Some people don’t believe in auetuers. I do. I really like works of art that call as much attention to how they are made as to why. There is a great scene in Ingmar Bergman’s late film Persona where the classic close up shot is reversed. Instead of the audience seeing the camera close in on the actress Liz Ullman’s face, we are treated to Ullman’s point of view as Bergman (himself) comes in for the shot. Likewise, German Shepherd’s output has been an admittedly personal exploration between personal output and public consumption. Preferring buried tones, warped sounds, and a recording aesthetic that spills slowly out of his subconscious onto analog tape, letting the listening audience into a deeply personal space. There is no holding the audience at arms length by polished recording equipment or bombastic noise bursts. You are keenly aware of the manufactured aspect of what you are listening to. That is a really exciting thing, it is almost a personal invitation to see how German Shepherd thinks, how he is creating what you are listening to. The aspect of recording seems like an afterthought. Well, at least that’s what I think
You know how everything sounds muffled after an extremely loud show or when you are pumping up your bike tire to 120 psi and it pops? His Looping guitar drones are buried at such a fidelity that everything sounds far away and distant. It is both beautiful and eerie, as if stumbling onto a band practice in the middle of an abandoned warehouse. Unlike Times New Viking’s sham promise of “25% better fidelity”, German Shepherds promise of “less hiss, more cicada” actually holds it’s weight. Gone is the omnipresent buzz (which I really liked) and replaced is a shimmering glow of a “new” 8 track recorder. Always favoring decaying and warped studio equipment and instruments, the addition of some minimal synth lines on the centerpiece “Ryan Hall (and his Norwegian Anorak)” are a welcome addition. “Green Pine” features a repeated atonal piano line similar to Lamonte Young before its tone and pitch are completely mutated by slowing it way down before its eventual demise. A move similar to William Basinski’s “Disintegration Loops” where tones and notes take on a totally different character before they literally disintegrate. “Lagom” is in familiar territory of previous albums “Beehive” and “Two”, explorative guitar lines are propped up by beautiful drones and guitar loops while natural field recordings are sampled intermittently.
The work of most ambient/drone musicians change on the tiniest hinges. When an artist this arena takes a step, no matter how minute, in an exciting new direction, it pays to take note. Noise is an unconquerable domain, so we should pay attention when an artist finds new ways of channeling it and processing it. Alpine Melodies is a beautiful peek into the act of creation, pre-thought out ideas of melody and tone met with improvisation and experimentation. Probably the best experimental album of the year. Pick this one up. Only 100 copies made. Super handmade and awesome.