Orson Hentschel - Feed the Tape (Denovali)

Posted by vibrations on 09-02-16

Maybe I should have come to it cold. Maybe I shouldn’t have read the press release, but it’s become impossible to listen to this album without imagining the soft Belfast whisper of a Mark Cousins’ art film commentary of unbelievable pretension. Something like this…


“Dusseldorf, 2016. A young composer rejects his classical training. He finds it is electronic experimental film music that excites him most. A montage outlines his growing obsession with isolating sounds from existing movies while a framed picture of Steve Reich looks on. He estranges this source material in order to create his own sound. In doing so he isolates himself. A close up highlights his distress at his realisation that he is no longer simply a composer but a multimedia artist who must develop a performance based on the interplay of light, visuals and fog.”


Only some of the above paragraph is my own invention. Yes, we’re in the territory of soundtracks for movies that haven’t been made yet. Again.


Hentschel’s main line of attack is the loop. According to the publicity it acts as  “a constant sound substrate on which harmonic-melodic elements can thrive.’ It’s certainly constant. Relentlessly so in fact. Hypnotic at times and at others, well, a little repetitive. Not overly sure about how thriving the harmonic-melodic elements are though. If I’m honest, a little more melody would be welcome. Nevertheless, opening tracks ‘16mm’ and ‘Harmonica’ do succeed in evoking an almost tangible atmosphere of creeping dread and/or wonder. Even more successful is the closing piece ‘What’s Going On,’ but it’s hard not to wish that this title was framed as a question. 


So, what’s ‘Feed The Tape’ for then? Can I sit down and relax to it with a glass of wine? Not really. Can I dance to it? No. Would it complement a well honed seduction technique? Unlikely. Possibly, I could nod my head to it at an art gallery happening but really, what works extremely well, is listening to it on headphones while walking to work during dark, early winter mornings when there’s few people about. It’s then that it makes you feel like a character in a arty, independent neo-noir flick with a possibly futuristic setting. Does it achieve Herschel’s intended aim of taking, “the listener on an hour-long journey which brings him to the limits of what he can bear.” Certainly not this listener, but then I did play the album very loudly when the house was empty while creeping about with my kid’s Nerf gun pretending I was Brad Pitt in ‘7even’. That must be some kind of success, surely? Even without all the Wire magazine muso nonsense.

Alan Stewart