from under a black cloud.

rating: 7.25



BOOMKAT.COM

The title given to this second album of post-classical electroacoustics from Swedish composer Marcus Fjellstrom translates from the German as "Utility Music" and, accordingly, each piece here is designated a specific theme and purpose. Along the way, Fjellstrom manages to take an entire orchestra by the scruff of its neck and make it all his own via an array of unique sound design motifs. The opening 'Reanimation Music' takes a quivering female vocal recording and drags it through a process of electronic dismantlement and regurgitation. As the title suggests, this is sound being torn apart and reassembled in order to become something new, and rather terrifying - an auditory Bride Of Frankenstein. Elsewhere, 'Fairytale music, 1st Perspective' achieves a rich, dreamlike quality, the thick vinyl crackle and impenetrably muffled, slowed-down spoken word evoke a surreal Philip Jeck-like tapestry of found audio.

It's a testament to the range of Fjellstrom's compositional skills that on the one hand he can make the motorised prepared piano of 'Dance Music, 1st Perspective' sound like Autechre Unplugged, while on the other, conjure the staggering, ethereal microtones of 'Consolation Music. Far grander in scale than its predecessor and masterfully executed, Gebrauchsmusik is a magnificent deconstruction of modern composition.



MUSIQUE MACHINE (Rating 4/5)

Marcus Fjellström sculpture classical and electronic sound worlds together. But unlike some artist making this kind of thing, it never sounds like a load of badly cut together samples. This seems to flow so well, in a convincing manner. It also has a "can't quite put my finger why" unpleasant and unnerving air running through out.

This seems to hum in its very essence the feeling of the day after Armageddon or blood splattered ceremonies carried out in grand and kilted surroundings. Or if one was to compare it to a movie scene, you'd think of something like the realization of the Tom Cruise character been caught out as an intruder in the ritual mansion scene, from Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut.

Fjellström ushers and reanimates muffed & strange vocal samples, hovering watery rhythmic elements and strange chiming clock sounds - all to give this very strange unreal feel. This really is music to creep out and induce nightmares. He also lets the electro elements shine in all their rough glory, it feels as if they've been decayed or worn out by time, the rhythmic tumbles and tickings often making strange time.

Dance music, 2nd perspective sounds like an evil going wrong music box, hovered and shadowed by the feeling of death around the next Connor-like clock work men making the way towards a guillotine. Fairytale Music, 2nd perspective starts up with an overflowing of classical drone from hell's tarry black pits. Before odd alien sounding mumble voices appear and all manner of dread induce cinematic swing from abyss, raising utter and scuttling their way out of your speakers. The eerier hamoromics of this track almost sounding like a creepy sea boy, bobbing in alien dead sea.

An unnerving electro classical treat, that fits perfectly when unnerving luxurious tones are needed. Ideal to watch dusk creeping in, over a gloomy winters day and smother the light. This is always ready to surprise and often chill with its baroque sinisterness.

Roger Batty, 11/11-2006




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