The art of listening, is best summed up by Leo Tolstoy through his character, Pozsnyahev, in the novella “The Kreutzer Sonata”: “Music makes me forget myself, my true condition, it carries me off into another state of being, one that isn’t my own: under the influence of music I have the illusion of feeling things I don’t really feel, of understanding things I don’t understand, being able to do things I’m not able to do.” As a listener, we have many uses for music. Soundtrack to parties, the sonic adrenaline pusher for cruising on a skateboard, pleasant ambiance for studying or even to help sleeping, perhaps to even dream. However, how many times have you taken an hour of your day, sat down and just listened? Not to listen and contemplate, but just listening; dividing yourself from all present emotions, thought and reality, letting the artist’s sound fill the glass jar of your soul? It’s hard to do this because very few music commands your ears, mind and feet to devoid and absorb…even classical music. However, when a friend gave me Peter Rehberg’s “Works For GV 2004-2008” a couple years ago, I found profound music that requires honest sitting and listening, unable to attach the music to any other purpose or experience.
Peter Rehberg is a London based audio composer of experimental music, whom has collaborated with notable sound composers like Chris Fennez (Maische) and Jim O’Rouke (Sonic Youth). “Works For GV” is a compilation of his soundtrack work with French performance artist and puppeteer, Gilse Vienne. You don’t need to see Vienne’s acts to understand Rehberg, but many associate the two, overshadowing Rehberg as a stand alone artist. Morbid by nature, Vienne’s pieces exposes humanity in artificial and abstract situations of murder, drug addiction, accidents and domestic violence. In fact, don’t even watch Vienne’s stuff, or it’s going to taint your perception of listening and forces to focus you more on imagining Vienne’s world.
“Works For GV 04-08” does require a open mind. Do not dread, this is not some unbearably devilish distortions that go on for half an hour and some sweaty guy screaming about death to pagans like heard from Wolf Eyes or Sightings. Ethereal synths from songs like “Murder Version”, “Slow Investigation” and “Black Hole” lay the foundation to impending ruin. The synths gradually get violated as unstable rhythms of contorted bass and unrecognizable percussions that loom over and then bash in. Sometimes these songs lead to an abyss of delay as the melody and rhythm fall into oblivion. Rehberg features the text of Dennis Copper in songs “ML3”, “ML6” and “Black Hole” over frigid ambience. Copper’s texts, almost whispered personal tales of dark and unstable relationships, is just as a daunting as the dead end wall of distortion it leads…an almost melodramatic effect, if you will. “Pia”, a track of over-saturated bells with a wobbly base line, and “Final Jerk”, a track of a windy low bass synth, exemplifies Rehberg’s mastering of dramatic minimalism.
There is one song, that outshines all the tracks on “Works For GV.” A piece of art so simple, but so powerful, it is like getting lost in-between a folding blanket of pure sateen under the sun. A track that clocks in at 11:14 minutes but you wish it could go on to 20 minutes. This track is “Boxes & Angels”, a track that reshapes itself constantly within you and leaves you new. Rehberg plays 5 notes on a synth, over and over again. But he loads on the effects, like a tremolo (gives sound that helicopter effect), delay and compresses, decompresses, randomly over and over again. This facade of repetition isn’t maddening, but quite soothing. Constants are forever changing in the song for seven minutes but suddenly leads to a tranquility of blurry synths, this gets encroached by a barrage of high pitched synths that sound like falling stars, and then comes the tremolo synth again. All these three basic elements combined, in the end, makes for the most intense song I’ve heard in very long time.
My description may have made “Works For GV” seem unapproachable for straightforward listening with its abrupt intensity, darkness and shrewd electronic minimalism. However, listening to this is an introspective experience which connects to the soul in strange way.