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In the aftermath of Black To Comm’s latest, two quotes jump out from this interview with Ho Tzu Nyen, the Singaporean artist whose video installation, Earth (((radio))), it soundtracks.

First quote: “Sampling — reviving things from the past — is a kind of zombie activity. There’s a vague nostalgia about it but also a sense of decay.”

Second quote (this one is more a fragment of speech): “the instability of all beginnings.”

First quote. Marc Richter, the organizing presence behind this oddball orchestra of wailing bowls and singing saws, has made Marclayan sport of his use of shellac fizz as a centrifugal timbre. There’s nostalgia there, but what makes it vague is that automatic/self-generative purposelessness at the heart of any timbral process. Crackle for the sake of crackle; hiss for the sake of hiss. This isn’t a nostalgia that would seek to restore lost meanings to a dilapidated context, its nostalgia for any context beyond the moment. Whence the sense of decay: what recorded sound and video share is their character as traces left behind by the disappearance of everything else (a sample is a box with nothing in it). Within this disappearance, one can discern the origin of illusion — reality’s narcissistic, sewer-wet twin.

Which brings us to the parallax sweep of soundtracking: if Ho generates illusions with video (in order to reimagine the history of art), Richter moves in the opposite direction, using illusions to remake video. In that sense, Earth is less a score (servile to incident) than a piece of library music whose commission is readymade: the absence of video is reinforced, piecemeal, by the rustle of its detail. Earth is a mirror of Earth (((radio))); it is also a portal. This pairing of two singularities mutually replenishes their core illusion, which is the common thread uniting two entities that otherwise lack resemblance.

That illusion, then. A vegetative slump — the shadows of the cosmos lengthen — a gibbous biomass awakens. Like Clark Ashton Smith’s Hyperborean deity Abhoth, a living pool of phosphorescent matter, it sprawls like a septic contagion. Its mouths are David Aird (a.k.a. Mordant Music’s Vindicatrix), a shamanistic gibber the colour of dread, a striking performance that has you scrabbling around in James Parker’s Laurel Halo review, wondering if there’s anything about the voice that has been left unsaid. Its limbs are the players — Zuydervelt on bowls; Kline on saw; Nikolaus and Richter on everything else (a nebulous arsenal of strings and winds: plucked, honked, and discarded). Its pith remains that granular crackle, a low-level ambient murmur that stands in for silence.

We’re back to that second quote. Earth’s greatest strength is also its structural weakness; to continually enact the tremulousness of all origins is to refuse to get going, to depart. So when closing track “Mirror” breaks out into something like a rhythmic clomp, it represents a moment of collapse. Lift-off becomes retreat; this mutant sensuousness loses its spectral intensity. In the four tracks that precede it, a formless psychedelia writhes: an immanent ecstasy bobbles like gooseflesh.

Reed Scott Reid | TINY MIX TAPES

I can't remember the last time that I was this wrong-footed and bewildered by an album.  Ostensibly, this is a soundtrack for a silent Ho Tzu Nyen film, but it is difficult to imagine music this jarring accompanying anything.  It's also quite difficult to process that this is even a Black to Comm album, as it sounds mostly like being terrorized in a nightmare by Scott Walker or an undead Jamie Stewart.  I am not sure that is necessarily a good thing (a bit nerve-jangling, actually), but Marc Richter has definitely convinced me that he is capable of making some very bold, unique, and uncompromising music.

There are probably a lot of factors that resulted in Earth being as bizarre and otherworldly as it is, but tellingly, it seems like the least significant of them is that Marc Richter wrote most of the music while on heavy painkillers due to a broken leg.  It is hard to gauge how much that altered state impacted his creativity, aesthetic, or judgment, as it sounds like there is probably still something resembling a Black to Comm album lurking here.  It's often quite hard to notice that though, as Earth prominently features David Aird of Vindicatrix and his haunted, quavering, and theatrical vocals invariably become the focus of attention every time they appear (which is quite often).  Also, it should be noted that film itself is pretty goddamn bizarre: De Stijl describes it as "a post-apocalyptic collage based on paintings by classical European painters (Caravaggio, Delacroix, Rembrandt, Géricault)" and that is probably as dead-on a description as possible.

Rather than delivering coloration, subtle background, and atmosphere like a typical composer, Richter (perhaps emboldened by his painkillers) opted to engage Ho Tzu Nyen's visuals in an apocalyptic, avant-garde game of chicken.  I'm not sure who won, but I am certain that seeing the film with this accompaniment is certain to be cathartic, exhausting, and alienating sensory overload in the best possible way—it's very easy to imagine a flood of people stumbling out of the theater in a state of semi-shock afterward.  Most of Earth's disturbing and haunting power is due to Aird, of course, as he invariably sounds quite creepy, intense, and possessed.  Richter also adds some unexpectedly dark and unsettling touches of his own though, like the Lynchian chorus of backwards children's voices in "Stickstoff II" or the broken-sounding, discordant acoustic guitar in "Water."  There are also many more subtle bits of uneasiness scattered about: Marc explicitly set out to convey decay and accomplishes that by using creaking, crackling static, and strangled strings to make it sound like the very fabric of the songs is unraveling.  "Thrones," in particular, pulls off the extremely neat trick of making some of Aird's vocals sound like they are emanating from a malfunctioning Victrola.

Still, there are several moments of Richter's characteristic warm, dream-like beauty amidst all the ruin and portentousness, such as the fragile, shimmering piano in "Thrones."  Also, the closing "Mirror" sounds suspiciously (and pleasantly) like a carved-up loop of John Cale's "Hanky Panky Nohow."  However, it is very hard to fully appreciate Rutger Zuydervelt's singing bowls or Christopher Kline's singing saw when it sounds like a corpse has just clawed its way out of the earth to gurgle, croak, moan, and caterwaul cryptic dystopian pronouncements.  Aird is simultaneously the best and worst thing about this album, as the sheer otherness and force of his contribution make Earth seem like something very different than a Black to Comm album (though it doesn't exactly sound like a Vindicatrix album either).  That, coupled with the intensely uncomfortable mood, ensure that this is likely to be the absolute last album I will reach for when I need a Black to Comm fix.  Nevertheless, I still respect Earth enormously as a remarkably ego-less and perversely brilliant accomplishment for Richter and his collaborators: repeat listenability could not help but be collateral damage with such a daring, expectation-defying plunge into strikingly original sound art.

Anthony D'Amico | BRAINWASHED

How important is context? How does an album like this sit alone, and how does it sit with the outside world?

Earth is the soundtrack to a film of the same name by Ho Tzu Nyen by Marc Richter (Black To Comm). Performed with a live soundtrack at film festivals in 2010, the film has also been soundtracked separately by Oren Ombarchi, Yasuhiro Morinaga and Stefano Pilia.

Now, does the listener have to have seen the film to enjoy the full range of this album? Does it help us to ‘appreciate’ (always a un-useful term to take when listening to music) the sounds embedded within to know that the nightmarish image on the cover is a still from the film, a dark restaging of paintings by Caravaggio and other baroque Europeans? And how might we set a real soundtrack to a film we haven’t seen, against any thoughts of the ‘imaginary soundtrack to a film’ horrors of the mid-nineties?

For starters then, this is not dinner party music. Crackles, moans, eldritch saws, open a pit of darkness that at first, sucks in all light. Richter’s customary drones and waxy loops sound here for all the world like drowning gramophones, slowly drifting downwards. The pace is funereal. The voice of David Aird (Vindicatrix) interjects – close to your ears, half-whispering “anti-gravity”, or echoing at the end of the corridor, in darkness. The word “carcasses” hovers, ominously.

Its hard to write about Aird’s voice without mentioning Drift-era Scott Walker, but its presence here meshes so well with the textures and feel of the pieces, that it successfully adds an almost-song, almost-narrative feel to the album’s progression – apt after the more ‘song based’ Alphabet 1968 (on Type).

There is darkness here, and drama, but this is startlingly beautiful music, and as the accumulation of electronic burbles in ‘The Children’ point the collages towards the light again, by the time the faded ballroom loop of ‘Mirror’ closes the album the dread has lifted, and the mood is almost gentle.

Richter has written in the past of his music (and the music he releases on Dekorder) that it exists “in a real world with real human beings”, and as such, this album is more than capable of standing apart from the circumstances of its genesis, from any notions of one piece of art being secondary to another.

Alone, there is not an awful lot to match this record for dark grace and atmosphere. – Recommended!

John Boursnell | FLUID RADIO

Earth was originally conceived as a soundtrack to Singaporean film maker Ho Tzu Nyen's sumptuous, 'videographic' work of the same name. Ho Tzu Nyen's film is comprised of three painstakingly co-ordinated scenes that reference the turbulent majesty of paintings by Romantic artists such as Théodore Géricault and Eugène Delacroix. Marc Richter's Black To Comm perfectly reflects the panoramic anxiety of the Singaporean's aesthetic with five long tracks. Echoing the mood of "slowness and decay, states of unconsciousness" of the film, the album takes the collage techniques of the piece and transplants them into sampling.

The most marked aspect of Earth is the voice of David Aird, aka Vindicatrix. Imperious and dolorous, he has the gravity of post-Climate Of Hunter Scott Walker, David Sylvain or Klaus Nomi stripped of the pathetic ritz. This is something that's easy to do badly, but Aird pulls it off with aplomb. On "The Children" he breaks into a morose yodel, rolling the words around his palate and colouring each syllable black before gifting them to the air. The meaning isn't understood verbally as much as viscerally. Beneath Aird's ululations, Richter casts handfuls of angelic debris from keyboards and digital devices, generating a celestial electronic tapestry reminiscent of Japanese musician Nobukazu Takemura. Sounds vie and twist at frequencies you can't so much hear as feel in the bridge of your nose, and the variety and full-bloodedness of the accompaniment is what prevents Aird's vocal from occassionally lapsing into shtick.

On opening track "Stickstoff II", Richter stirs a throbbing, organic melee that's the equal of any of the great imrovising units you'd care to mention. Elsewhere the piano and singing saw on "Thrones" provides a threnodic lilt for Aird's epic annunciations. The best track is the last one, "Mirror", where tidal keyboard chords bleat and bleed into bowed cymbals and a distant tambourine drags the song along at classic Nikki Sudden nod-out pace.

Alex Neilson | THE WIRE

As the Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen's video Earth traveled around the world, different musicians were enlisted to provide live music for it, from Australia's Oren Ambarchi to Germany's Black to Comm. The latter was a natural fit for a video in which long pans take in a fabulous landscape full of piled corpses and visual references to European painting. In Black to Comm's music, we likewise feel ourselves to be plowing across wastelands of aestheticized violence and apocalyptic beauty. You could call it a match made in hell. After performing his score at screenings in Berlin and Krakow (here's an excerpt), Marc Richter decided to go ahead and make it his seventh full-length Black to Comm record.

Black to Comm's music is as abstract as an inkblot, and so you can project your favorite influences onto it: 1970s German experimental music, contemporary noise, eccentric outsider art, classic film scores-- all fair game. Liberated from any one set of formal constraints, Richter uses his many resources to conjure delicate effects of mood and graded shading. Earth has an arc, rising up from desolation through some pastoral and sacred passages to culminate in the impenetrably shining "Mirror". But even the prettiest moments are shot through with uneasy threads. I can't verify Richter's claim that he composed it on heavy painkillers while recovering from a broken leg, but it's credible. It's also consoling that there should be an explanation for this: sinister loop-based music that, somehow, never repeats itself.

Like Alphabet 1968, Black to Comm's prior LP, Earth is a mix of manipulated loops from old shellac records, errant acoustic instrumentation, and electronic disturbances. (His consistent fondness for altered records marks him as an evil twin of Philip Jeck or Leyland Kirby.) Unlike Alphabet, it features ghoulish arias courtesy of Vindicatrix. Whenever Vindicatrix shows up, it sounds like someone punched David Sylvian in the stomach, then made him sing in a room full of wind-chimes and possessed phonographs. Undoubtedly an acquired taste (he does grow on you), the vocalist is most poignant when he holds back: trying to catch his breath, with understated pathos, on "Stickstoff II", or murmuring "awake" with hypnotic insistence on the gloomy chorale "Thrones". Vibrating in tune with the record's derangement, he sings like someone who has suffered from an irreparable internal cave-in. As with Laura Dern's constantly stricken expression in David Lynch movies, this seems like an appropriate response to finding oneself singing on a Black to Comm record.

If you generally listen to music on the factory speakers in your car or computer, you can basically forget about this release. All you'll hear is distant rustling and moaning; some indifferently fretted acoustic guitar. The music is for close listening or for nothing. This is especially true of "Stickstoff II", a complex of infinitesimal flutters and whirrs. But every broad narrative unit on the record breaks down, at the atomic level, to an accumulation of tiny, chaotic events. In this way, life on Earth is an uncanny yet accurate reflection of life on this planet.

Brian Howe | PITCHFORK

Under the name Black to Comm, Hamburg resident Marc Richter has shown a predilection for collage aesthetics, similar to many artists he’s featured on his Dekorder label. On his new record Earth, originally a soundtrack to a silent film by Ho Tzu Nyen, he’s still keen on leaving the specifics of sound source vague by freely mixing samples, electronic processing, and instruments played live, yet all the while he’s pushing at compositional boundaries he’s kept in place on past releases. Richter has filled prior albums, like 2009’s Alphabet 1968, with gaseous swirls, decaying carnival waltzes, field recordings drowned in bass, and countless other concrète hallmarks, each as its own miniature portrait, which has marked him as a gifted yet scattershot practitioner. On Earth, he sounds settled, and maybe all it took was a vocalist.

The man whose warbling voice cascades throughout Earth is David Aird, who records with British hauntology bastions Mordant Music under the name Vindicatrix. His deep register immediately recalls the operatic inclinations of Scott Walker, and Richter, consciously or not, ensures the resemblances don’t stop there. The five tracks here - made by splicing sound pulled from harmonium, singing saw, acoustic guitar alternating between tender plucks and dissonant strums, looping shellac, and much more - have been carefully constructed into off-kilter chamber pieces much like late-period Walker that let the album rise and fall in a theatrical five song structure.

Unlike Walker, who has used his discordant compositions largely as foils for dramatizing the lyrical content, Richter’s use of Aird lessens the importance of most words. Richter sets him adrift among the other interlinked sounds, even as his baritone presence lingers above the rest by force, whether moaning wordlessly or mumbling unintelligibly. Eventually, understandable fragments will stick out, some repeated throughout the album in expressionist bursts: words like "tropical", "awake", "anti-gravity, anti-sexuality", and numerous phrases that tend to mark bodily experiences of sumptuousness, rising action, and decay. The tactile words find greater embodiment in the tightly arranged shorter works "Water" and "Thrones", where the choral processing of Aird’s wails preside over discreet ballad forms Richter has scored for acoustic guitar and reverb-heavy piano, respectively. Elsewhere, the walls of sound try to swallow Aird, but here he has space to aggressively etch into the tracks, painting still scenes of mourning that echo the Géricault-derived album cover (which comes straight from a clip in the film) or longing in a Mark Hollis song.

The vaporous "Mirror" closes the record on what sounds like a swift exit. With a slow drum machine and two stately chords anchoring everything else, it’s the least "broken", most straightforwardly melodic piece on Earth, and its simplicity in that regard could be construed as a retreat, bringing Richter back to the instrumental sketches of past work. It breathes much easier than anything else on Earth, initially sounding out of place, and yet its lack of progression also makes it the hardest track to treat as a standalone cut. As such, the album ends on a deceptively uncomfortable note, which is saying something given the hoops Richter has pulled the listener through during the preceding half-hour. Without leaving any clear indications of Richter’s next steps, it stamps a seal on what has been the most singular and emotionally consuming release from Black to Comm so far.

Jonathan Woollen | DUSTED

For his first release on De Stijl, Black To Comm, aka Marc Richter decided to document his soundtrack to a short film by Korean artist Ho Tzu Nyen. It’s a typically leftfield concept from Richter, and it’s just a shame I haven’t been able to track down a copy of the film (also called Earth) to assess the merits of this album as a soundtrack. However, as a piece of music, despite the absence of its visual counterpart, Earth stands up very well on its own. As with his landmark Alphabet 1968 album, released in 2008, the musical focus on Earth is the use of found sounds, shellac record manipulation and hesitant electronic drones to create dense, yet elusive, sonic tapestries that slowly unfold to envelop the listener in a blanket of mystery and sensuality. On Earth, Richter achieves this with even more consistency than on Alphabet 1968, which is surely down to the fact that it’s a soundtrack.

Apart from his own experiments with ghostly shimmers of elusive atmospherics, Richter brings one particularly potent element to the fray on Earth, and that is the distinctive voice of David Aird, best known for his work as Vindicatrix, and who released one of my favourite electronic albums of the last two or three years in Die alten bösen Lieder on Mordant Music. Aird’s vocals are sensual and rather mannered, as befits someone with a penchant for traditional German folk song. On ‘Stickstoff II’, he comes on like a clone of Scott Walker, with a deep, enunciated croon that glides perfectly over the humming, droning and occasionally squalling musical background, bringing a palpable human edge to what otherwise could be an abstractly cold piece. And throughout Earth it’s of erstwhile pop star Walker that one thinks even when listening to the music, albeit the Scott of Tilt and The Drift rather than Scott 4. On ‘Stickstoff II’ and ‘Water’, Richter and his collaborators’ mixture of field noise, singing bowls and looped vinyl form the kind of “blocks of sound” Walker used to describe his most experimental work, albeit stretched slowly across entire tracks rather than dispersed across individual songs. Additionally, the scratchy vinyl loops and murky samples evoke the crackling ambience of Philip Jeck whilst the sudden surges of unusual found sounds had me thinking of Jason Lescalleet and Graham Lambkin’s Air Supply. Earth does not feel out of place alongside such avant-garde classics.

The concept behind Ho Tzu Nyen’s film -from what I can gather- is a cyclical exploration of sleep, awakening, decay, life, death and resurrection inspired by classical European painters such as Caravaggio and Delacroix, and Richter’s music on Earth is similarly circular and based on collage, with elements building uneasily up on top of one another, then slowly dissolving into further expanses of moody, haunted atmospherics. The twisted bodies locked in decrepit surroundings on the cover art (taken from the film) are refracted through Aird’s plaintive voice, his cries becoming the sound of despairing souls caught in some oblique post-apocalyptic landscape. Almost imperceptibly, Richter and Aird manage to suffuse Earth with substantial pathos, bringing it closer and closer to its cinematic inspiration.

For all that, Earth does leave you wishing you could see Ho Tzu Nyen’s film, but maybe that was to be expected. As a soundtrack, it appears tied to the duration and themes of the work that it reflects and it may seem a bit abstract without the visual reference for some. Yet it has to be said that Richter has managed to create something singular and worthwhile despite this slight impediment, and for that he deserves an awful lot of credit. Earth is a great addition to Black to Comm’s increasingly intriguing body of work..

Joseph Burnett | THE LIMINAL

What planet is Black to Comm from? How can this be the first Black to Comm record I’ve heard?
Lately I’ve been bored with experimental/noise based music, but I picked this up on a whim because I’ve seen the Black to Comm name floating around in lots of different places over the years. I hadn’t realised just what an effect Earth has had on me until I noticed in iTunes that I’ve listened to this record nearly 35 times since I got it a few weeks back.
The solo brainchild of Mark Richter, owner of the De Stijl Record label, Black to Comm is based on a fascination with super old records. Like Philip Jeck, Richter samples and manipulates obscure recordings, twisting them into abstract patterns and shapes. He embellishes found sound with odd acoustic instruments and electronic disarray. Disembodied voices lurk in the background wispy and faint like ghosts, the needle crackles away comfortingly on vinyl and melodies shimmer in endless loops while odd noises haunt the darkest corners of each and every track.

The result is spectral, somewhat melodramatic and entirely ‘what the fuck’. It has the grandiosity of Godspeed you! Black Emperor! with a far more whimsical attitude.
On Earth, composed as the soundtrack to a silent film by a Singaporean artist, the glue that binds these montages are the vocals provided by Vindicatrix; a rich and monotonous series of incantations which could easily become grating, but in this context they take charge as a Medium contacting the spirits responsible for this music from the other side.
The critic Simon Reynolds has written quite a bit about Hauntology (see his latest release Retromania), a phrase he applies to a group of artists on the Ghost Box label who mine old BBC recordings to create ‘spooky’ music that lies in the realm of Camp. Reynolds loves these artists and the way they embody a history that’s supposedly haunting us in the present. I think Earth is a much better representation of this idea and Richter’s incantations are startlingly original by comparison. This is music that requires patience and dedication, the patterns are detailed and intricate. Listen at night, with headphones.


.....Wie dem auch sei. Wer sich im Wonnemonat Mai gerne mit düsterer Musik befasst, für den gibt es im aktuellen Frühjahrsprogramm der Schallplattenfirmen interessante Angebote. Zum Beispiel das neue Werk des soeben aus Hamburg in den schönen dunklen Schwarzwald verzogenen Brummgeräuschbastlers Marc Richter, der neben seiner Tätigkeit als Betreiber des Dekorder-Labels seit einigen Jahren auch unter dem Namen BLACK TO COMM musiziert. Schon auf früheren Werken wie der hervorragenden 2009er LP Alphabet 1968 hat Richter mit auf- und abschwellenden Drones, Klapper-, Klacker- und Rasselgeräuschen ausgesprochen unbehagliche Klanglandschaften erzeugt. Bei seinem neuen Album EARTH (De Stijl) handelt es sich um den Soundtrack zu einem Film des singapurischen Regisseurs Ho Tzu Nyen, in dem dieser 50 Schauspieler in einer 40 Minuten lang dauernden Einstellung diverse Gemälde der abendländischen Kunstgeschichte nachstellen lässt. Dazu bringt Richter unter anderem singende Messingschalen aus Tibet sowie singende Sägen aus dem Baumarkt zum Einsatz, vor allem aber den in dieser Kolumne bereits ausführlich gepriesenen Experimentalbariton David Aird alias Vindicatrix. Zwischen zwei Dubstep-Neuinterpretationen klassischen Kammerliedguts hat Vindicatrix glücklicherweise die Zeit gefunden, für Black To Comm als Gastsänger um Erlösung zu barmen.

Jens Balzer | SPEX

Black to Comm always had this sort of shamanic tendency, where Marc Richter seemed to execute strange sonic rituals, only he was able to make sense of, but the latest record on DeStijl, takes this approach a little further. While Alphabet 1968 had an airy quality to it with its light textures and floating sound fragments, Earth feels a lot heavier and darker. Mourning vocals emanate from the mist of sounds that reminds of  lost rites, while backwards field-recordings intensify the eeriness of the first track. It is a surprise that vocals seem to play a lot larger role than they used to be on earlier Black to Comm recordings. All five tracks have vocals to some extent. Most of the time they appear serve like an additional layer of texture mumbling along in the background, sometimes the are a little bit more in the foreground and comprehensible, but in both ways they add a sense of urge and yearning to the tracks that was not present in this intensity in Richter’s project.

Originally recorded as a score to the silent film “Earth” from Ho Tzu Nyen, the album has a morbid, hallucinogenic, feverish feeling that will haunt you and resonate long after the last song has been played.


The first voice you hear on Earth is actually more of a pre-voice. Minutes before anything fully formed arrives from the throat of London’s Vindicatrix, sharp inhalations appear, the sort of sound you might miss or otherwise ignore because, for starters, it’d usually be edited out in the first place. And even if it is there in a mix at full volume, it’d be immediately followed by that same breath on its way out, creating pitched sound via vocal cords. Here it might also be missed because of context: a building, still-molten soundscape of electronic hum, the errant snare patter, and a broken reed (saxophone, maybe) struggling for life in and back out of the background current. The actual voice comes minutes later, at first smuggled out subtly and quietly from what’s become a fairly excellent electroacoustic ambient piece in its own right. And then Vindicatrix is just there warbling in an androgynous and ungainly stork of a singing voice, recalling Scott Walker or Antony Hegarty, and so it continues on for Earth’s five explorations, all of which, in some way or another, become about what a human voice even is in music.

Black to Comm typically is Marc Richter, a German musician known also as the boss of the Dekorder record label. A few years ago he found some more mainstream-indie traction with a perfect haunt of a record called Alphabet 1968, which made fine work of blending modern classical music and inky electroacoustic drone, à la Murcof. Listeners looking for a repeat of that might be a bit disappointed. Richter’s music is sublime—the crackle-coated piano progression on “Thrones” and the glimmering, off-kilter loops of “The Children” are like life-size music boxes—but this is about guest vocalist Vindicatrix, and his own strange instrument remains the focal point. At the precise moment you learn to just accept it, the depth of the collaboration becomes inescapable to the point that a belch could burble up from Earth and reveal something important or acquire some kind of new power. A stunning record if given the time.


When he’s not running the droney and experimental Dekorder label, Hamburg’s Marc Richter releases his own droney and experimental music under the Black to Comm moniker. The follow-up to 2009’s excellent Alphabet 1968 LP, Earth was originally intended to soundtrack the Singapore director Ho Tzu Nyen’s film of the same name—a film which itself was originally meant to accompany another set of music. So what we have here is effectively an alternate score to a movie that I doubt any of us have seen. Thus, we’re left to judge the album on its own terms, which admittedly might miss part of the point of this work.

While there are similarities between Earth and Alphabet—the mélange of electroacoustic instruments, the crackly sounds of old vinyl getting a workout for the first time this century, the occasional distant child’s voice calling out across some imaginary, halcyon playground — the most striking update to Richter’s work here is the addition of vocals, courtesy of London-based electronic artist Vindicatrix. Dude’s got one hell of a warble, and while I don’t know how much of actual value it adds to Richter’s hazy musical stew, it maintains the listener’s interest as an additional textural element. Towards the end of “Thrones,” for instance, he repeats a single word: “Awake.” Is this a command? A descriptor? Just a random word? In the background we hear the slowed-down vestiges of some long-lost heavenly piano-and-choir ballad along with what sounds like a tea kettle whistling in reverse. The results are at once disorienting, disconcerting, and yes, strangely soothing, like a spoonful of bitter medicine with a surprisingly sweet aftertaste.

Another difference between Richter’s two most recent Black to Comm releases lies in their respective musical themes. Whereas Alphabet seemed to explore a variety of genres, from drone to Sawako-esque electronic circuit-bending to (distant, decaying) techno, Earth presents a more unified collection of tracks. Richter seems to have slathered all sorts of instrumentation in crazy glue and then thrown them all at the wall, ensuring that they all stick (a method that reminds me of Sean McCann’s The Capital more than Alphabet 1968). One especially conspicuous repeating element is human breathing, a sound that opens both the album as well as the 14-minute-plus track “The Children.” And Vindicatrix’s unique vocal intonations result in plenty of clipped breaths and phrasal pauses. More than any meaning behind these particular lyrics — which is bound to be arguable at best, anyway—Richter here seems more interested in the rough, throaty edges of human speech and the way those qualities mingle with other kinds of instruments. Like Earth as a whole, this doesn’t make for the most pleasant of listening experiences, but it does represent another evolution in Richter’s artistic progression.


“Earth”, a soundtrack for Taiwanese filmmaker Ho Tzu Nyen’s mid-length film by the same name, may become a turning point in the expressive future of Black To Comm, Marc Richter’s fascinating project. Basically, because the German drone musician has made some changes in his discourse that oxygenate, expand, and feed his songs. The most significant is including a voice in his work; not as a momentary, exotic supplement or a random experiment - but rather as a part the plot line of his compositions, the absolute focal point of this recording. The presence of his voice - stretched and ghostly, almost operatic - manages to quickly remind us of Scott Walker on “Tilt”, a work that this album has many connections to. He manages to integrate vocal play, sounding as if from another time, into a radical avant-garde context.

It’s true that the addition of the voice, which appears in the five pieces that make up the album, lends something of a pop concept to the proposal. Far from an aseptic, gliding drone, this resource transmits more life and personality to it—but you shouldn’t let your guard down. It also makes Black To Comm sound more mysterious, fearsome, and gloomy than ever - giving it greater depth of field. Its hauntology feel is accentuated without resorting to tricks that are already hackneyed and familiar. This is a good choice from any point of view, which in turn has an influence on the genesis and development of the songs themselves. In this balance between a formally more accessible accent and a darker, more emotionally desperate feel, the album finds its raison d’être - making the recording the German’s bravest to date.

Of the five compositions that make up “Earth”, three last no longer than five minutes; this is new. Richter condenses and specifies his ideas much more thoroughly. This is how, for example, “Thrones” appeals with great emotional depth to nostalgia and faded memory, as Leyland Kirby could do, without the need to drag it out. If you’ve already given them goose-bumps in four minutes, why keep at it? It’s not necessary. Something similar happens on “Mirror”, the farewell song, crepuscular ambient that packs a surprising emotional punch. There is also room for lengthy experimentation, like in “Stickstoff II”, the song that most reminds one of Scott Walker or the more cryptic David Sylvian. Similarly, the nearly fifteen minutes of “The Children”, is perhaps the clearest connection to his previous recordings. An expansive album, showing artistic development, “Earth” is a challenge that has been met successfully. We hope it will continue on in Black To Comm’s immediate future.


Black To Comm is Marc Richter, who wrote most of the music for Earth while drugged on intense doses of painkillers during recovery from a broken leg. Devised as a soundtrack to Ho Tzu Nyen’s film of the same name, Richter’s music wallows in the mushy, indecipherable emotional conflicts that arise from having too much time to contemplate one’s immediate situation, leading into ominous thoughts about mortality and paranoia that manifest as dissonance, static and eerie tape decay. The album’s abstract chords are droned and slowly mutated beneath whimpers of woodwind and frail vocal vibrato; the resultant mush is unpleasant and utterly gorgeous, riddled with a claustrophobia that encourages the listener to find a hallucinatory beauty in the imposing enclosure of their immediate sonic surroundings.


One of the dilemma's as a reviewer is, certainly when you heard quite an amount of music by the same person or band, what do i want as a reviewer: something new or more of the same? What's the progress? I sometimes note this in my reviews, along the lines of 'this is great music, but nothing much new'. I may not have heard that many music by Black To Comm, the musical project of Marc Richter, also boss of Dekorder, is perhaps aware of the fact there should be progress. I believe the last thing I heard from him was 'Alphabet 1968' (see Vital Weekly 703) in which lets go of the long drone form music, in favor of shorter pieces, 'songs' even, made of old vinyl, including scratchy 78 rpms, going in all sorts of directions - techno, drone, world music et al. It was still massively stuck together, like much of his older work. On his new CD, 'Earth', are again a bit longer, but even more 'songs' like. There is, for instance, a voice, by one David Aird. Other people contributing to this CD
are Renate Nikolaus, Rutger Zuydervelt and Christopher Kline, but Richter takes the bulk of instruments (vinyl, violin, saxonett, korg monotron, farfisa, mbira, autoharp, argeiphontes lyre (always good to see that mentioned), computer, microphones, bells, echoplex). This music for the silent film of the same name by one Ho Tzu Nyen, which I haven't seen. The music I think is great. Very atmospheric in all its sparseness, melodic, slow and beautiful. The combination of samples from old vinyl, rusty and crackling, work very well with the acoustic instruments while all along there is always a hint of electronics. It is indeed song like, but that mainly due to the use of the voice of David Aird - and its exactly that I something I didn't like very much. Its too 'opera' like, too 'pathetic', maybe too much like a serious rock singer singing slow stuff. For me this would have been a great instrumental CD, and I do like most of it, just not when Aird is singing. That's a pity. Maybe
it fits the music quite well, but next time, I hope Richter chooses another singer, as this new route is certainly one to explore more.

Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY

Earth starts well, with a delicious, unsettling, mechanic whir punctuated by creaks and dissident guitar plunks. Black to Comm, otherwise known as Marc Richter, produces what is at first a perfectly good dystopian soundtrack. Then the vocals of David Aird (Vindicatrix) come in, full and warbly–even clownish, as if in parody. The mocking tone is especially prevalent when going into the lower register, rambling like a madman (or Eddie Vedder). “Awake, awake, awake!” he moans haphazardly over “Stickstoff II.” “Entropy!” he continues in a long, drawn-out drone, adding nothing of note to the experience.

Earth originally served as a live score for the Singaporean film of the same name by Ho Tzu Nyen, which was in turn at least partially inspired by paintings of bodies that have been disrupted in some way. Indeed, stills of the film appear soft and beautiful as they are unnerving. This makes Black to Comm’s release noble in concept: art inspiring art inspiring more art. One hopes that maybe more of the apparently numerous live scores will become available as studio albums, perhaps with a release of the film. (As a side-note, a search for a screening of the film Earth in the U.S., or some clips of the film online, proved fruitless at the time this was written.)

This particular score is amazingly arranged and perfectly, hauntingly unsettling, but the vocals are like babies crying at the symphony. No matter how beautiful the rest of the performance is, they just ruin it. The case is the same here, no matter how well Aird’s vocals work for his own purposes as Vindicatrix.
“Water,” despite the omnipresent crackle, takes a slightly more traditional and relaxing classical guitar tone before, switching between calm, major intervals and diminished tones. The vocal work isn’t as bad here, but the piece still would’ve been more effective without them; any attempt to pull back on the vocals is not only permanently tainted by the previous work, but is punctuated by a distracting, wackier-sounding harmony a few moments later. Although they do leave one intrigued as to whether lines “great fortress melts from the inside” and “scent of twenty carcasses” have narrative relevance to the film, or whether it’s just insular rambling.

Perhaps Aird couldn’t just leave well enough alone. “The Children”‘s first two and a half minutes sound like a circus organ through a meat grinder with heartbreaking high-tone accents and a droning low-end sludge as a base. It grabs your brain in a vice-grip from both ends for an overwhelming and satisfying, if a bit sloppy and trite, experience. Then the warbling begins again — sounds like something about Satan — again becoming unlistenable, as masterful as the arrangements can be underneath.

Last song, “Mirror,” implies a hopeful or redeeming ending to the film; pulsing organ with slow, simple, repetitive piano creates a calming effect that would make it the number one reading track of 2012. As it stands, it’s the best piece on the album, perhaps because of a lighter-handed use of Aird.

Perhaps, if he’s given the opportunity to score Earth again, Richter could bring in a different guest for vocals, and undoubtedly he could expertly weave those with the rest of his sound. Black to Comm’s current product is distracting and grating, to the point where it’s hard to write a review while listening to it. That could have been Richter’s intention, of course, but one can’t help but feel he threw a wrench in what could have been a rich, disconcerting, immersive venture.

Sarah Anne Lloyd | SSG Music


Black To Comm follow up the excellent Type LP with a double 7" set on Dekorder. As soon as the needle hits the first 'Wave UFO' record (to be played at 33rpm) I'm in some kind of odd alternate dimension with stuttering rhythms like an alien train that is about to derail. There are fluid, gloopy electronics and sinister spooked organ sounds with some smatterings of fuzz applied. Actually it feels like a deranged ghost train ride into oblivion. This is followed by weird processed vocals and the sounds of possessed crickets accosting me in some kind of daymare. The final track on the first 7" is an unexpected fucked up dub number, gloriously heavy on the delay with some suitably mind warping mid-range frequencies. 'Wave UFO II a' has a military snare rhythm with hypnotic music box type melody and hovering electronic bleeps and pulses. A very majestic yet playful feel to this one, evoking melting toy soldiers marching on acid. The set closes with a beautifully mysterious and uplifting synth workout with sparse slow building percussion. It's a gorgeous, well crafted piece of electronic music that is very colourful and yet It feels dark in essence. An ace one to get lost in during the late hours in a candle lit room. Limited edition in tasty foldout collage sleeve with smart red and yellow inner bags. Great stuff!


BLACK TO COMM "Alphabet 1968" LP/CD

Black to Comm's Marc Richter is an artist that perpetually seems to be on the verge of releasing an absolute masterwork, always creeping closer and closer but never quite nailing it. Alphabet 1968 does not quite buck that trend completely, but it is an oft-brilliant and unforgettable album nonetheless. Richter's impressive artistic evolution is showing no sign of slowing.

Marc Richter’s stated intention for this album was to realize a more “classic” and song-based aesthetic than he has shown before. To my ears, he seems to have been largely successful: Alphabet 1968 is filled with pianos, vintage synthesizers, strings, and an omnipresent patina of tape/radio hiss that evokes a vague and enigmatic past era. Also, the noisier and more industrial influences evident on previous Black to Comm albums has been markedly toned down and replaced by a sparser, more meditative vein of surreal darkness (though traces of the old harshness remain in “Houdini Rites”). His success at songcraft, on the other hand, is little more open for debate, though Marc has kept most of the pieces under four minutes and shows an unexpected talent for crafting melodic hooks.

There are strikingly beautiful moments strewn all over Alphabet 1968: “Jonathan”, "Rauschen”, “Forst”, and particularly “Musik For Alle” are all excellent and otherworldly. The piece that sticks in my mind the most, however, is the closer (“Hotel Freund”), which starts off deceptively with several shrill, clashing tones before abruptly launching into something that sounds like a bittersweet slow dance in a haunted ballroom. My other favorite moment is likely the melancholy and haunting organ and theremin duet, “Traum GmbH,” but I keep finding new things to like about other pieces each time I listen to the album, so that may change tomorrow.

Interestingly, however, “Traum GmbH” is also the best example of how Alphabet 1968 falls just short of perfection: while achingly moving, it is over in under two minutes and never quite progresses beyond its opening motif. Marc is singularly adept at finding and layering the perfect sounds together, but shaping his strange and wonderful loops into actual songs still seems to elude him somewhat. Of course, Black to Comm’s prematurely abandoned soundscapes are usually much more creative and rewarding than much of what I’ve heard from other bands this year, so that seems like something of an unfair quibble. Unfortunately, great potential breeds high expectations.

That said, Richter remains a wizard at finding great samples, creating perfect blends of textures, inventively using found sounds, and borrowing the best elements from a wide range of influences. Alphabet 1968 is a crackling, mist-shrouded dream of an album, filled with backwards instruments, twinkling chimes and music boxes, beautifully sad melodies, and buried voices. In fact, this may very well be Black to Comm’s best album so far, but I would not be at all surprised to see it followed by an even better one.

Anthony D'Amico | BRAINWASHED

Hamburg’s Marc Richter has released a plethora of recordings under his Black To Comm moniker, moving from purely computer-based sounds to home experiments with field recordings and, on his last albums for Digitalis and his own Dekorder label, to tape loops and organ drones. “Alphabet 1968”, then, marks yet another turn in Richter’s musical preoccupation. Epic drone tracks are replaced by densely arranged, song-like miniatures that are connected by soothing radio static.

Over some 45 minutes, the ten tracks of “Alphabet 1968” have a certain mixtape feel. I know that’s not always a selling point, but here it definitely is because the album combines the variety of a mixtape with the density of a carefully layered monolith of modern composition. Looping extracts of his collection of old vinyl and 78 records to add to his own recordings with gamelan et al., Richter has come up with one of the best albums of the year.

The album opens with a series of tracks that could be described as a free folk take on, say, Cluster’s vintage electronics. The instantly recognisable “Musik für Alle” clearly stands out of this bunch of tracks. After such fragile sounds, one of the album’s few proper drone moments hits real hard in the form “Traum GmbH”, before macabre “Houdini Rites” lure the listener into a feverish dance of whirring gamelan and uncanny samples. From here it’s into the “Void”, a menacing mix of black metal pandemonium, Expo-70-style droning and playful, Kemialliset-Ystävätesque windspiel organics that prove Richter’s interest in the Finnish free folk scene.

This review cannot be complete without at least mentioning the Type label’s amazing 2009 portfolio, which includes William Fowler Collins, Mokira, On, Seasons (pre-din), Rameses III, and now Black to Comm (with the new Zelienople already in the mail). What an incredible year for a label that went through difficult times a while ago but which always does a great job in seeking out new talent – and in getting the best material out of established artists. “Alphabet 1968” is proof of the latter.


Black to Comm is Marc Richter, who also runs the excellent Dekorder record label. As label curator, Richter has released an endearingly eccentric collection of music, ranging from the pastoral noisescapes of Xela to the hyperactive pop songs of Doks to the quirky radio collages of Felix Kubin. The same peripatetic sensibility informs his own music, which is thick with esoteric samples, location recordings, and live instrumentation of all stripes and colors from harp and glockenspiel to kitchen gamelan.

On this release, his debut on the Type imprint, Richter favors short, song-like structures over his usual epic drones, and the result is nothing short of magic. The album is bracketed by a pair of rather pastoral tracks complete with drifting impressionistic orchestral samples and snippets of children’s voices. But the journey between the two is rather more unsettling – at times straight-up scary – like that of Hansel and Gretel in the original tale of the Brothers Grimm.

After the brightly lyrical opening track, "Jonathan," things darken quickly. The album’s longest track, "Forst," with its uncanny orchestra samples and soft, padding 4/4 beat, is something akin to a densely noisy tribute to Wolfgang Voigt’s more ominous Gas releases. It’s beautiful, but unnerving, all the more so when the mood shifts abruptly into the dreamy bells of "Trapez" and then "Rauchen."

Even at its most playful and lovely, the music always has some hint of sadness. One of the album’s most upbeat tracks, the scintillating "Music Für Alle," is a work of gloriously anxious beauty that disappears almost before it’s begun. By comparison, the unmitigated Black Metal-eque doom of the roiling voices and ominous drones on a track like "Void" seems tame. The album closes with the crackle of vinyl and lilting strings of "Hotel Freund." It’s lovely, and yet almost too melancholy to bear.

Susanna Bolle | DUSTED

In a year in which some of the most successful ambient albums were extremely lengthy-- Brock Van Wey's White Clouds Drift On and On, Leyland's Kirby's 3xCD epic Sadly, the Future Is No Longer What it Was-- it's refreshing to find an album that understands the power of brevity. Black to Comm's Alphabet 1968 clocks in at a modest 43 minutes but probes the depths of ambient, drone, and modern classical composition with both restraint and imagination.

Like a lot of experimental composers, Black to Comm's Marc Richter has operated on the fringes for a half-decade, placing several releases on an assemblage of labels, including his own Hamburg-based Dekorder. Alphabet 1968, on the increasingly impressive Type label, functions as his first widely available release, and it establishes Richter as a deft composer and an inspired stylist.

The year 1968 permeates more than just the album's title, as the album's 10 tracks mimic the burbling, psychedelic compositions of German experimental music from that era. (Visually as well: the artwork bears a passing resemblance to Cluster & Eno, and the cheap-fade, dual-color tracklist reeks of import bin design hell.) More importantly, Alphabet 1968 privileges composition above method, repeatedly blurring the line between electronic and acoustic elements.

Alphabet 1968 opens in intimidating fashion, rolling through nearly a third of the album's run time in the first two tracks, the rain-drenched piano ballad, "Jonathan", and the thumping, beatific "Forst", which sounds like the Field stretched putty-thin. From there, however, Richter lets Alphabet breathe, favoring short pieces that bleed into and out of each other. "Rauschen"'s slowly thumbed acoustic guitar plays against an abstracted field recording. It lasts for just two minutes before segueing to the hectic music-box tinker of "Musik Für Alle". "Traum GmbH" features dollops of saturated organ noise.

Richter anchors Alphabet with the ghastly, haunted pointillist whir of "Houdini Rites" and the monstrous bass tones of "Void" before redeeming the mood with "Hotel Freund", a harp-tinged orchestral movement that features an overlay of children's voices at play. "Hotel Freund" is a fittingly warm finale for an ambient/drone album that never lets its sound world become too insular. Richter's compositions function on a similar level as compositions by Tim Hecker and Fennesz, but they're far less abstract-- this is a guitar, and this is a harp, and that is rain. This is by no means a revolutionary accomplishment-- electro-acoustic composers have long toed the line between the abstract and the recognizable-- but, combined with Alphabet's manageable sequencing and length, it's refreshing on the heels of lengthy, career-defining efforts by similar artists. Alphabet 1968 is an adventurous, intriguing listen, but it succeeds because it takes sound worlds many consider epic and scales them down to palatable, weekday size.

Andrew Gaerig | PITCHFORK

I'm something of a seasonally-inclined ambient music listener. Not to say I don't listen to the stuff all year round but there is something about Autumn's fading beauty that demands close observation and something in ambient music that lends itself to soundtracking that slowly unravelling decay. Darkly atmospheric pieces are particularly adept at framing the transition and Marc Richter, the German craftsman behind Black to Comm, makes exceedingly good frames. Viewed through the parameters of his sensory compositions, every picture tells a story; the seemingly mundane is imbued with greater, frequently sinister, meaning.

As well as orchestrating the output of the Dekorder imprint, Richter has, over the past five years, amassed a wide and varied back catalog. Spread across nine labels, his work as Black to Comm represents an epic voyage into the outer reaches of organic drone. Alphabet 1968, released on Type, consists of ten shorter compositions in under 45 minutes. This, coupled with Richter's talk of a more 'classic', song-based approach, points to a departure from the more esoteric outposts of his oeuvre. I'm glad to report that this structural revision has not compromised the scope or singularity of his work. If anything, this refinement has brought the potency of his creations into sharper focus.

Opening track 'Jonathan' gives a strong indication of what is to come. A cluster of field recordings, indecipherable spoken word and found sounds are eventually usurped by intermittent drones and repeated piano phrases. These two elements are to be the most prominent players in Alphabet's demonstration of the power of suggestion: the leading actors in a vast revolving cast, all playing to Richter's expert direction. Here the keys tip-toe the line between melancholy and menace while the shrill drones plant the seeds of tension.

'Forst' is, at just over 10 minutes, the album's longest piece and its most unambiguously optimistic note. Out of a trademark undergrowth of tape loops and static emerges a steadily building drone. A heartbeat underpins proceedings, providing forward momentum. Tinkling percussion and the drone's soaring ascension create an air of genuine positivity. Such dizzying heights inevitably bring with them an element of vertigo and the crescendo tails off, leaving a nagging realisation that we must, at some point, return to earth.

The two shorter pieces that follow spare us, at least temporarily, from that fate. Both are other-worldly diversions featuring backwards instrumentation. 'Trapez' sounds like a music-box with its mechanisms reversed, rewinding a long-forgotten childhood until it becomes enveloped in its own digital reverberations. 'Rauschen' manipulates piano strings to evoke the bobbing solemnity of a waterborne funeral procession.

The following three-track passage brings the atmospheric tension and emotional menace, hinted at in the album's opening, back to the boil. The sheer quantity of competing layers makes 'Musik für Alle' a frenetic affair. Its cluttering percussion and jangling strings force us to scan the scene frantically, in hope of discovering meaning in the details. 'Amateur' scatters the clues with washes of static and a now familiar, haunting melody rises from the dust. The recurrent phrases attain even more gravitas on 'Tram GmbH' thanks to a vintage organ and the spectral sighs of a singing saw. These classical structural devices and repeated melodic themes give the album its emotional foundation; bedrock upon which Richter can place his layers of disorientating environmental sound, his corroding loops of archaic vinyl and his seas of static.

'Houdini Rites' rapidly descends into an almost unbearable cacophony of nerve-jangling noise. Like the eponymous escapologist we are placed in a race against time. Fever-pitch drones and a veritable orchestra of death-rattles create a climate of intense claustrophobia that will have listeners of a nervous disposition reaching for the skip button. Whereas previous tracks dealt in ambiguity and implied threat here there is little doubt that we are set on a collision course with danger. The chaos momentarily subsides only to herald the arrival of the album's most overtly ominous offering. The vast, monolithic drones of the aptly named 'Void' bring to mind Sunn 0))) & Boris's bastard love(?)child 'Akuma No Kuma'. Both songs reduce the listener to an insignificant dot, staring up in awe at the vast underside of a seemingly endless black craft, casting a huge shadow over all it surveys.

Within the context of what has preceded it, the album's final track, 'Hotel Freund', seems serene, almost comforting. Unsettling hunting horns give way to soothing strings, rich harps, and the echoing chatter of children at play. These seemingly-idyllic elements are all buried beneath the nostalgic pop and crackle of an ancient gramophone needle - all the ingredients for a fairytale ending, you would think. Nothing on Alphabet 1968, however, is that cut and dried; everything is open to interpretation - the power of suggestion and all that. This listener, for one, can't help but speculate that this particular enchanted forest plays host to a child-devouring witch.

Matt Marshman | FACT

For us, without question, one of the standout drone/death-ambient albums of the year - full of haunted loops, half-remembered lullabies and layered embers of sound - strictly limited vinyl edition!* One of the most brilliant artists to emerge from the steadily swelling drone/psyche spectrum of the latter half of this decade must be Black To Comm. After amassing a highly regarded set of recordings for his own equally awesome Dekorder label and a celebrated release for Digitalis, Marc Richter deposits one of his most concise compositions yet upon the Type label. 'Alphabet 1968' has been in gestation for a little while now, causing ripples of hushed excitement in this office as the realisation grew that Marc had accomplished one of the most diverse, darkly magical and absorbing albums of his career so far. Precedents for the Black To Comm sound stretch from Charlemagne Palestine to Growing and Steve Reich, but anyone who has experienced his sound would merely confirm these as reference points, as the artists share guiding principles of drone, esoteric psychedelia and classical structures. What separates Marc, here with some help from Joana Baranka and Renate Nikolauf, is the fractally overlapping effect he creates, unpredictably strafing between textures and blocks of sound with mystifying mixing techniques, and especially with 'Alphabet 1968' the intensity, pace and boldness of these sweeping transportations, creating atmospheric pressures sharp enough to give lesser experienced divers the bends. From a list of potent ingredients - vinyl & Shellac loops, metal percussion, shortwave radio, Argeiphontes Lyre, kitchen gamelan and the Glockenspiel native to his Black Forest and Hamburg home, Black to Comm conjures a trip as riveting as a Hans Christian Anderson tale, while as disorientatingly psychedelic as being lost in a twilight forest scene with a handful of 2ci for company. Incredible.


Marc Richter collects records, makes records, and releases other people’s records. If you want to know what kind of records he makes, today is your first chance to buy “Alphabet 1968,” an album released under the band name Black To Comm. The foundation for Richter’s project is sound and noise, rather than songs, though the results are as sensually pleasing as they are baffling. I keep thinking “plump” and “slate-grey,” but that makes me think of a baby shark living in my bathtub, and this music is not sharky. Black To Comm is more like an abandoned museum of late-twentieth-century instruments whose exhibits are still running at half power. The music feels linked to the repetition and crunch of krautrock, so I was satisfied, sort of, to find this fantastic mix by Richter called “Fuck Krautrock” on the Type Records Web site. I assume the title means to acknowledge that he knows what his tastes sound like, while asserting he’s moved on. Krautrock was very 1993, which probably means it’s also very 2010.

Sasha Frere-Jones | THE NEW YORKER

One could describe the experimental soundlayers on Black to Comm’s latest effort as krautrock for people who don’t like krautrock, people who don’t have long hair and scruffy looking beards, people who don’t own Motorpsycho t-shirts. Alphabet 1968 represents a seldom heard brand of experimental kraut: a darkened array of slow forming ambient, swelling drone, haunting soundscape, and acoustic-laced psychedelica. On Alphabet 1968, Black to Comm utilizes an obscured spectrum of avant garde sounds, forming a fluid yet complex vibe without losing focus on the composition. The album’s gradual crescendos are majestic, culminating in “Hotel Freund,” one of the year’s most stunning cinematic drones. It’s enough to make one want to stop shaving.

Jurgen Verhasselt | THE SILENT BALLET

“Charlemagne & Pippin.” On that album Black to Comm mastermind Marc Richter offered up a single organ drone that lasted a little over half an hour. It was no easy listen and required total submersion into the sound of that drone to reap any real rewards from the recording. Now Richter is back with his new album “Alphabet 1968” on Type records, and it is as varied and full of contrasts as “Charlemagne & Pippin” was static and monolithic. Its ten songs explore light and dark, drone and classically-based dynamic compositions to an amazing effect, both as individual pieces and as a whole.

The album begins with “Jonathan.” Field recordings of children playing are juxtaposed against a gentle buzz of white noise before a melancholy piano pattern emerges. The song is reminiscent of the work of modern composer Max Richter. Unlike that Richter’s music, which often comes up just short of expectations, Marc Richter has created an enthralling piece of electro-acoustic composition here that has more to offer than most established artists’ work.

Next up is a trilogy of light-infused songs that stir memories of brightly-colored days of innocence and childhood. “Forst” invokes Wolfgang Voight’s Gas project. A shimmering drone builds over subtle percussive effects before giving way to sustained horns. This is followed by “Trapez,” a cacophony of chimes, music boxes and bells. “Rauschen” highlights subtle plucked strings over a near silent field of processed electronics. It is hard not to be overwhelmed with the absolute beauty Black to Comm has produced here.

Things turn a bit darker with “Musik Fur Alle,” a circular string based piece that invokes black clouds and winds blowing through dead trees. The sound continues to darken with the haunting “Traum GmbH,” an organ pattern coupled with what sounds like a disembodied female voice. Even with the change in tone, there is still a near classical beauty to be found among the darker shadings of these songs.

Things change with “Houdini Rites,” which goes from dark to pitch black, eschewing any classical touchstones whatsoever. The piece begins with the clattering of cymbals before a sustained and blacked organ drone emerges, bringing damnation to the soundworld Richter has crafted thus far. “Void” follows and lives up to its title. Drones permeate a soundscape punctuated by demonic voices and what sounds like free jazz from hell buried deep in the mix. “Hotel Freund” brings the album to an end with a return to the hallucinatory memories of lighter, more innocent, times. The piece is reminiscent of Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers’ “Heroin” project that mixed the childhood touchstone of Vince Guaraldi’s “Peanuts” soundtrack with gauzy blankets of electronics. It is a fitting ending for an album that is steeped in memory and blanketed with the haze of time.

Black to Comm’s “Alphabet 1968” is not only an incredible accomplishment for such a relatively new artist; it is an incredible accomplishment for any artist. Each listen reveals something new, making the album endlessly rewarding. In the end, Black to Comm has breathed new life into modern classical and experimental music. Highly recommended.


It's a good year to be climbing down the precipice of haunted electronics. Between Leyland Kirby's massive masterpiece and Marc Richter's latest offering under the Black To Comm moniker all is well in the darkened and foreboding spaces of the world... or at least as well as they can be considering the spectral circumstances. Alphabet 1968 throbs with creeping intensity and a grainy veneer of displaced nostalgia that feels more like scrambling to hold on to what's left than looking back fondly at memories. Paranoia creeps into the edges of Richter's recordings, takes hold of the lovely melodies that shimmer under the surface and twists them until their familiarity seems as creepy as it does calm. Nursery piano tinkles turn to eerie reminders of childhood lost. Elsewhere the bluster of backgrounds obfuscates string melodies until they become more entangling than beguiling. As the album progresses the disturbances grow from an inkling to a maelstrom of din and drone until blackness outlasts the light and the listener is absorbed. A wonderfully unsettling album by an unsettled pioneer.


Black to Comm is the brainchild of one Marc Richter – not to be confused with eclecticist composer Max Richter. This Richter is also the fellow behind Hamburg’s excellent Dekorder label, which has put out releases by a number of very notable experimental/electronic artists including Stephan Mathieu and Xela – aka Type label boss John Twells. Alphabet 1968 sees Twells returning the favour, releasing Richter’s latest opus on vinyl and CD.

Suspicions that this is just another fly-by-night experimental music release should be put aside. Alphabet 1968 has already garnered praise from prominent music critics not normally known for an interest in digital electronica – notably, Mark K-Punk and Sasha Frere-Jones.

This is understandable as Alphabet 1968 is an instantly captivating album, which gives the immediate impression of being more dramatically structured than the vast majority of abstract electronica. Richter is clearly a master of creating sonic dioramas in which sample loops revolve slowly, casting strange reflections off each other.

The nine sonic miniatures and single long-form piece on this album form an extremely satisfying whole. Nothing feels randomly patched together or purposeless – everything arrives at a certain time and behaves a certain way for a very specific reason.

Overall, the mood this fastidious approach creates is rather menacing. But Alphabet 1968 is not a generically “dark” piece of work. There’s no excess of murky reverb or low-end sludge to cheapen the mood here. The sound is rich, full and crystal clear. And tracks like “Traum GmbH” are hardly lacking in simple melodic or harmonic beauty.

While this album is very much in a world of its own, comparisons are still reasonably easy to make. The single long piece is an obvious tribute to Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas project, right down to the title - “Forst”. Elsewhere, the creaking loops of Colleen and the hauntological juxtapositions of The Focus Group are conjured.

Type Records puts out a lot of decent stuff but this is something else altogether. Like As Good as Gone by Nudge, Alphabet 1968 is an unassuming record that – in it’s own quiet way – has the makings of a future classic. You are strongly advised to be an early adopter and buy it at Insound.


Black to Comm, the recording project of Dekorder founder and owner Marc Richter, constructs deep textural worlds out of dark sound-moods, radiant atmospheres, and ambient drones. While so many drone releases embrace a self-defeating austerity or boring minimalism, Richter incorporates a healthy array of instruments that enhance and expand the unnecessarily and self-imposed limiting structure of drone music. Alphabet 1968 utilizes field recordings, sound collage techniques, vinyl static, and heavy electronics alongside more traditional instruments, including but not limited to acoustic guitar, piano, and Richter’s own mysterious kitchen gamelan. At first, the listener is radically disoriented by the sound of being in many non-overlapping spatial locations at the same time. But, gradually, the sounds unite and collaborate. The end result is a fascinating and sonically stimulating combination of seemingly disparate sounds and moods.

“Jonathan” opens the album with a rumbling drone that patiently sits underneath field recordings of children talking/playing and raindrops falling. These sounds are brutally disrupted by inarticulate voices and subway tunnel hums until the static of the latter is merged with the tingling of the former. The entrance of the ambling piano, which supplements a profound soothing effect to the harsh static, exemplifies Richter’s ability to transport the ambient drone aesthetic to innovative and unexpected places.

The ten minute long “Forst” provides some of the most terrifying moments on Alphabet 1968, namely by using a sound-expansion/breathing technique that induces suffocation as spaces are formed and blocked repeatedly. This textural effect leads to the beginning of a panic attack, hairs standing on end, and once the beat vanishes completely, we’re left floating with no foundation. Here, Richter is being, perhaps, sadistic: he creates sounds that stimulate deep breaths and a steady topography, but then rips it out from underneath us. However, the transition into “Trapez,” which keeps us joyfully/masochistically suspended in air and floating atop shimmering waves of chimes, bells, and electronically manipulated sounds, perfectly and pleasantly follows.

One of the best tracks on the album is “Musik fur Alle.” Richter produces a haunted complexity and dark-carnival sound-world that thrives on a feeling of anticipatory nervousness. The buzzing, glowing sounds spin around inside the listener’s ears like so many lightening bugs, eventually swirling throughout the entire body, bringing it alive. There is a recurring haunted house theme on Alphabet 1968. “Traum GmbH” is the perfect soundtrack to a horror film or haunted house, with its organ loops and ghost-vocals drifting eerily within the emerging rooms of sound. Another stand-out and absolutely terrifying track is “Houdini Rites,” which shows Richter creating an intense percussive wall of noise with metal objects. As the pace quickens, the furious pounding is accompanied by an overpowering hum of mechanical screeches and demon-possessed moaning. The feeling of aural (bodily?) danger that “Houdini Rites” creates falls over into “Void,” where the spectral growls and moans drift down forever into the groundless hum and sparkling gamelan.

Despite all this dark, horror language, it is important to note the playful edge that Richter so carefully navigates. While the feeling of terror on many tracks is oftentimes overpowering, there are others that embrace a more comical horror aesthetic. A video was recently released for album-closer “Hotel Freund” which features images taken from the 1972 B-movie Night of the Lepus, a story about unusually large mutant rabbits that bring terror to many people in a small Southwestern town. The song itself opens with a similar B-movie horror spirit, but eventually comes to resemble a blissful temper that would perfectly accompany an episode of Kung Fu or a meditative Czech New Wave film. As the sound of children playing returns, the same ones that opened the album on “Jonathan,” it becomes clear that Richter is playing with seemingly incompatible sound-moods and their histories as much as he’s playing with the sounds themselves.

Elliott Sharp | JUNK MEDIA

Marc Richter may be best known as head honcho of Hamburg-based Dekorder Records, but since 2007 he’s run a parallel campaign as the dark ambient project Black to Comm. Closer in spirit to experimental figures of yesterday like Moondog and Bernard Herrmann than current artists, Richter seems dead set on completely disorienting our frame of reference. His new full-length for Type Records, Alphabet 1968, is a collection of oddities featuring: ‘kitchen gamelan’, smudged and disguised samples of vinyl, radio, and live recordings. Fairly static in composition, these ten tracks of densely forested clips provide a panoramic view of his meticulous sound dioramas.

The fragmented nature of this trip was designed to evoke the sensation of Richter’s favorite records, creating moods ranging from dark, gloomy ambient to sentimental musique concrete. Sparse traces of minimal techno are infused into the pulse of “Forst”, the album’s longest episode, a hat tip to fellow German pioneer Wolfgang Voigt. Dusty interludes like “Rauschen” and “Traum GmbH” tap curiously poignant receptors using only skeletal motifs of dry acoustic notes, phantom organ swells, and an omnipresent, but nearly subliminal backdrop of flickering voices, submerged tape loops, and field recordings. While frustrating at times, Richter does manage to arrive at moments of extremely cinematic avant-garde music that’s unlike much we’ve ever heard before.


Marc Richter, dronemeister of the Black Forest and übercurator of much that is ambient, dark, and tape-loopy on his Dekorder label, isn’t exactly a pop type of guy. The German noisenik’s solo albums as Black To Comm–a name copped from the MC5–have suggested what would have happened had that band really kicked out the jams, motherfuckers, and dispensed not just with verse-chorus-verse songwriting, but with their instruments, their whole sound, and indeed their careers. Black To Comm is the sound of punk dropping out, moving to the forest and learning how to gather field recordings and conduct tape-splicing experiments. Like the Unabomber, but with less mass killing.

Something is afoot with new Black To Comm album Alphabet 1968, however. From the dissonant horn climax of ‘Forst’ to the melodic hallucinations of ‘Traum GmbH,’ tracks carry momentum and develop with dramatic purpose; damaged melodies emerge from a fog of folk-drone and float their way into your brain. Wobbly pianos and homemade “kitchen gamelan” (which literally includes the sink, from what I can hear) clatter, plonk and twinkle appealingly, like snow falling in an enchanted wood. It’s almost catchy. The work here–not just of Richter, but of pianist and sometime murmuring vocalist Jonna Karanka–is arresting, accessible even, and quite easy to like. Has civilization seduced Black To Comm? Is the freedom of the freaky forest subtly succumbing to the agreeable, if regimented, pleasures of the pop city?

I wouldn’t be too sure. Thoughts of rapprochement between town and country go out the window when we hit “Houdini Rites’ and all hell breaks loose with that kitchen gamelan–like an alarm sounding to summon the native villagers. At this rather late point in the record you start to feel like you’ve been lured into a trap, like Sergeant Howie in The Wicker Man. Menacing penultimate track ‘Void’ appears to confirm the worst. ‘Hotel Freund’, the stunning closer, starts in a similarly dark vein, blaring and brooding. But then something really strange happens: The song—and more than any other Black To Comm track, it feels like a “song”–positively flowers with bursts of strings. Chimes sweep in, offering both hope and mystery. A kind of warmth returns; destruction and creation are held in a tenuous balance. It is a spine-tingling conclusion for Richter, for whom this fragile, tense coexistence feels like the way forward.

Joseph Knowles | THE LINE OF BEST FIT

Hamburg-based Dekorder head honcho Marc Richter's latest offering under the Black To Comm moniker has enjoyed some well-deserved publicity lately, thanks presumably to Richter's description of its ten tracks as more song-based than his earlier more drone-inflected work, including a full-page pullout review in The Wire, no less. Not surprising perhaps since The Wire seems hell bent on redefining (resurrecting?) the idea of the pop song, though the term doesn't mean much to me any more, at least not in the area of music this magazine covers, and hasn't done for nearly two decades. Then again, you could argue that a song doesn't need lyrics – we can look as far back as Mendelssohn nearly two hundred years ago to back up that hypothesis – and it certainly doesn't need more than one chord, if that (examples too numerous to mention). Whatever you want to call them, these pieces are beautifully crafted and eminently accessible – you can even hum along to its dreamy pianos ("Jonathan") and tinkling metallophones ("Trapez"), so I guess they could qualify as songs after all – with discreet nods to everything from 1980s grand pianola minimalism ("Musik für alle") to gamelan ("Rauschen"), from the enchanted woods of Wolfgang Voigt (the veiled backbeat of "Forst") to Erik Satie (there's a distinct feeling of Gymnopédie to the closing "Hotel Freund"). It's lovely stuff, check it out.


Pretend you are a baby and very tired but simultaneously very fascinated by your new universe, thus at a loss about whether you should sleep or just glaze over and stare at your own toes because, Holy shit you have toes. Then imagine you got a crazy mobile. It’s got colors and wind chimes and the light reflects off it and it spins, but never in too many full circles because that would get boring. This mobile is a microcosm of all of the earth’s natural wonders. There is the pounding stream of rivers, the thin air of mountaintops, the green grass of pastures, the warm silk of a horse’s coat. You’re there, you’re fucking in there little baby you, right in morning Scotland—you’re running with hunting dogs and the dew is fading and the sun creaked up above the horizon and there’s a crack and it’s your bone, you’ve fallen against a rock you missed in your furious pursuit. There’s pain but there’s so much light. You’ve never been so alone before but it’s surprisingly serene. Who could have imagined there was so much time and space in such a stockpiled world, people buzzing around into each other like cockroaches. You’re alone and it hurts acutely, but you’re a baby. You know it’s not real but you haven’t yet figured out what reality is. So you cry, and, now sharp, you see this mobile for what it is, a bunch of cheap plastic that just hums a tiny bit. But you know now it’s your portal and you stop crying because, as you are just beginning to learn, there is always understanding in ambiance. Anyway, that’s what listening to this Black to Comm album is like. Thanks for sending us this link yesterday, Simon. In a cold world it’s nice to have caring friends.

Matthew Schnipper | THE FADER

What a nice surprise: Marc Richter (Black to Comm) on Type Records! I really like Richter’s take on drones – he turns them into moving-yet-Dada sensory experiences. That said, Alphabet 1968 signals a shift in his art, since it delivers 10 tracks in 45 minutes (you’d expect half as many in twice as long). Black To Comm in song format? Yep, and it works marvelously well. Ten sound vignettes with rich, noisy (and occasionally melancholy) textures, trippy, unique, destabilizing, and most of all very, very successful. Congratulations Marc! This CD could very well finish end up in a high-ranking position on my 2009 Top 30...


Though I have no idea what Black To Comm really means, the key to appreciating what Alphabet 1968 has to communicate is blackness and contemplation. Experimental in nature but far broader in scope, Marc Richter’s Type label debut is, in essence, meditation music for stoned techies and audiophiles. If you want to clear a room when the party is over, put this on. It is anti dance music. To even call it music is at times a stretch as often it is simply noise. Whatever it is, it is always interesting, sometimes even for what it isn’t. You will not hear this on the radio unless the airwaves are taken over by pirates with good taste. You won’t want to buy the album if you are looking for the next catchy single or generic pop song. But, if you are looking for something that will challenge and enlighten you, then Alphabet 1968 is a good place to start.

Exhaling the rest of the purple smoke from your lungs, candles flickering around the room, you close your eyes and fit the headphones snugly around your ears. Pressing play, “Jonathan” grabs you immediately with its stark soundscape. Is that a child’s voice? Rain falls and is glitched. A piercing drone hovers above a hazily forming piano’d musical element. Layers build and break down into a drone, which carries through into “Forst.” In fact, this track is mostly all drone. Strange intrusive elements come and go, not unlike one’s thoughts while meditating. A bell here and there is a reminder to wake up outside of the body.

Jewelry box music opens “Trapez” and carries through over a wash of digital haze. Chaotic, muted melodic elements break through and break down. Plodding plucked piano punctuates ”Rauschen” Screeches span the spaces and spill over into the sci-fi “Musik fur Alle.” Stacatto strings build tension. It’s musical, mostly. Well composed plucked strings blend with layers of sonic activity until everything is washed away in fuzz and chaos. “Amateur” continues the musical but not quite, introducing a braying organ and layers of drone. One gets the idea that the title does not describe Richter.

“Houdini Rites” opens with clanking. Is it the train coming? Or clanking on cell bars? Just when you start to feel claustrophobic, the track opens up, again into layers of drone, clanking carrying on. Able to pick out layer upon layer, you are suddenly grateful for the sonic isolation of the headphones. Just when you start to become a bit agitated by the drone it calms and fades.

Vast, deep tones appropriately open “Void” as backward voices wisp past. Drone fills the space, the cracks filled by layers of liquid noise, some identifiable, some not. Like the rest of the album it is complexly textured but simple. In the midst of the chaos, “Hotel Freund” comforts you like a friend. The warm rich sounds of harps and strings blend with jungle chatter and voices. You can almost feel the warm spring breeze on your face. The most melodic part of the album, like everything else, fades. Replaced by drone and the sounds of children playing, these too fade into silence.

Never before has the silence at albums end seemed like an intentional part of the album itself. Immersed, first in sound then in silence, a church bell chime in the distance brings you back from your journey changed. It leaves you contemplating well after the disc has stopped spinning and because the tracks are so densely layered repeat listening always reveals something new. If that’s not the mark of a good album, I don’t know what is.


Another great year for the Type label draws to a close with what may well be one of their best. I’m certainly convinced that it is the finest release that Marc Richter has produced, shoehorning as it does the more abstract drones which have characterised previous Black To Comm albums into a more obviously structured framework, and adding some surprising sounds. The result is a suite of ten epic and atmospheric tracks which covers far more ground than you’d expect.

Richter’s modus operandi involves an accumulation of found sounds and vinyl salvage, interspersing them with his own instrumentation (while I guess the piano on “Jonathan” is Richter, surely the harp on “Musik Fur Alle” must be a sample), successfully blurring the line between the old and new. The comparisons it throws up cause you to do a double take. Richter’s countryman Wolfgang Voigt is (I assume deliberately) evoked via the airy hisses and deep 4/4 bass of “Forst” – while you’d never have placed this as a Black To Comm piece, it is utterly fantastic. Boards Of Canada come vaguely to mind, not just when Richter digs out the recordings of children’s voices, but on the woozy keyboard loops of “Traum GmbH”, while the piano vexations which emerge from the static on “Amateur” are slightly Caretaker-esque. After the black metal drone and devilish intonation of “Void”, Alphabet 1968 ends on a calm note, some exotic-sounding library music loops being subsumed by more playground chatter.

Richter’s alphabet takes him through Ambient, Beats, Classical, Drone, Exotica, Field recordings and beyond. He has used this on Alphabet 1968 to speak in a language at once familiar and unfamiliar. Alphabet 1968 is available now from Boomkat. Listen to it over at Type.


Released in early November, Marc Richter’s new(ish) album as Black to Comm, Alphabet 1968, has taken up stubborn residence in and around my CD player, and at the time of writing still shows no sign of going anywhere. Interesting from the off, the pull it comes to exert after a few plays is pronounced. A lot of that has to do with the intricate layering of these cracked and battered junkyard tone poems. Before it drains into the processed vacuum cleaner and piano duet of ‘Amateur’, ‘Musik für Alle’ bewitches with its network of strummed and plucked strings, airy and knotty all at once. Much of the album involves drones, but that won’t convey just how organic Richter’s are. The glassy metallic rattle of ‘Houdini Rites’, overhung by a high whine and some wild sawing of what could be a violin – or just as easily a treated can opener – is music of real drama, while ‘Forst’ transforms over the course of ten glorious minutes from a stately pulse into a joyously busy slab of noise.


Look, it's not like I've given up on rock or guitars or anything like that. For some reason, I'm just in a dense wave of electronics, ambience, and drone. What can I do?

At this point, if I were to suggest one album for people to check out, see if they might take to the dark ambient/drone... it would be this one, Black to Comm's Alphabet 1968 (2009). According to the label, where you can also stream the whole album:

The mission statement for 'Alphabet 1968' was to write an album of 'songs' for want of a better word. Short tracks which represented genre points, the milestones which stuck in Richter’s mind when he thought back to his favourite records. The scope of the album is admirable but ignoring this it is simply a shockingly arresting collection of experimental oddities, with references ranging from Moondog to Basic Channel by way of Bernard Herrmann.

And that's the strength here, digestible capsules with a variety of the genre's possibilities. Like an awesome sampler compilation that just happens to be made by one artist as one album.

"Jonathan" is fairly minimalist modern classical - soft piano drone, transmission static and vinyl pops, smooth waves and synth burble. It's downright pleasant, in a lulling electro-acoustic ambient way. It drains away, and "Forst" begins building. Forst, Germany is where Harmonia (Cluster duo plus half of Neu!) had a studio, and they worked there with Brian Eno there in the mid-'70s - coincidence? Coincidence?!

Chopped and looped noise gets overtaken by a bedrock foundation of synth waveform, which continues amassing over a heartbeat pulse. Things move glacially but perceptibly, eventually including earthy bell-shaped tones and reaching a subdued frenzy. The source of which is indistinguishable... amplitudes or something. Great relief when the cavalry arrives, trumpets set to stun. It's by far the longest piece here, and the next couple of tracks decompress from there. "Trapez" is mostly chiming bell clusters, with magnetic tape clutter, and eventually something almost xylophonic with slow-mo tape-loop viola-mimickry becoming "Rauschen." The ghost of a stand-up bass haunts a decrepit juke joint perhaps. Robert Rauschenberg was from Port Arthur, TX, was an abstract expressionist collagist, and was famous for his Combines.

Music for all! The musicality comes back strong with some hammered dulcimer (maybe) and a recurring noise loop. Modern classical in maybe the Wagner vein? It's definitely got distinct parts, more than straight drone. Two more bite-sized experiments follow. "Amateur" leads with radiophonic noise collage, then converts to a randomized piano rag, then splits the difference brieftly - before the organ and singing saw (maybe) duet of "Traum GmbH." I love this last one, and could have gone with 10 minutes instead of two.

After the claustrophobic metal-on-metal clanging percussion festival of "Houdini Rites," the expanse of "Void" is a physical release - which works in the opposite direction of most tension/release dynamics. It's more like capture/release dynamics. And the record ends with the fantastic "Hotel Freund," with the awesome Night of the Lepus video, embedded at top.

Adventures in record-shopping: So here's what happened. I've been reading about this record recently, because it's been showing up unexpectedly in a bunch of year-end lists. Well, multiples... a few. And last weekend when I was way out north, buying Woods, I happened to see the cover but didn't make the connection.

Earlier this week, the recurrence had me listening on the internet, and ultimately looking to buy. Only then did I realize that the vinyl edition was "strictly limited" - and OOP, and the only one I could find was $50 on eBay. So, given all the parameters of the variables of the scenario, I could either wait until this weekend (99+% that the LP is still there)... or drive way out of town, in rush-hour traffic, to make sure I got the only sub-$50 copy I knew of. Yesterday, I made the right choice!!


Absent from the emergent “horror soundtrack” genre creeping from within the perimeters of Type and Miasmah Records is the histrionic austerity of much noise music. Counter to this, noise itself can be said to have always reviled the subtlety intrinsic to much “post-classical” work. Like cinematic horror, noise seeks to strike too often by jumping from dark sites off camera. Droney faux soundtracks motion in micromovements, sometimes turning trepidation into tedium.

Much of Marc Richter’s Dekorder label, particularly his own Black to Comm project, seeks the interspaces between the somnambulant dread of drone, which is unsettling but barely taut enough to leap out and seize you, and the incessant wail of feedback-drenched power electronics, which is all teeth and dismemberment and no Cthulhu portent or phylogeny. Yet, Richter’s latest Black to Comm release on Type, Alphabet 1968, is wont to create a new narrative both outside and within the aforementioned non-competing worlds.

There’s harsh black cacophony on the back-to-back of clatter of “Houdini Rites” and “Void”, but those are two of the least interesting artifacts of Alphabet 1968, together forming a kind of aural wallpaper rather than a monolithic mind warp. The scenery is better painted by an ominous pastorale that simultaneously examines both the darkness and beauty of its purgatorial dynamics. Opener “Jonathan” cues between gleeful field recordings and patches of static, as if to indicate a filmic cutaway to an ulterior angle, id, and superego battling for the dominant view. The ensuing “Forst”, by far the album’s longest piece, erects a porcelain labyrinth seemingly plucked from Wolfgang Voigt’s own Königsforst, kayaking along a four-on-the-floor into a space of glistening impenetrability. At its collapse, the jangle bells of “Trapez” sound downright sweet and inviting, but backwards masked melodies soon alter the view again. The subsequent askance strummed rhythmics of “Rauschen” sound like they were programmed by the sloppy and slightly melancholy mechanics of Pierre Bastien, a sadness heightened by the failure to gain any kind of traction.

After that, “Musik Für Alle”, a gorgeous busted calliope of spectral slivers that’s practically begging for a Mount Kimbie remix, seems to begin the “Side 2” retreat from the light, though the “Trois Gymnopedies”-sampling “Hotel Friend” offers a brief reprise of sunshine on the horizon. The darkness brings us through the eerie texturalism of “Amateur”, the church organ dispossession of “Traum GmbH”, and the aforementioned “Houdini Rites”/”Void” climax.

Alphabet 1968 is an album that rewards close-and-repeat listening (though, what album couldn’t boast this), but there’s something to be said for the way in which the subtlety of the album fails to impress upon the listener on a cursory listen. Cabaret Voltaire’s earliest work found prescient double meaning in the word “revolting” as its revolutionary sonics literally made one’s stomach turn. The visceral namesake and pulsatile throb of Godflesh felt like edema, subcutaneously infected into the bloodstream. Black metal often presents itself as a burning cross on your front porch, the music’s rough aggression a flame whose heat you can practically feel by proximity. Black to Comm is looking to move post-noise, but he needn’t forget to bring along noise’s carnal materiality. Alphabet 1968 is, at times, quite a disturbingly lovely and hauntingly disarrayed painting, but one rarely feels like they are trapped inside the picture frame and living in the landscape.


A few months ago, while reviewing The Autumn Project’s excellent This We Take with Us, I commented at length on the cohesion of that album. The work, I said, was structured like a novel. I found this refreshing, because most post-rock albums can only be said to be collections of short stories. In the world of experimental and vaguely drone music, however, the opposite is the case: rather than a small bit of something to enjoy, we are only treated to War and Peace-sized efforts. I mean, I love Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops more than almost anything put out this decade, but one can only spend so much time with a four-hour-plus work of music. In this context, Black to Comm’s latest manifesto, Alphabet 1986, comes as a delightful breath of fresh air.

Marc Richter (the man behind the moniker) presents us with ten very different tracks on this release. Of course, “very different” is something of a relative term, but anyone who listens to experimental music will easily be able to tell that Richter is changing genres rather dramatically with nearly every song. The tracks run the gamut from very short (1:45) to somewhat long (10:19), and cover styles of sleepy ambient (“Void”), electroacoustic (“Jonathan”), electronica (“Musik für Alle”), harsh noise (“Houdini Rites”), pulsating drone (“Forst”), post-classical (“Hotel Freund”), and more. Throughout all the style changes, however, there remains a use of samples and found sounds to present a persistently dark theme, something that I would hesitate to call dread or fear, but which might just dance at their borders.

The end effect of this genre hopping is that Richter has written what must surely be one of the most accessible experimental albums in quite some time. With tracks like these, we don't feel the need to take the whole album in at once: we can do it track-by-track, as we'd like. Call it experimental music for the iTunes generation. Of course, that implies that there are throw-away tracks, which is certainly not true; every song on this record is worthwhile listening. But I would not hesitate to say that there seems to be little holding these songs together; the absence of one song does not impair the enjoyment of the others.

And this, perhaps predictably, is also the major flaw of the album. Even as nice as it is to get a collection of short stories, something which can be taken in brief, rather than as one massive work, there is simply too little cohesion for this album to earn higher marks. Richter ought to be praised for his efforts to incorporate a number of different styles into an album both accessible and experimental, but if most albums of this sort are monolithic and hopelessly dense, Alphabet 1968 goes a bit too far in the other direction. Perhaps there is still a middle ground to be found, a Dubliners-esque collection of songs which can stand on their own, but which are interrelated in such a way that the experience of listening to one vastly increases the experience of listening to the others. I have reason to believe, based on this record, that Richter may yet put out such an album of tracks functioning as mutual catalysts, but he has not done it here. For what it is, Alphabet 1968 is a very good album, but I can’t help wishing that it were something a little bit more.


Die Musik von Marc Richter ist von so beispielloser Schönheit, dass man sie allen Menschen, die man mag und die Musik lieben, für immer ans Herz legen möchte. Seine bedächtigen Klangschichtungen vermögen in ungeahnte Welten zu geleiten und dabei über die Klaviaturen des Bewirkens von menschlicher Einfühlsamkeit zu streichen, wie es der meisten kontemporären Musik schon längst abhanden gekommen ist. Ein Stück trägt den Titel "Musik für alle", und genau dies ist es, was BTC in immer wieder wundervoller Art erschaffen.

André Pluskwa | QUADRAT

Die Möve Jonathan war 1970 ein schönes Indiz für den Paradigmenwechsel vom 68er Wir zum ehrgeizigen Selbstvervollkommnungs-Ich. Der Außenseiter als missverstanderner Prototyp der kommenden Ich AGs. Marc Richter, hier bei einem Auswärtsspiel statt auf dem eigenen Dekorder-Label, blickt zurück und findet. Für ‚Forst‘ den pulsierenden Zauberberg- und Königsforst-Dröhnton von Gas. Bei ‚Trapez‘ ein glasperlenspielerisches Gamelan, bei dem manchmal die Zeit rückwärts läuft. Nahtlos folgt ‚Rauschen‘ mit verlangsamtem Gitarrenzupfloop und das Minimal-Karussell von ‚Musik für Alle‘, wieder mit Gitarre und Gamelanpingpingpingping, vinylbeknistert. Rauschend gleitet man zu ‚Amateur‘ mit seinem Klavierloop und zum Kirchengeorgel von ‚Traum GmbH‘. Träume, Opium der Gottlosen? Danach steigt man um zu den ‚Houdini Rites‘, metalloides Regengeprassel und schneidendes Gedröhn, dazu verrauschter Gesang. Kein Grund zur Panik, tausend Gründe für Eskapismus. So kommt man zu ‚Void‘, anfänglich verregnet, dann dunkel überbrummt von Orgelbassgrollen und jetzt doch panischem Tumult im Hintergrund. Nach dieser Geisterbahnstation mit Apokalypsenkitzel landet man im ‚Hotel Friend‘. Bei sanftem Wallen, Orchesterbalsam, Klingklangarpeggios, schön wurmstichig durch Vinylknackser. Endstation des ABCs ist eine Endlosrille, dazu kirren spielende Kinder.

Rigobert Dittmann | BAD ALCHEMY

Molto meno, o meglio quasi per niente drone-oriented rispetto a quelli che l'hanno preceduto, il nuovo album di Black To Comm si rivela il più azzeccato in una discografia già abbastanza nutrita. "Alphabet 1968" articola piuttosto tortuosi itinerari acustico-meccanici, saliscendi di loops scricchiolanti densamente orchestrati e stratificati tramite manipolazioni di vecchi vinili e gamelan autocostruiti, con parchi interventi strumentali a far da collante tra le frastornanti masse sub-rumoriste di Forst e le vischiose titubanze di Jonathan e Hotel Freund.

Nicola Catalano | BLOW UP

BLACK TO COMM "Charlemagne & Pippin" CD

Marc Richter's Black to Comm project has always been more or less singular in its scope, seeking no less than than the outer reaches of deep drone meditation. Calling on Renate Nikolaus and Ulf Schutte to contribute electronics, bells, percussion, violins, water and more on top of his own monolithic organ play, Richter has crafted a monster with this lone 35-minute piece. Just make sure submersion is an attractive state before descending.

With the sudden emergence of a new drone dialect in underground music, Richter brings a classical sense to his concoctions, drawing on the likes of Steve Reich's organ works, La Monte Young's extended sense of time, Hermann Nitsch's sound world and Charlemagne Palestine's power far more than psychedelic babble steeped in rounded edges. His is a focused maelstrom, less concerned with dips into the nether regions of his mind than in sharp trajectories directly towards the sun. Starting with a microcosm of a drone, the piece largely develops itself as an extended crescendo, continuously moving steadily forward into ever deeper waters.

This sort of constant upheaval in a piece has a way of falling short, but Richter is wiser than a lot of his cohorts, instead focusing on an internal build rather than one extending out from itself. The bulk of the work is enshrouded in the subtle organ play, which reads as singular in any given moment but whose constant flux is clear over the course of the work. Within that cloud Nikolaus and Schutte are constantly building, laying down increasinly kinetic details that clatter, murmur and spew there way out of the organ flow like larvae out of a heated pool. Nothing ever takes hold though, the chatter instead serving to divert attention away from the bold organ drone which, somehow, ingrains a kind of festering bother in the listener whose creepiness is far more internal and personal than overt drawings upon darkness.

Half way through the work breaks up entirely, the tickling metallics fumbling forward until, at last, the work explodes under its own weight. A thick smoke, sharp atop the smooth drone, ricochets across while warbling electronics distort themselves into dreams haunted by wolves and ghosts and ivy. By the time it all comes to a fore it has buried itself so deep that any semblance of self is surrounded, blown apart by the sheer quantity of sound. This, it seems, is why they recommend it be played loudly.

This sort of slow development does more than its share of demolition, but it also reveals a fully realized vision and a musician whose focus and sonic sense are at once contributing to and one step removed from so much of the drone music coming out now. This is not music to take drugs to so much as it is music as drug, an intoxicating and immersive experience akin to the very MC5 song it is named after. Not in sound perhaps, but certainly in attitude and scope.


There are moments in music that seem to stand still, frozen in time, and race forward at extreme velocities at the same time. The moments I am thinking about qualify to this paradox by sounding monotonous at first, sporting various developments along the way as the main element marches on. Examples are "Insects" by 20.sv or the first half of "Absolute Ego" by Boris, Marc Richter, Renate Nikolaus and Ulf Schutte, who together formed Black to comm and are doing the same kind of magic with "Charlemagne & Pippin", although unlike the two aforementioned albums, who are both dirty and abrasive, the thirty five minutes of droning shoegaze music that Black to comm. Offers are much smoother, even majestic in some ways. Neither side is either better or worse. Sometimes I like what I hear to be ugly and violent, but sometimes a clearer soundtrip is wonderful as well.

When Charlemagne & Pippin begins, the vibrating drone which sets the central point of the album, the eye of the storm, if you will, begins silently and alone in its world. The organ drone is endless and monumental in its consistency, vibrating in the ear but also vibrating between sounding like a naked almost metallic tone, and a mighty church pipe organ, freezing in time a celestial moment and locking it in an endless micro loop. This frequent movement between the powerful, spiritual sound and the naked home made organ note is being done in my head, as the sound does not really change. This is the way this almost motionless music gathers so much speed and covers so much distance. This is how this simple note, which at times might even sound insulting with its emptiness, has so much depth in it.

The center of this track/album is constantly sending small tentacles from it and around it. Beautiful sounds created from electronics, bells, metal percussion, toys, water and violins are emerging and giving this sharp, endless needle some volume. Sometimes the specific development lasts only few seconds and sometimes it accompany the track for long minutes before it fades. But as time flows by, it becomes much more eventful and even chaotic, and at some points even manages to give a fair fight to the dominance of the center organ.

Not much can be written about one single, long track that is overall pretty still because of the powerful organ drone. But nevertheless, Charlemagne & Pippin is a very powerful, meditative album, that sounds better and better each time I listen to it. Black to comm. delivers a very impressive recording that shows an interesting approach to drone music. Highly recommended.

Oren ben Yosef | HEATHEN HARVEST

Behind Black To Comm is Marc Richter, also the man behind the excellent Dekorder label from Hamburg, plus Renate Nikolaus and Ulf Schütte. They have a couple of releases before, which I really liked, and this new one is no disappointment either. I am not entirely sure what or who Pippin is, mentioned in the title, but it seems to me that Charlemagne is Charlemagne Palestine. Black To Comm are armed farfisa organ, tapeloops, metal percussion, violin, toys, water, shruti box, whistle, feedback and more, but it seems to me that the farfisa plays the leading part, and is a tribute to Palestine. The drone is the backbone here, and over that Palestine like drone they more or less improvise their way about. Electronics, feedback, metallic rumble, they all find their place under the drone sun. Not always as meditative as the previous two releases on Digitalis Industries, I guess one could best start with Black To Comm, for its fiercely packed drones are the heaviest of the three. A fine but massive set.

Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY

BLACK TO COMM "Incidents" 7"

Now that we're so used to the CD, and think nothing of tracks that last 20, 30 or 40 minutes, offerings such as this, consisting of two pieces each lasting barely six and a half, seem frustratingly short (an observation that applies not only to this little gem on the Irish Trensmat imprint, but to all the seven-inchers reviewed here). Dekorder label owner Marc Richter, aka Black To Comm, has been on fine form lately, and "The Soba Noodle Shop Incident" and "The Convenience Store Incident" are as impressive as their titles are intriguing, and make for another solid if all too brief addition to the Richter discography. Trembling triads and sevenths gaze affectionately back to the harmonic landscape of Terry Riley and Charlemagne Palestine, and the distant thudding squelch of the bass pulse reminds me, for some inexplicable reason, of early Durutti Column, but Richter's processing is state-of-the-art, and his mixing and sequencing smart and sophisticated. The only problem is, as I say, that the tracks start fading out just when you're getting really interested. Let's hope Marc can take time out from his busy release schedule at Dekorder (see elsewhere in this issue) to work on an album-length version of the same material.


One of two new seven inches from Irish label Trensmat, who most recently brought us those bad ass Hawkwind tribute 7”s. Elsewhere on this list you'll find the brand new Expo 70 “Sunglasses” 7”, and this here's a new two tracker from German experimental dronelords Black To Comm, two mesmerizing loopscapes, strangely titled “The Soba Noodle Shop Incident” and “The Convenience Store Incident”, both seemingly linked sonically and thematically, each crafter from a dense flurry of looped and repeated Reich / Riley style dronescapes.
The A side is like Riley doing Sunroof!, a high end symphony of overlapping tones, locked and looped, mesmerizingly repetitive, all underpinned by strange percussive bloops and blurred streaks of creak and squeak, eventually, the sound of whirring machinery surfaces and transforms the track into an almost Boards Of Canada bit of squelch and skitter.
The B side begins as another stretch of looped stuttering tones, faster and more frenetic this time, and within those looped tones, another series of strange sounds lurks, a fragmented melody, an off kilter counterpoint, playing out beneath, also chopped and looped, but strangely vocal sounding, as if it was some weirdly processed alien voice, the result is equally hypnotic and mesmerizing.
Cool stuff for sure, a dizzying hybrid of Sunroof!, Boards Of Canada and Terry Riley, meditative and space-y, but dense and very very layered and kinetic.
Packaged in cool full color sleeves, super LIMITED of course, already sold out at the label, so these are likely the last copies we'll see.


Pour finir sur une touche plus expérimentale (aïe, le mot est lâché... non, attends, ne pars pas), ça fait un bout de temps que je suis obsédé par Black to Comm. Le nom, repiqué à l’un des morceaux les plus radicaux du MC5, est de bon augure. En cette période de crise paraît-il (Dieu merci, je ne travaille ni dans une banque, ni dans la mode), il est rassurant de voir que des petits labels sortent encore des 45 tours extrémistes qui sont comme autant de messages cosmiques jetés dans la constellation du Consume or Die. Incidents, donc, dont la pochette est ornée d’un ravissant chat siamois qui miaule pour qu’on lui change la litière, est une très belle tranche de drone psychédélique qui scintille dans le noir, comme si une cornemuse hydrocéphale branchée sur secteur te léchait les pieds dans ton sommeil. Pour toute réclamation, adresse-toi au SAV Vice ou envoie une lettre d’injures à American Apparel.

Eva Revox | VICE

BLACK TO COMM "Fractal Hair Geometry" LP

Wie eine Offenbarung, ein finales Ausatmen macht es sich an, jetzt, zu dieser Sekunde, in diese Musik einzusteigen. Heilige Drones, im Kern aus durch Effektgeräte gejagten Analogorgelschwällen generiert, einmal dunkel, einmal Melancholie evozierend, euphorisch ein anderer, einer gar mit einem nackten 4-to-the-floor-Beat beglückt, alle einzigartig funkelnd, lebend, schillernd. Dekorder-Cheffe Marc Richter hat mit einer Handvoll Mitstreiter, unter anderem Ulf Schütte von Aosuke, deren „Monotone Spirits“ als das Nachhaltigste der Audiolith-Releases betrachtet werden darf (neben Miki Mikrons großem Funkelhomepopwurf „Irgendwo nur nicht hier“ natürlich), ein kleines Drone-Meisterwerk abgeliefert - denn das ist die mit Abstand spannendste und unprätentiöseste Musik, die ich diesen Sommer gehört habe. Sie schallt durch mein offenes Fenster und weht in die Straßen, hallt von den Hauswänden wider, vermehrt sich bis ins Unendliche, so hoffe ich. Sie pluckert und knarzt, sie hallt und heult, kreischt und gräbt, Spannungsbögen in Permanenz umgewandelt, frei von aller Verkopfung, Ideologisierung, Anbiederung. Selten hat die Begrifflichkeit des freien Flusses der Klänge mehr Sinn gemacht als hier, nie soll die Musik mehr sein, als was sie ist, Stimmungs- und Spannungstransmitter, da die Kontrolle über die Zeit erlangt, gewolltgeborene Momentaufnahmen vieler Sekunden, die, in-, auf- und übereinandergeschoben, eine Linearität entwickeln, die geradewegs zur Augenhöhe mit Kollegen im Geiste wie Spacemen3, Sunno))) oder Troum führt, um mal möglichst abstrustreffende, aber indieaffine Vergleiche vor das innere Assoziationsauge des Lesers zu zerren, um Interesse durch Verknüpfung zu erwecken, nur legitim in harten Zeiten wie diesen, in denen man vor lauter Säuen nicht mehr so einfach mitschneidet, wo eigentlich die Perlen sind. Hier ist eine! Und was für eine. Über die Geister, die dahinter stecken, demnächst mehr aus diesem Theater, nur Geduld.


Farfisa- und Casioorgel, von Dekorder-Chef Marc Richter durch analoge wie digitale Effektgeräte geschleust, machen, weil dies in hohem Tempo geschieht, einen hypernervösen Sound. Scheinbar ewig sich im Kreis drehend, machen diese Drones doch den Kopf frei, da diese abenteurlichen Überlagerungen irgendwie nach wildgewordenem Free-Jazz go Animal Collective klingen. Dass je nach Track da noch Electronics, Violine, Piano und Trompete dabei sind, ist zunächst aufgrund der Layerschichtungen nicht zu dechiffrieren. Was aber egal ist, denn es geht um den wuchtig-voluminösen Sound. Und dieser wird erzielt, sogar in "Leigh Bowery" mit einem steady 4/4-Bassdrum-Beat, indem dem exzentrischen Club-Grenzgänger Tribut gezollt wird. Gut dazu passend: Oliver Ross' schrill neonfarbenes Collage-Artwork fürs CD-Cover!

Alfred Pranzl | SKUG

Black to Comm's debut Rückwarts Backwards was a surprising and exquisitely bizarre highlight of 2006, a crazy melange of crazy sounds multi-layered in to a playfully odd and highly original, skewed droney vision. BtC's wayward audio perceptions are ostensibly the solo work of Dekorder label boss Marc Richter and here, encased in this hyper-neon collage adorned thick cardboard case is the second (well second and a half counting a vinyl only release last year) transmission from the Black Forest.

Given that the lot of the music journalist is to absorb a quite preposterous amount of sound, even for those of us with more peculiar leanings it's actually very rare to hear something that is genuinely strange. Fractal Hair Geometry could be subtitled Abandon Reality All Ye Who Enter Here - it moves the sound in paradoxical directions, at one moment entirely out-there, the next exuding a certain maturity.

One of the primary factors for the originality of the project is the sound sources themselves. Casio and Farfisa organs, electronics and voice are Richter's playthings and various associates back him up with violin, piano and trumpet. On paper this might seem like no big deal, but once it rolls you are plunged to a world where every sound has been through several mirrored labyrinths. These are drone pieces - intersecting plateaus of gaudy and baroque dada noise but now with a slightly less jagged flow- BtC running on a smoother surface.

So, 'Orange Record' seems to consist of layer upon layer of hysterical voices sped up into lunatic emission while a Farfisa organ speeds along at a ludicrous pace. 'Play Eggchess 3' builds upon a gothic organ, some kind of hellish gospel providing the foundation for burbling squeaky electronics, short blasts of static. 'Leigh Bowery' (whose gaudy grotesquery is a perfect parallel to the Black to Comm sound) even chucks in a 4/4 beat but this seems to be queasily emanating from the earth's core. Instead of a siren from the dancefloor it throws the listener into delightful abject confusion. '666909' sounds like the transmission that Philip K Dick leaves Horselover Fat waiting for in front of his TV at the end of Valis.

Everything that ends up in the mix sounds insane, throws you off course, twists perception into unrecognisable shapes and leaves you feeling just a little crazy. So then: strange geometries culminating in bouts of insanity? Black to Comm is the H.P. Lovecraft of dronedelia.


Marc Richter ist nicht nur wegen seines Labels Dekorder bekannt, sondern auch durch sein Schaffen mit Black To Comm, seinem experimentell-elektronischen Musikprojekt, dessen dritter Longplayer "Fractal Hair Geometry" tief im Drone verwurzelt ist. Doch von Spielereien kann Richter nicht lassen, weswegen er unter anderem diverse Gastmusiker für etwa Trompete, Geige und Klavier zu Hilfe holte. Letztendlich klingt dieses Album sehr psychedelisch-hippiesk und dürfte weder für reine Ambient- noch pure Drone-Fetischisten eine große Freude sein - dafür aber auf liebhaber verwoben-verworrener Geistesauswüchse eine magische Anziehungskraft ausüben. Die acht Tracks von "Fractal Hair Geometry" haben untereinander außer der Grundcharakteristik wenig gemeinsam: mal verbogen, mal verspielt, mal träumerisch, mal düster lässt Richter seiner Freude an analog-digitaler Verwebung freien Lauf. Höchst interessant und tieft merkwürdig. (9)

Thomas Sonder | ORKUS

Neben seinen Aktivitäten als Betreiber von Dekorder, die seinerzeit mit einer Reihe von tollen 3"CD's starteten, ist Marc Richter selber als Black To Comm musikalisch unterwegs. Auf "Fractal Hair Geometry" legt er zum Teil Dutzende von Spuren übereinander, um vielschichtige Drones zu generieren, die sich im steten Fluss befinden. Als Ausgangsmaterial dienen oftmals Orgelsounds, die für ein hohes Maß an Harmonien auf den Aufnahmen sorgen. Flankiert werden sie von durchgängig präsenten nervösen Klängen schwer identifizierbarer Herkunft. Eine nicht ganz abwegige Nähe zu den britischen Kollegen von Nurse With Wound mag man deshalb durchaus ins Gespräch bringen, auch wenn das Ergebnis ganz anders und vor allem eigenständig tönt.

Sascha Bertoncin | SONIC SEDUCER

Hier wird schon optisch massivst übereinandergelagert, beim Audio dann haut's dich endgültig aus den Socken: sehr schöne und reichhaltige Multilayer-Drone-Texturen von Dekorder-Labelmacher Marc Richter, der diverse Gäste und Obskuritäten in die 7 wahnwitzigen Tracks geschmuggelt hat. Hört sie raus!

Honker | TERZ

For this CD, Marc Richter aka Black To Comm - who is also the label's boss - utilized Casio and Farfisa organs, a huge amount of electronics and treatments and voice to concoct what the press release keeps describing as a "drone album". The only way in which one can refer to that term is that all the pieces are harmonically immovable, based as they are on fixed "tonal" centres; yet there's much more to find in Fractal Hair Geometry, an easy-to-digest outing realized via a systematic process of layering of semi-static tones, altered vocal emissions and - in "Leigh Bowery" - a 4/4 pseudo-disco beat.

As opposed to certain arrogant-sounding projects in which what shines is exclusively the composer's sense of self, this record - which, let me be extremely clear, doesn't belong on my hypothetical desert island anyway - is lively, funny and enjoyable. The tracks are crafted with genuine good intentions, a naïveté which renders them akin to the collections of toys of those children who don't like going out to play with friends, preferring instead to remain secluded in their room building strange structures inhabited by teddy bears and rubber dogs. Millions of microscopic sonic events succeeding at breakneck speed while a (preferably detuned) organ symbolizes the termination of any pretence of compositional wizardry. This is music that exists merely for the duration of this selection, but in that time span it works quite alright - which is already a success.


À la fois planant et foisonnant, bourré d'effets et de détails analogiques et digitaux (voire instrumentaux puisque des musiciens comme le trompettiste Guido Moëbius et la pianiste Joanna Karanka figurent comme guests au projet), Black To Comm est le projet de Marc Richter, le patron du label Dekorder. Comme on n'est jamais aussi bien servi que par soi-même, c'est donc logiquement sur son support de prédilection que paraît ce Fractal Hair Geometry, exercice psychédéliquement incorrect d'électronica vintage croisée de drones hypnotiques, avec en sus cette utilisation manifeste de vocalises manipulées, de jeux de micros filtrés, évoquant en quelque sorte un Fuck Buttons qui aurait décidé de travailler ses points d'orgue après quelques séances d'écoute de Lamonte Young. Souvent instable et électrique avec sa masse grouillante en suspension, la musique de Black To Comm peut d'ailleurs comme celle des jeunes anglais trouver quelques ouvertures techno frelatées (comme sur la quatrième piste). Une machinerie pour le moins attrayante donc.

Laurent Catala | OCTOPUS

Am Anfang steht die Klaustrophobie. Ein Zittern, das näher kommt, mit Amplituden, die immer wieder die dünne Hautoberfläche berühren. Der Klang stürzt und umwindet. So fühlt sich wohl ein Tsunami an, oder eine Anakonda am Hals. Dekorder-Chef Marc Richter hat sich seine alte Farfisa-Orgel Compact Deluxe und das Casio SK-5 vor die Effektgeräte gespannt und verdichtet deren separierten Ausgang im reibungsfreien Raum. Dann tippt er den Klang an und lässt ihn als Perpetuum Mobile schwingen. Für alle Ewigkeit. Die Addition von bis zu fünfzig weiteren Schwingungselementen führt letztlich zu einer Kaskade positiver Feedbackschleifen, die sich gegenseitig in Rage versetzen. Das Prinzip des Layering von Nanoloops, das die Dronemusik hervorbringt, differenziert der Hamburger als Black To Comm zu vielfältigen Emotionsfacetten aus. Begleitet wird er auf dieser Entdeckungsreise von Jonna Karanka (alias Kuupuu), Guido Möbius sowie Renate Nikolaus und Ulf Schütte (Datashock).

Bei Black To Comm droht nicht nur der Weltuntergang, auch wenn alles mit der Klaustrophobie beginnt(»Negative Volumes«). Bei »Play Eggchess 3« fühlt es sich an wie eine ganze Armada luftig wirbelnder Ahornsamen im Sonnengewitter. Oder man sitzt in einem lebhaften Käfig voller quietschgelber Kanarienvögel (»Orange Record«) - ganz so wie Oliver Ross farbenfrohe Neoncollage, in der das Album »Fractal Hair Geometry« steckt. Mit »Leigh Bowery«, einer Hommage an den gleichnamigen, wohl schrillsten Künstler aus den 1980er Jahren, lässt Marc Richter sogar die Staubflocken auf der Club-PA erzittern. Das ist nach wie vor nichts für Epileptiker, doch sicherlich ein Lichtblick für alle, die noch Angst vor Drones haben, oder mittlerweile in der überfüllten Gasse des Klangschlamms erstickt sind. Bei Black To Comm gibt es Luft und manches Mal sogar Melodien.

Jens Pacholsky | GOON

Eine mögliche Flucht aus der häufig arg übertriebenen Ernsthaftigkeit der Drone Music illustriert »Fractal Hair Geometry« von Black To Comm, erschienen bei Dekorder. Im Grunde genommen gibt schon die knallbunt zusammengeschusterte Covercollage einigen Aufschluss über die unangenehmen Klänge, die sich im Inneren tummeln: Krabben, Plastiktüten, ein ergrautes Gehirn, Müll, Schokoriegel, Bierdosen, ein Wischmop und so weiter; dazu andererseits im Opener »Negative Volumes« übereinandergeschichtete Soundfetzen, die eine Stimmung verbreiten wie eine Komposition aus hundert knurrenden Mägen. Auf eine subtile Weise ist diese Musik einigermaßen ätzend, und eben dieser Charakter setzt sich auf dem vorliegenden Longplayer auch dann fort, wenn die Stücke oberflächlich ein wenig heller und lebhafter klingen. Somit gelingt Black To Comm eine recht eigensinnige Musik, die in ihren besten Momenten klanglich so sehr verwirrt, dass man gar nicht anders kann, als weiter und weiter zuzuhören. Die Basis einiger Tracks ist dabei offenbar das überaus schlichte Mittel der Beschleunigung, das dieser eigentlich nicht gerade ausgewiesen rhythmischen Musik etwas Hektisches, Pulsierendes verleiht. Im fünften Stück schließlich, dem »M.B. Memorial Building«, gesellt sich tatsächlich eine stampfende Bassdrum dazu, und prompt wirkt der Sound schon weniger zerfahren und damit auch weniger effektiv.

Kai Ginkel | SPEX

There is something disturbing and angst ridden in this album by Marc Richter. It includes electronic, effects-laden sounds, an old Farfisa Compact Deluxe and Casio SK-5 and the use of analogue & digital effects pedals. Guests include Jonna Karanka (aka Kuupuu) on piano, Guido Möbius on trumpet and current Black To Comm (live) band members Renate Nikolaus on violin and Ulf Schütte (of Datashock, Aosuke, etc.) adding electronic sounds. However, it is not the sounds which disturb, more the way they tightly weave around each other, almost with an urge to strangulate. Each track has a unique flavour which remains insistent through its drones from beginning to end. "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" comes to mind with the first track. The vocals are like a bunch of drunks in slow motion, yet it is a little ghostly - a 'man in a white sheet' type of ghostly. As the music continues, I find myself intensely irritated. The first 10-30 seconds of each track contains a promise, but there is something which shakes the temper. The shudder is subtle but the relentlessness of it creates an earthquake. Maybe the 50 recording layers used have a 'sound weight' which presses on the soul. Whatever it is, the effect is quite astounding, and not one I want to have often.


Black to Comm is mostly Marc Richter, the German one-man operation who also happens to run Dekorder Records. On Fractal Hair Geometry (DEKORDER 027), he delivers seven rich tracks of twisted, shape-shifting and overloaded drone noise with the help of Renate Nikolaus, Ulf Schütte, Jonnna Karanka and Guido Mobiüs. I've been slow to see the appeal of Black To Comm's work, but moments of this new one are starting to make sense to me. There is certainly a lot to listen to, by which I mean every studio concoction has been well-baked in the oven and a rich fruit-cake of an album results. One of the surrealist track titles pays homage to Leigh Bowery, of all people. Gorgeous gatefold sleeve; a psychedelic painting-and-collage mind-meld from the hands of Oliver Ross.


Labelmacher Marc Richter aka BLACK TO COMM mischt in ‚Negative Volumes', dem Auftakt von Fractal Hair Geometry (Dekorder 027) noch Klänge von Geige, Piano und Trompete, bestimmt aber schon den Ton durch seine Casio & Farfisa Organs, Electronics und geisterhafte Vokalisation. Ein großes Dröhnen hebt an, das, bei allem Gebrumm am Grunde, vielschichtig - manchmal aus über 50 Spuren getürmt - und in sich beweglich mäandert, bebt, zuckt und schwärmt. Pedaleffekte geben den Drones verschiedene, immer psychedelische Muster, die knallige Coverkunst von Oliver Ross stößt biophantastisch, kosmophrenetisch und mikroidiotisch in die gleiche Richtung. ‚Orange Record' zwitschert und pulsiert, ‚Play Eggchess 3' steigert und intensiviert das Brainstorming mit polymorphem Impulsbeschuss, während ‚Leigh Bowery', eine Hommage an den schrillen Club-Paradiesvogel und Minty-Sänger, der 1994 an AIDS gestorben ist, auch ein 4/4-Bum-Bum-Bum nicht scheut. ‚M.B. Memorial Building' ‚beschleunigt' (durch eine Tonanhebung) noch einmal den Dauergrunddrone und webt dazu fiebriges Geigenriffing und silbriges Geflicker, in ‚666909' zuckt die Stimme in einem sprudelnden Sud durch sämtliche Vokale und abschließend sirrt ‚Air Salon' emsiger und haarspalterischer, als mir lieb ist.

Rigobert Dittmann | BAD ALCHEMY

Black To Comm is the solo project of Marc Richter, the label boss of Dekorder. He calls this his 'drone' project in which he plays casio, farfisa organ, electronics and voice and gets help from various people playing violin, electronics, piano and trumpet. All of his sounds are fed through analogue and digital effects pedals and then put together on the computer, 'sometimes consisting of more than fifty recording layers'. The first track with its vocal like chants let me down a bit, but the rest of the album is quite nice. Black To Comm understands drone not as 'one chord down, delay pedal full open', but it can he nervous and hectic sounds pieced together on the computer, with sounds and even melodies dropping in and out of the mix. He does that in more or less in all seven of the pieces on this album and manages to hold enough variety in the material, yet keeping control of his working method. This kind of drone music is something that one doesn't hear every day and goes beyond the
more traditional types of drone music. That's something I like very much and this new CD by Black To Comm is great. A highly refined and original work.

Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY

Het Duitse Dekorder speelt zich al een tijdje in de kijker als platform voor experimentele muziek en labelbaas Marc Richter kan natuurlijk niet achterblijven. Eerder verschenen er van zijn soloproject Black to Comm al enkele releases maar met Fractal Hair Geometry lijkt Richter de succesformule definitief op het spoor te zijn.

Op dit album gaat Black to Comm op spraakmakende manier met drones om. Richter neemt casio en farfisa keyboards, elektronica en een vervormd stemgeluid voor zijn rekening terwijl enkele gasten sporadisch trompet, piano, viool en meer elektronica toevoegen. Daarbij zijn de originele geluiden uiteraard steeds onderhevig aan de obligate subtiele vervormingen.

De diversiteit van Fractal Hair Geometry heeft waarschijnlijk te maken met het feit dat het album tot stand kwam in Richters thuishaven Hamburg, het Zwarte Woud en de Alpen. Nu eens ontaardt de geluidsbrij in lichte vocale waanzin en op andere momenten slaat het evenwicht door naar oosters aandoende melodieën of andere psychedelische experimenten.

Toch is er een rode draad die de spanningsboog verzekert. Black to Comm serveert dit alles echter met een flinke scheut elektronische manie in de geest van Black Dice, een referentie die bijzonder in de verf gezet wordt op 'Leigh Bowery', waar men met percussie aan de slag gaat. Dit concept maakt van Fractal Hair Geometry een bijzonder smakelijk plaatje.

Hans van der Linden | KINDA MUZIK

Marc Richter, the owner of Hamburg's Dekorder label, records as Black To Comm, a name that references The MC5, even though you'd find it difficult to make a musical analogy between his and their work. Perhaps there's a residue of outlaw spirit in Richter's queasy compositions, though you feel he's less interested in breaking the rules than in circumventing them altogether. With a sound built on Krautrock-style keyboard oscillations, fluttering electronics and processed vocal moans, his songs play out as textural pieces with a closed-in, near claustrophobic feel. They are like a series of tableaux, hovering in a stasis where the more layers Richter adds on, the less forward motion there appears to be. Extra marks are awarded for naming a track "Leigh Bowery" and matching it up with the aural equivalent of quivering meat.

Tom Ridge | THE WIRE

Veel commerciële en andere toegevingen moet men van Marc Richter niet verwachten. De Duitser levert met 'Fractal Hair Geometry' een nieuwe parel af. Ruw als schuurpapier en opnieuw, een woord dat we enkel bij platen als deze uit de kast halen, een stevige kuitenbijter. Waar Richter in het verleden vooral werkte met tapes en oude platenspelers betrekt hij voor zijn laatste platen meer en meer ook andere instrumenten en muzikanten. Zo horen we multi-instrumentalist Guido Möbius trompet spelen op het openingsnummer en schoven ook Jonna Karanka, Ulf Schütte en Renate Nikolaus bij. 'Fractal Hair Geometry' is bij momenten moeilijk verteerbaar. Richter stapelt de dikke geluidenslagen boven elkaar op met vaak een bezwerend resultaat als uitkomst (het ultieme 'M.B. Memorial Building') en laat geen seconde stilte toe. Net die dichte geluidscollega's zorgen voor een heel intense en vaak ook mystieke sfeer. Hoe overvol nummers als 'Orange Record' (Philip Glass op 78 toeren), 'Leigh Bowery' (getroebleerde posttechno voor doorwinterde fans van Alva Noto) of de sterk naar Alan Silva geurende 'Play Eggchess 3' ook zijn, ze bewijzen vooral en opnieuw het superieure talent van Marc Richter.

Peter Dechamps | GONZO CIRCUS

Was für unfassbar tolle Drones! Alles beginnt mit eingebildetem Geheul. Dann halluzinierst Du Möwen und mehr Vogelgetier herbei, und die Orgeln flimmern und fauchen und tirilieren und dröhnen in so bunter Vielfalt, dass Du im Angesicht der unendlichen Wirklichkeit der Musik betäubt auf die Knie gehst. (9)

Whie Ball Player | VICE

A brand new record from this weirdo German drone combo (or maybe it's a one man band), and it's a doozy. We have been pretty into everything we've heard from BTC, so we were pretty excited to get out hands on this new one.
In the past, we, and other folks have compares Black To Comm to groups like Oval, Pimmon, Fennesz, Earth and Merzbow, but the truth is in fact much stranger, and much more difficult to describe. This is definitely drone music, but it's so mysterious sounding, not all low end rumbles or shimmering high end skree, instead, it's a seemingly haphazard assemblage of sounds and musical fragments, looped and processed and chopped up, then woven into looooong undulating dronescapes, that churn and shimmer and buzz and whir, but also twist themselves into strange shapes, offering up incidental melodic overtones and subtle rhythms. And the strange thing is the parts really don't matter so much, in that they are eventually transformed into something entirely new. It reminds us of an exhibit at the museum, where a voice would repeat a single word or phrase over and over, and you would try to pick out the word, but it was practically impossible, the looped speech immediately turned into something sonically mysterious and impenetrable. Fractal Hair Geometry is similar in that the source sounds are super varied, but within minutes, even seconds, the source becomes meaningless, instead it is simple an element in a swooning and swaying and woozily hypnotic whole. Chanted vocals, whirring organs, mysterious shimmers, squiggly melodies, buzzing Theremins, electronic glitches, analog synths, wheezing harmoniums, and those are just guesses, cuz just like that museum exhibit, it's difficult to tell what the source sounds are. We also didn't try that hard. It's like trying to peek under the table to see how a magician does a trick. We don't want to know. It's more fun to get lost in these mysterious sounds. One track even introduces a muted techno throb, and for a brief second it sounds like the weirdest record Kompakt never released. It's really hard to describe this stuff, which is probably why we like it so much, check out the sound samples, and hear for yourself!


Persistence usually pays off after a while, that is, if you genuinely have got something to offer. Otherwise it is futile. Seeing Black To Comm announce records to be released all around the planet in more and more productive fashion makes me feel good, and not just because we have praised Black To Comm aka Mark Richter’s drones from the first EP he released on his own label Dekorder. And very much like his music in single tracks seems stable and compact but offers fascinating dynamics and movements at closer inspection, his music seen in bigger increments such as records / albums shows an analogous overall stability but myriads of tiny movements underneath the surface.

Black To Comm’s signature has always been an unique density and compactness in sound. His drones stand in the room and in the listener’s head like a big blob of sounds, that are endlessly changing and rearranging themselves, but seem to keep the external effects the same. Compare that to the surface of the sun, for lack of something better, which shows an incredible variety of shades, eruptions, whirls, cascades and eruptions, yet seen from afar it is nothing but one big compact ball of burning matter. This means in effect that the drones on “fractal hair geometry”, as on the other releases by Black To Comm, find their place as ambience producers as well as they do offer opportunities to immerse yourself in the sounds and (attention: overused cliché!) discover all kinds of exotic landscapes, be the real or in your mind. Don’t worry when the drone-scapes seem to get heavy or too overpowering, because at times they do start to work out a heavy traction, they are always elegantly set and with time will release the listener from its heaviest grips.

The basis of the drones presented on “fractal hair geometry” are old and vintage organs from reasonably old to quite old to unbelievably old. How they are processed and distorted and realigned, how Richter diligently puts layer above layer above layer, sometimes up to fifty times, makes me think of old professionists from the renaissance or medieval times. Those carpenters or clothes makers who in years of work put together a fascinating piece of art in minute work, like a table or desk made from the tiniest parts of wood, with inlays so small and delicate it seems as if they would fly away if they could. Those pieces of handicraft that nowadays, a few hundred years after their completion, still stand out as remarkable achievements.

The most outstanding and most easily accessible progression or musical advancement on this album may be the straight 4/4 rhythm on “Leigh Bowery” a tribute to the late artist, But even this, politically as well as musically straightly denominated and connotaded rhythmical expression is bent into Black To Comm’s musical territory, making the pounding beat magically seem to disappear – an effect that is made by the listener’s ears and their tendency to focus in some things and level out others – and then realise they are still here. Like a sign on a wall you walk by everyday that you start to forget that it is there until the time it is either gone or somebody else or some instant makes you wonder about it again.

By the way, “fractal hair geometry” refers to the chaotic ways your hair tends to be stuck in when it is early morning and you have had a rough night. Listening to the record on full volume over good amplifiers might straighten them out sooner than you think. Which is our cosmetics autumnal cosmetics tip. I mean, if people who put all kinds of paint on to the face of people are allowed to call themselves artists (as in the miscreant word-creation “make up artist”), then I may call myself a cosmetics expert after having kicked somebody face down in the mud, the blood and the beer.

Georg Gartlgruber | CRACKED

Dekorder label boss Marc Richter keeps churning out those retro-krautrock drone monsters we started to get used to a couple of records ago. While the first Black to Comm CD on Dekorder was more on the experimental electronica side, any record since then has been moving more and more into straight drone territory. On "Fractal Hair Geometry“, Richter leaves the exploration of subtle changes in one-tone-drones again and adds some more aspects to it.

The CD begins with a big disappointment. "Negative Volumes“ has a great line-up with Renate Nikolaus, Jonna Karanka (Kuupuu) and Guido Möbius supporting Richter, but the wobbly drone coming out of the speakers simply isn’t pleasant to listen to. Luckily enough it gets better after that. Already the second track entitled "Orange Record“ brings the CD in the right direction. It’s equally hyperactive as the first one, but a lot more positive in look and feel. There are several continuous notes going through and a lot of glitching and what sounds like a thousand high pitched voices talking gibberish over it. Then comes "Play Eggchess 3“ which is a very solid drone track with a lot of variation and quite a massive feel to it (like e.g. Burning Star Core). The same goes for track no. 5 entitled "M.B. Memorial Building“ and track no. 7 entitled "Air Salon“. Richter still uses one continuous drone going through the entire track on those, but he adds enough "side effects“ to keep it interesting (apart maybe from the last tune which is a bit dull).

Tracks 4 and 6 differ a bit in that they’re more electronic sounding and quite similar to the loop-based techno produced by e.g. Neil Campbell (under his Astral Social Club moniker). While no. 4 "Leigh Bowery“ features a simple four to the floor beat, no. 6 "666909“ is beatless, but still has the aesthetics of a techno tune. All in all, "Fractal Heir Geometry“ further develops the droning territory that Richter has decided to explore and also further refines his ideas. But it seems that there’s still some room for improvement to arrive at that genre-defining album that Richter is certainly capable of making.

Stephan Bauer | FOXY DIGITALIS


The city of Hamburg is often overlooked abroad musically because everyone is looking at Berlin. Nonetheless, in terms of experimental music it might even have surpassed Berlin in quantity and quality. A small but productive scene has developed over the last few years, of which both the two artists on this new LP are an important part.

For those not in the know, Black to Comm is the recording name for Dekorder label owner Marc Richter. On his side of the split LP, he follows the path laid out by his recent double LP “Wir können leider nicht etwas mehr zu tun”. Its first track entitled “Blizzard Angels of the Golden Stratosphere” needs to be listened to at maximum volume. A one note organ tone and distorted electric guitar build up a massive wall of sound that is plain amazing to listen to. The title of the track seems to nod at some of Tangerine Dream´s track titles, and indeed “Blizzard Angels” is not too far away from TD´s 1971 classic “Fly and Collision of Comas Sola”. The second track on the Black to Comm side is less powerful and features what sounds like alien farts over distant stringed sounds.

Aosuke on the other side is the duo of Ulf Schütte on guitar and electronics and Tobert Knopp on electronics and tapes. After several releases on Schütte´s Tape Tektoniks outlet and a CD on the Audiolith label, these three tracks are a fine example of their ability to add a new twist to the already trodded path of echoed guitar/effects and electronics releases. Not that their sounds are revolutionary new, but they´re definitely very well made and convince through their subtle composition and density.

Stephan Bauer | FOXY DIGITALIS

More on the same label comes from label head Marc Richter under his musical alter ego, Black To Comm. His slowly unfolding, almost static organ/electronics/effects feast is quiet by nature but totally blows my mind when turning it up loud. This is an ambient noise mantra and circular groove that keeps repeating itself for the entire first side and the overall effect is both cavernous and mesmerizing. Black To Comm shares space on this LP with Hamburg duo, Aosuke. This is a new name to me but if these three tracks are any indicator of where they’re usually at I am sure we’ll here a whole lot more from these guys further down the line. Tobert Knopp and Ulf Schütte throw in a bunch of influences into these ambient proceedings, ranging from the quieter side of Krautrock, pulsing synth traumas, meandering guitar explorations and spaced-out drones. The final result is surprisingly melodic and quite meditative.

Mats Gustafsson | THE BROKEN FACE

Avant rock with all its highly interesting brothers and sisters, from that weird new kind of folk music to droning ambient sounds to pure noise freakouts, has – in my opinion – taken the run over from jazz. I mean, that all the exciteness and wildness of jazz that was there until the late Sixties, probably the early Seventies (until Miles Davis recorded “On The Corner” probably), the never ending will to experiment and try out all kinds of new ways and things and music, has gotten lost in jazz and is now taken up by avant rock. And Avant Rock meaning all kinds of music played by musicians not computers, that is not made to dance to, that has no evident structure or at least tries to expand the current definition of what is music and what is not music. Because, in contrast to pure noise (aka Merzbow and such) these bands still see themselves inside the confines of music. They don’t want to form an alternative or opposition, they want to be musicians, but explore the fringes. That is also what jazz musicians tried to do back then, before they became all sucked up in success and lifestyle and the cosy niche they have found in the establishment.

Why do I get to these thoughts listening to the Black To Comm / Aosuke-split on Dekorder? Because this record as well as the other current Dekorder release, an album by Scandinavian drone legend Uton, made me think, no feel that there is a lot of energy and wonders, a lot of discoveries and mysteries to be solved in all kinds of avant rock. These soundscapes and experiments are open to exploration and to the most individual interpretation, but most of all they are blistering with life and energy. They are much more than their parts, which means you cannot dissect them piece by piece to get behind their magic, because they stand on their own in that special texture that they are offered in. That is the kind of magic I am looking for in music, the kind of magic that keeps me interested and thanks to labels like Dekorder I am able to get a dose of this magic energy every now and then.

Now to the music: After a long droning intro an almost random array of bass tones and other noises leads into what is the most organic, the most human release by Black To Comm to date. The first track nevertheless is still a long, multifaceted drone, but after a while that bass tone starts to form a beat and a higher keyboard sound sings a long, one-note melody to it. The other track by Black to Comm starts with the sounds of nightly creatures and a manipulated (oh, the echoes!) voice sample and builds into an exciting piece of music, somewhere between Soft Machine and Meredith Monk. If you ever believe that. The two tracks sit next to each other like day and night, the first one, titled “blizzard angels of the golden stratosphere” (that is like warm milk on the tongue) being quite warm and open and full of sunlight, and the other one dark, titled “Stereo lung flute” (that one leaves a somewhat nasty aftertaste) brooding and dangerous. Marc Richter aka Black To Comm is also the boss of Dekorder and these two tracks are a nice topping to his last double album epic “wir können leider nicht etwas mehr zu tun…”. The enigmatic atmosphere remains, but that special organic feeling, as mentioned, is more to the foreground.

Aosuke is not another Scandinavian weirdo duo working with small, instant made loops that are played live, recorded, manipulated and treated and then re-recorded without overdubs, that Richter met on his latest holiday in Finland or Norway, because Aosuke are from Hamburg as well. Maybe he met them in Scandinavia were both were checking out the newest tape releases by Kuupuu or trying to catch up with the Animal Collectives’ lost early bootleg recordings, who knows. They all seem to own a sense for globetrotting, if possible by all means. Tobert Knopp und Ulf Schütte cloak themselves in their own sense of humor and a musical sensibility that forfeits structure for a more trancendental approach. Croaking, creeking and crashing sounds over re-repeated lines, ever changing like the weather, with surprises here and there and more consistency than you might expect from this akward description. With Aosuke it becomes clear why almost all reviews in this area of music contain the words “freak” or “weird” or inflections thereof over and over again.

Georg Gartlgruber | CRACKED

Although the music of label owner Marc Richter's solo project Black to Comm and Aosuke, a duo of Torben Knopp and Ulf Schütte (the latter also operates the label Tape Tektoniks), is, in a way, more refined than that of Uton and Kuupuu, they all share similar aesthetic sensibilities and a love for a warm, emotionally charged sound.
Black to Comm's side of the split LP continues in this vein, with another elegant one-tone organ drone, which starts out soft and rippling and then rapidly gains momentum a few minutes into the piece. The second track stands out here, as it is created with voice and effects only and recalls similar pieces by Kuupuu, but is still less raw than the latter and adds a new and less heavy shade to Black to Comm's aesthetic. Aosuke combine the melancholic shimmer of slightly fuzzy guitars and gently pulsating delay patterns with processed vocal snippets and occasional electronic additions. Their tracks surprise with reduced, yet highly beautiful melodies woven into a fabric of warm drones and create a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere. This split LP is Aosuke's second release after last year's "Monotone Spirits" album (unfortunately unheard by me yet) and they are definitely worth keeping an eye on, as their blend of drone and melody is among the best I've come across recently, avoiding the arbitrariness of much predominantly digital drone music, while at the same time not opting for the charm of an ostentatious lo-fi sound.

Magnus Schaefer | VITAL WEEKLY

BLACK TO COMM "Wir können leider nicht..." 2LP

Those of you drone freeks who are getting bored with sorting through seemingly endless stacks of similarly under-packaged CDs and CD-Rs may wish to search out the sumptuous gatefold double-vinyl LP WIR KÖNNEN LEIDER NICHT ETWAS MEHR ZU TUN (‘We Can’t Do These Songs In Anymore Than We Already Have’) by Northern Germany’s mournful drone outfit Black To Comm. For, despite taking their name from the MC5’s most obstinately and arduously uncommercial freakout track, Black To Comm’s organ/harmonium/tape-looped pieces inhabit a vigorous deep drone space somewhat in the vein of Klaus Schultze at his minimal, minor-chord best. Probably, this is because each Black To Comm track comes replete with its own side order of cranky and extraneous noise, much like the inevitable overly-loud motor hum that accompanies every Mellotron 400, or the wandering pitch of the early VCS3 synthesizers that gives such personality to recordings. I’ve also been listening to Black To Comm’s wonderful split 12” LP with duo Aosuke, which was released on Dekorder Records back in May. Search out Black To Comm via www.dekorder.com or trawl their own excellent website at www.blacktocomm.org.


Hinter Black To Comm verbirgt sich Marc Richter, Betreiber des hervorragenden Hamburger Dekorder-Labels. Sein Debüt bestand vorwiegend aus Loops, gewonnen aus Fremdmaterial, alten Schellack-Platten, nun sind die Drones auf "richtigen" Instrumenten erzeugt worden, darunter Orgel, Harmonium und Gitarre. Und diese Drones haben sich gewaschen!
Sosehr, dass selbst La Monte Young noch ein ehrfurchtsvolles Zittern durchdringen müsste, würde er dies hören. Das hier ist keine esoterische Loop-Einschläferei, sondern hier tut sich was, wird ständig Lava ausgestoßen. Hitze erzeugt. Steigerung, Intensivierung heißt das simple, aber effektvolle Prinzip. Das basiert alles ganz deutlich auf alten Minimal-Prinzipien, doch die werden noch einmal verschärft durchgespielt, als sei Phillip Glass von Aleister Crowley ins Bein gebissen worden. (Was werder eine Lanze für den Spinner Crowley noch für den Langweiler Glass brechen soll, doch in dieser Kombination werden die Tollwütigen unschlagbar!). Das hier ist zerrend, bisweilen flirrend, so dass der alte Jim O'Rourke-Trick ganz gut tut, auch mal ein bisschen entspannte Country-Klänge zwischenzuschalten. Um es etwas weniger euphorisch, aber dennoch bestimmt auszudrücken: Monatlich erscheinen zig Loop- und Drone-Platten, das Ganze ist schon zu einem richtigen Industriezweig geworden, doch diese hier gehört sicher in die oberste Kategorie der Weniger- bis Nicht-Verzichtbaren.

Martin Büsser | TESTCARD

Black to Comm is the pseudonym of Dekorder boss Marc Richter, and leave it to the label boss to come up with the finest release on an already reliable imprint. Lying somewhere in-between Machinefabriek and Deathprod this is heavy, dense drone in the best possible sense; building, seismic slabs of noise, but the record never loses a sense of restraint and of harmonic balance. This isn't a noise record and, like Machinefabriek, Richter knows how to strike a balance between the emphasis of cacophonous noise and whispering near-silence. For me there aren't enough records like this, and the fact that it's on vinyl (actually it's ONLY on vinyl.) makes it even more attractive, separating the work into four movements, giving the listener some kind of interactivity and connection with the music itself. You know what you've got to do, if you like droning heaviness then you can't go another minute without owning this, even if it has got a rather long German title that I don't really understand. A brilliant record.


“Unfortunately, we cannot do a little more…” says (after a fashion) a popular web-based translation applet if I type "Wir können leider nicht etwas mehr zu tun…" I’m not sure about whether or not Black To Comm’s Marc Richter could have done more, but this album, released as a double-LP set, ranks high among 2007’s best drone records. Richter handles a fair range of instruments -- from harmophon (sounds like a harmonium to me) to computer and found objects -- and does so alone, for the most part. Renate Nikolaus contributes very quiet vocals on one track and guitars on another; the latter piece also features Gregory Büttner on trumpet. Four of the six pieces are stretched-out, blissful textural drones made of reedy organ/harmonium chords and delicate feedback. “Harmophonie III” stands out for its uncannily peaceful harmony. The short “The Male Garden” acts like a postlude to “Pill Drop Geisha”, almost an afterthought surfacing and quickly dissipating at the end of Side 3. The album’s undisputed highlight -- and its less representative track -- is “Happy Brown Lego Star”, the piece with extra guitar and trumpet. It marvelously switches gears (and moods) halfway through, changing from a thick drone to an open, pretty acoustic guitar piece with quiet trumpet calls reminiscent of Supersilent’s Arve Henriksen. This unexpected development also evokes Giuseppe Ielasi’s quieter pastures. Despite being a double LP, "Wir können leider..." clocks in at under an hour, but there is a lot of quality droning in here, more than on Black To Comm’s debut CD for Dekorder.

François Couture | ALL MUSIC GUIDE

Dekorder's one of those labels that doesn't put out much, but when they do (in fact there are 3 things this week alone!) it's always worth checking out. Black To Comm deliver an albums worth of pure drone sounds that take elements of labels like Kranky and more, then strip them down to an even more hypnotic and stark flavour. This is utterly compelling and the tinge of darkness that cuts through is incredibly appealing. Drone fans will want to get their hands on this pretty quickly as vinyl pressings of things like this don't last long. Absolutely superb.


A brand new record from one of our new favorite drone outfits, the strangely named Black To Comm, who do indeed share their monicker with a killer MC5 track and a bad ass magazine, but whose sound is well removed from any sort of garage stomp, instead, these guys occupy some glorious netherworld where the sounds of Fennesz, SUNNO))), Earth, Merzbow and Troum all blend into one epic organic whole.

Utilizing a relatively limited musical palette, organ, tape loops, feedback, vinyl loops, computers, voice as well as the less obvious kitchen gamelan and harmophon, Black To Comm weave epic slow motion doomscapes, as textural and dreamy as they are dense and heavy.

The disc opens with huge organ drones, reminiscent of Niblock or Palestine, rumbling and whirring, massive waves of thick sound, while beneath lurk microscopic squeaks and creaks. The tones and layers subtly shift as does the stereo panning, making the sound intensely immersive and almost dizzying. It eventually builds into an impressive squall, with the addition of swooping and bleeping spacey FX buried beneath the cascading organ tones. And that's just the first track!

The second track begins with a constant foghorn tone, mesmerizing and thickly layered, while far off in the distance tiny sonic events occur, melancholy pianos record crackle, the whole thing transforms into a cacophony off brass-like skree, piled atop warbly snippets of sound, somehow managing to remain dreamy and hypnotic, even at its most chaotic.

The flip side of the first disc begins with a super dense blast of blinding sonic effulgence, so rich and thick and glistening, sparkling with a million fluttering notes all swirling and whirling and beginning to crumble in that gorgeous dying sun sort of way. This intensity eventually gives way to a strange acoustic second half, all serene steel strings and distant kitchen sink clatter.

Side C is all rumbling low end warble, draped thickly over strangely twisted fun-house-mirror melodies and little alien squiggles of sound, the low end pulsing and beating offering up super subtle almost-rhythms.

And finally, the record closer, which takes up ALL of side 4, and epic droning monster, that begins like just another slab of rumble and shimmer, before some serious dissonance is introduced, more brass-like tones that give the sound a very Nitsch like quality. If you can imagine a Pop Ambient Hermann Nitsch you might be close. And c'mon! Pop Ambient and Hermann Nitsch in the same sentence, in the same review, that is all you should need to hear. Way recommended.


With his new album „Wir können leider nicht etwas mehr zu tun...", Hamburg´s Marc Richter turns 90 degrees compared to his last album „Rückwards Backwards". While "Rückwärts" was full of twists and turns within each of its eight tracks, noisy outburts interchanging with quiet parts, "Wir können" is a slow moving texturally dense drone monster. As before, Richter released the album on his own Dekorder imprint, but this time as a vinyl-only limited edition double album. The album looks absolutely gorgeous with its gatefold sleeve and close-up photos on the front and back, and the content follows that good example.

While Richter´s first 10" consisted of damaged computer sounds and "Rückwärts" was put together largely from vinyl loops and field recordings, "Wir können" was mostly played with real instruments, especially a Harmophone and Organ. Most of the six lengthy tracks are based on a continuous low hum and several additional one chord layers on top of it. The album starts with its best track, entitled "Harmophonie III", which sounds like the logical progression of Tangerine Dream´s "Fly and Collision of Comas Sola" from 1971´s "Alpha Centauri" album. Spacey sounds, bells and wordless vocals add to the mighty harmophone drone which rises and falls like a soufflé in the oven. Side B is more monotonous. "The North Tower" begins with a glacial dark drone before turning into a ghostly organ passage, which ends the track. "Happy Brown Lego Star" has a decidedly warmer feel to it. The track is a good example of the strength of the album consisting of three or four layers of sound that practically don´t move. Richter only adjusts very fine parts of it, so that the different parts of the drone come forward, go back in line to make room for other parts, etc. The track ends with a nice guitar and trumpet section where Richter gets help from Gregory Büttner and Renate Nikolaus.

Side C starts with the weakest tune of the LP. "Pill Drop Geisha" has little highs and lows. "The Male Garden" brings the album back to life. It´s a shimmering piece of ambiance that reminds of the best days of ambient Krautrock. The album is concluded with the long piece "Weiss White", which might be a reference to The Velvet Underground´s "White Light/White Heat" or to white noise or might not reference anything at all. Anyhow, "Weiss White" is the most noisy and abrasive tune on the album and quite a mind-expanding affair. The changes in the texture of the track are so subtle that notions such as time become irrelevant. Even though Richter´s approach that he took on "Rückwärts Backwards" was maybe more varying, "Wir können" is an equally fascinating, yet different affair. It´ll be interesting to hear where he will take things from here.

Stephan Bauer | FOXY DIGITALIS

This project's moniker could  appear very peculiar, but not for those who know the saga of anti-establishment and anti-hippie rock 'n roll. It's challenging though, to find other relations to Detroit's proto-punks MC5. This Teutonic one-man-unit is from top to bottom uncooperative on planet riff.

Certain composers refuse to accept that music is divided from the environment in which it is created. We assume that Marc Richter, manager from the small Dekorder label and man behind this vigorous project, could be one of them. It  may be the reason why he's using of field recordings. Inspired and enthused by the Black Forest, somewhere at the periphery of Germany, these field recordings make gratifying delights and derisive strategies, even though we're not sure whether it is digital or organic input we hear. Very few has been left completely unprocessed, we guess.

Fashioned to get fired up and to be stimulated in his creativity, Richter invited Gregory Büttner, whose breathtaking, moving trumpet glitters on Happy Brown Lego Star. Renate Nikolous inserts this attractiveness with acoustic and electric guitars and makes this hymn heading towards gloomy Animal Collective (only link with this band, full stop).

Other songs are faint and sly tone-silhouettes, operating in the dimness and phantom spirit of minimal overtones, slightly moving from dust to dust. Like the unsurpassed orator is perfectly pronouncing and placing his words, Richter is building a sonic universe on the wide scale of instruments from Harmophone and organ to kitchen gamelan and vinyl loops. And unless we think that the first two instruments have done their work supreme, we're still unsure about the sounds' origins.

The music of Richter becomes visible via a nostalgic and maybe slightly naïve path, but it does so seemingly purposed and with a confident stance. It gave us an incentive to wander, a trip to console and a codex to beneficence. The music is stifling, decelerating and suffocating, but in a polite way. Must!


As we all know, the rekkid industry is "in crisis".. sales are slumping on average more than 10% each year, and if you excluded the money generated from sales of mobile phone ringtones (quelle horreur), the picture would probably be bleaker than that. Not that I'm shedding many tears for the so-called "majors", who don't give a monkey's about music as such unless it rakes in enough dough to keep the shareholders happy, but it's not a rosy situation for the kind of small independent labels that readers of these pages know and love. Even in the small world of adventurous new music, the shift towards mp3 format is just as noticeable - and not something to be sniffed at, either: bravo outfits like 7hings.com for their adventurous download release programme - it seems that in a few years we'll all be listening to music on shiny little things about the size of a dachshund's penis, downloading this and that to make our own mix'n'match compilations ("make your own Brötzmann's Greatest Hits mixtape! A-and don't forget to download that Fuck De Boere ringtone, kids!"), stepping in dogshit, falling down open manhole covers and getting run over as we trot gaily along the city streets eyes glued to a screen the size of a packet of smokes trying to watch some hip noise band on YouTube. One day I suppose you'll be able to listen to, watch, send fanmail and even talk directly to your favourite alt.music star all at the same time on an iPhone. Suppose I'm getting too old, but I just don't get much of a kick out of the idea. Not that I've got anything against downloading, especially when the album concerned is way out of print and way out of my price bracket on eBay - you should see all the shit I've got from Church Number Nine recently - but even if I print out the "original album cover", convert the mp3 files to .wav and burn the whole shebang on a brand new CDR, it's not the same thing as a "real" disc, is it now? The folks out there who invest their time and money in running a label for this kind of music are certainly heroes in my book, even if it's a burn-to-order-in-yer-bedroom operation. But going to the trouble of putting out a vinyl LP in 2007, complete with artwork, notes, and all round beautiful design is a real labour of love. And, if you care for the music they're putting out, one that deserves your support.

It's no surprise that Wir können leider nicht etwas mehr zu tun, the latest double LP of Black To Comm is on the Hamburg-based Dekorder label, because BTC is the pet project of Dekorder head honcho Marc Richter, who in addition to providing vocals plays "harmophon, organ, tape loops, microphones, bells, feedback, kitchen gamelan, vinyl loops and computer." He's joined on a couple of tracks by Renate Nikolaus (vocals, guitars) and Gregory Büttner adds a touch of trumpet on "Happy Brown Lego Star". These six spacious tracks - the word "drone" singularly fails to do justice to the wealth of detail Richter creates with his loops, patches, pots and pans - could probably all fit on one CD, but they wouldn't sound half as good. Not that I didn't enjoy BTC's Rückwärts Backwards CD, but the warmth of vinyl seems more appropriate for the music Richter makes (here we go, he's sounding like one of those tedious fuckin VINYL SNOBS.. yawn gimme a break, pass the Wolf Eyes CDR dude). And the great thing is it looks, feels and smells as good as it sounds.


There is no such thing as monotony, at least not in music. If you don't believe me, get an album by Tony Conrad. Or even better, catch the new album by Black to Comm, the second full length finished by Marc Richter, who also runs Dekorder. It is four vinyl sides and six tracks of glistening, dense yet encompassing and massive drones that stand tall and wide as a building made of bricks. But if you take a closer look, or rather a closer listen, then you'll find a lot of things warbling and swaying within these sounds. Or is it your perception? As you know, there is no way you can trust your senses. They lie to you every minute. And your brains on top, which are always hiding, ignoring or re-interpreting things. Did you know that everytime you remember something it is not at all like getting something old from a cupboard, but the brain is saving the memory new each time, and each time it adds or substracts a little, depending on how you connotated the memory this time around. If you get old enough you'll experience more and more the strange situation where two close friends have vastly differing memories of an experience they had together and they will swear by their mother's graves that they are right. Both of them. But I am digressing. The main point is the multi-layered and ever changing horizon of sounds within the static and massive drones of Black To Comm.

My most impressive experience with a drone was flying on a jet plane for ten hours after sleeping too little because I was on a festival for electronic music. With the sounds of some of the most progressive and weird electronic artists still ringing in my head and the constant, muffled thundering of the mighty machine I was sitting in, I felt as if I was able to hear the humming of the smalles part of the machine or my body. Before falling asleep I wasn't even sure anymore I'd be able to tell the difference between the two. The tracks on here offer the same quality of density, depth and variety. One note, seperated into several parts and blown up into enormous proportions, added with layers and layers of other sounds in the same note, with some breaks and changes, a chord here or a little line of notes or sounds on other places. If you turn around and around on the same spot like a whirlwind, who is able to tell where you're gonna end up in?

The new thing about this album by Black To Comm is that these drones are made from "real" instruments, which is interesting because on his first releases Black To Comm was about questioning the notion of the real instrument, by using filters for grafic software to produce sounds or by using old recordings and shellacs. The range of ideas is rather limited in consequence in comparison to "rückwärts backwards", and by all means "wir können leider nicht …" is a basic drone album. And for a drone album its scope is immense. From a submarine to an ultralight glider, from double gravitation to weightlessness, from walls pressing onto your mind to uplifiting sounds of freedom and liberty. From spooky and eerie darkness to the light and shine of a day at the beach. Destinations chosen by your brain.
One exception, though, the third track (#2 on side 2) first builds into impressive noise with a lot of layers and subtle changes and then suddenly falls into a wonderful set of fingerpicked acoustic guitar and interferences from the electric guitar done by Renate Nikolaus and an impressive, yet restrained muted trumpet played by Gregory Büttner. Even some barely audible vocal aahs before fading out after some minutes. A heartwarming and joyous surprise and probably a hint as to where the travel is going to. For, as with any interesting artist, live is a travel filled with experiences.

Georg Gartlgruber | CRACKED

Although the music of label owner Marc Richter's solo project Black to Comm and Aosuke, a duo of Torben Knopp and Ulf Schütte (the latter also operates the label Tape Tektoniks), is, in a way, more refined than that of Uton and Kuupuu, they all share similar aesthetic sensibilities and a love for a warm, emotionally charged sound. The title of Black to Comm's double LP (again beautifully packed in a full-colour gatefold cover) recalls the language of poorly translated user manuals and ultimately helpless service departments and should win the prize as this year's best album title, along with Jazkamer's "Balls the Size of Texas, Liver the Size of Brazil." Recorded in 2005 and 2006 with acoustic instruments and analogue gear (organs, tape loops, feedback, voice, etc.) plus some digital editing, these tracks offer drone music of the heavier kind, not particularly noisy, but dense and massive. As they are usually build around one single sustained tone or chord, there is something monumental to them, but Black to Comm works out a fine balance between sonic intensity and elegant beauty. This is most explicit in "Happy Brown Lego Star", which all of a sudden, yet almost seamlessly, changes its tone and shifts from a thick, blurred drone to relaxed guitar and trumpet sounds (provided by Renate Nikolaus and Gregory Büttner), accompanied by soft concrete rumbling. However, this balance is a characteristic feature of all the tracks on "Wir können leider", inscribed into the manifold layering of sounds and fusing subtlety and massive sonic presence into a mesmerizing amalgamation.

Magnus Schaefer | VITAL WEEKLY

Vier Plattenseiten lang aufregende Monotonie. Im Hamburger Hafen liegt dichter Nebel und nichts scheint sich zu rühren. Aber die tiefen, weit tragenden Signalhörner der Containerschiffe geben die Weite des Raums an, an dessen Seite die Stadt liegt. Das kann bedrohlich sein aber auch beruhigend. Denn die Gewalt und Macht der Natur sind nur die eine Seite, die Ursprünglichkeit und Geborgenheit in der Mutterfigut die andere. Und auch wenn es oft wie eine dicke, undurchdringliche Wand aussieht, so besteht sie doch aus lauter kleinen Teilen. Vier Plattenseiten lang trägt Black to Comm dicke auf. Mit Ausnahme eines wundervollen Fingerpicking und mute trumpet Zwischenspiels regiert der massive Klangwall, die statische Welle aus vielen vielen Schichten Töne, Lärm, Krach und Harmonie wie in der zeitlichen Dimension festgefroren. Als ob Gott die Luft anhält und abwartet, was denn jetzt wohl kommt. Wo die erste Seite eher den Freunden ambientöser Frickelei gefallen wird, zwischenzeitlich die eine oder andere minimale Abwechslung die Wogen glättet und gerade zieht, dehnen sich die Massen an drohendem Brummen und Rauschen auf der vierten Seite (oder Saite) schon stark in Richtung Erde oder Sonnn)))e. Es ist kein einfaches Leben, aber ein vielschichtiges, sich stetig im Gleichbleiben veränderndes, das Marc Richter aka Black To Comm auf seinem zweiten „echten“ Langspieler zelebriert. Früher hat er mal Grafikfilter als Soundtools verwendet, dann alte Schellacks und Aufnahmen, aber auf dem seltsam benamsten „wir können leider nicht …“ sind es richtige Instrumente. Sag mir doch mal einer, was ist denn das: richtige Instrumente?


sex unter der decke?
jedenfalls wird hier immer erst einmal ein glattes laken gespannt. und dann auch noch fester gezogen. strammer. aber darunter, da passiert einiges. vergleiche das cover, wo durch einen vorhang gespäht wird. wo offensichtlich auch gerade etwas interessantes passiert. von wegen drones der statischen art.

intim und trotzdem voller weite; keine untiefen des halls, sondern (so der erste eindruck) rein der naturklang des jeweils verwendeten instruments; als weite ebene und weiche decke. bis sich im weiteren hören all die schichten eröffnen, die sich unter diesem ersten eindruck befinden, dort miteinander ringen, sich ablösen und wieder von neuen starten. oder sich herausstellt, das bereits die schon identifizierte, vermeintlich monostrukturierte decke eigentlich aus einem feinen geflecht unterschiedlichster zutaten besteht. und bei "happy brown lego star" auch einmal weggezogen wird und akustikgitarre, fielrecordings und trompete (!) platz macht. oder dem gelungenen sprechgesangsbeitrag "eine kleine mieze-kat-ze", dargeboten von renate nikolaus im ausklang von "pill drop geisha".
und noch so ein auf falsche fährten lockender erster eindruck: alle 6 stücke scheinen auf jeweils einer, zwar stets eigenständigen, aber sich auf der vollen länge nicht verändernden harmonischen basis zu gründen. auch diese erkenntnis stellt sich als so trügerisch heraus wie die der allumfassenden decke: die innere harmonische bewegung ist omnipräsent; unter / über einem pedalton, zwischen abgefilterten tonsträngen, innerhalb der bogenartigen dynamikverläufe. das alles mit einem sehr schönen gatefold drumherum, das seine geheimnissvolle botschaft nicht freigeben möchte. musik für eine reise wie die der rentiere im innencover. auch für leute, die growing mögen, genau wie stars of the lid. und noch für andere.


BLACK TO COMM "Rückwärts Backwards" CD

Black To Comm is the solo moniker of Dekorder head honcho Marc Richter. The German Dekorder label is perhaps best known for a Hafler Trio release from a few years back but if there’s any justice in the world the label will also soon be known as the one that has released the music of Black To Comm.

Rückwärts Backwards is an organic floater that’s created from scratchy shellac and vinyl loops interspersed with all sorts of gentle found sounds and blurry ambience. The distant collage-like song fragments (psychedelia, free jazz, folk and more) that often remain in a somewhat remote corner of the soundscapes presented are probably what make the outcome warm and organic, rather than haunting and claustrophobic. That doesn’t prevent things from being quietly disturbing but it manages to be so without ever abandoning that melodic touch and the abstract drone alley chosen for the specific track. The whole album is very dream-like, mystical and fascinating, like being in the middle of a fog bank and loosing your sense of direction but always knowing that you’ll find your way out one way or the other.

Mats Gustafsson | THE BROKEN FACE

Dekorder label boss Marc Richter uses the Black to Comm name for his quiet explorations of electro-acoustic space. His use of modified turntables and field recordings has obvious recent precedents in William Basinski and Philip Jeck, both of whom influence aspects of this record. However, Ruckwarts Backwards is no pastiche of superior antecedents; Richter adds his own voice to the field very capably, capturing a sense of faux nostalgia through the constant deployment of warped tones and vinyl crackle, both of which suggest the material decay of time.

But Richter is no formalist, and he infuses his tools with a rich warmth and openness, rather than the cold brutalism that is symptomatic of so much contemporary sound art. “El Huis pt. 1” and “Es Gibt Kein Morgen” constitute some of the most aesthetically appealing, ebullient drone pieces this side of Stoke.

Nor is Richter afraid to indulge a more flippant side to puncture the austere air. “Lucifer Lacca,” three minutes of guitar moaning reminiscent of Dean Roberts, culminates unexpectedly in carefree childish singing. Whether he is tying the record as a whole to a lost sense of childhood wonder, or simply wanted to lighten the mood, the effect is to add to the intrigue that elevates Ruckwarts Backwards well above the more run-of-the-mill efforts that clutter this field.

John Gibson | GROOVES

Matthew Herbert's recent Plat Du Jour CD included an attack on bottled water companies, implying they are making a fortune out of what should be a free, Earth-given human necessity. Musicians who use nature recordings are engaged in a similar process: why buy a disc that opens with the sound of buzzing bees on a summer day when you can stroll out and hear the same thing for nowt? That's how Rückwärts Backwards begins and ends, with "Virtuosity Is A Means To An End", nocturnal summer sounds interrupted by kitchen gamelan.

Black To Comm is Hamburg's Marc Richter. He also runs Dekorder, which has put out quality editions of records by the likes of Hafler Trio and Tu m'. His pulverous, gravelly electronic laminates are liberally dosed with digitally altered field recordings, incorporated in a way that adds to the musicality of the whole. The title track is chalky and crackly as space dust, recalling Fennesz or Tim Hecker's crumbly, floury vapournoise. "Levitation" is like the intro to a Gas track, a sampled unidentifiable musical source flayed to reveal the heart; "March Of The Vivian Girls" a militaristic step over a contorted Weimar movie sample. You can clearly hear him mixing, as though watching a painter crushing pigments from silica and lapis blocks. As with so much currrent laptop sound, the lines between organic and digital are invisible, a reminder that no one thought of music as 'organic' anyway until the computer arrived on the scene.

Rob Young | THE WIRE

Black to Comm is the solo project of Dekorder label boss Marc Richter and occupies a playfully eerie space with a mixture of vinyl loops, microphone, voice and kitchen gamelan. ‘Bees’ begins with just that - a field recording of our honey-producing friends. Their peaceful meander becomes subsumed to a more disconcerting noise as human voice start to emulate bee, resembling no less than Teiji Ito’s incredible score to Mata Deren’s ‘Meshes in the Afternoon’. This Deleuzian line of flight (sorry but it had to be done) paves the way forward for a wayward, unpredictable but nonetheless involving and innovative long player.

‘Levitation’ is a queasy sound mix- crackling vinyl, a woozy loop, a liberal buried piano/ keyboard tinkling and, high in the soundfield, shards of backwards noise. There is a sudden change as the soundscape becomes warmer and fluttering nature comes to prominence as yet more queasy textures lurk in the background. The overall effect is so stunningly strange- leaving the listener pleasantly dazed and confused as if you were lying in a field with the sun’s rays stopping you from getting up and taking shelter.

‘Laccifer Lacca’ treats us to a multitude of varying voices, looped and deeply reverberating along with children at play. The loop takes on an almost b-movie style prominence as a dirty and amplified grunge bass counterpoints the increasingly hysterical tractor beam of vocals all abruptly faltering to the sound of a small demented choir of non-children.The title track sounds like Nico’s ‘Marble Index’ produced by William Basinski instead of John Cale with vague traces of glockenspiel becoming increasingly carnival-like, wandering behind decaying hiss. Special mention must also go to the accelerator tones and military rigour of ‘March of the Vivian Girls’ which slowly build to a collapse of trebly noise.

The whole thing weighs in at around 35 minutes but there is so much depth, warmth and weirdness that this will just keep pulling you back for more. What with this and Dictaphone’s ‘Vertigo II’, electronica is enjoying a stupidly rich month. If this isn’t in the end of year reviews, you’re reading the wrong things. Grab this, take the phone off the hook, whack up loud and buy yourself and your living room a ticket to a strange place.

Jon Fletcher | INDIECULT

Black to Comm is the recording name for Dekorder label owner Marc Richter and “Rückwärts Backwards” is the follow-up to a limited 10” that came out a while ago. Compared to that 10”, Richter´s sound has changed and improved significantly.

Back then, Richter created all or at least most of the sounds with a computer and his music was very dark, industrial, harsh and noisy. “Rückwärts Backwards” is a much friendlier affair. It was recorded by use of old shellac and vinyl records, field recordings, voice, kitchen gamelan and a computer. If his 10” was a January in the city record, his new one is a walk outside in May record. The field recordings used (recorded in the Black Forest in the south of Germany) are mostly very welcoming, like bees buzzing, birds chirping and children speaking to their mothers. On top of these, you´ll find some disturbing sounds, like on the track “Laccifer Lacca” where a looped woman´s voice interferes with dark slap bass notes. The noisy drones during the first half of “Es gibt kein Morgen” are not suitable for babies´ ears either. Most of the source material transports very warm emotions though. I like the title track especially. The rustling of old vinyl is augmented by digitally created crackles and a looped organ gets more intense by the minute until it peaks in a lovely melody.

What makes this record stand out so much is its attention for detail and the thoughtful combination of source material and additions. On the album opener “Bees” for example, somebody humms over the sound of bees. It just fits perfectly. The same goes for the vintage sounding sweet lullaby loops on “March of the Vivian Girls” that get shadowed by a full distortion noise attack. Over the course of its eight tracks, “Rückwärts Backwards” exemplifies this hard-to-achieve equilibrium of beauty and repulsion, of nature and civilization. A fascinating listen.

Stephan Bauer | FOXY DIGITALIS

First of all this CD is beatifully packaged with a tri-fold disc holder. Each picture bears its own character (blurry forest with handscrawled text, a sleeping cat, and what appears to be an old wallpaper pattern) But on to the music. Black to Comm (aka Marc Richter who also runs Dekorder) knows how to keep it short and sweet with 8 songs clocking in at under 37 minutes. Ruckwarts Backwards opens with the aptly titled 'Bees' some gentle buzzing of said insect is later accompanied by some child-like hums, this gives way to the second song 'Levitation' which is a gentle soundscape of rising and falling organ tones backed by a field recording. 'Lucifer Lacca' ushers in an operatic vocal loop that reaches crescendo and ends with another bit of childrens singing. The feel is still subdued and continues throughout the record, I'm reminded at times of Tape, not so much in sound but in how I feel while listening to them. The title track is a series of interlocking vibraphone melodies that are augmented by computer processing. The computer treatments are more of an enhancement rather than something that would radically alter the source sounds. Track 5 is my personal favorite with a minimalist and slightly buzzing drone that crossfades with a quieter drone. The remainder of the album hits just the right drone spot! Minimal loops with a somber feel, that guides you right to the end. The credits list microphones, voice, and kitchen gamelan, and Marc is good at assembling seemingly unrelated segments into gently blurred landscapes that roll by with an ease and comfort. In a few words..... simple, and elegant. Ruckwarts Backwards follows a self titled 10" also on Dekorder. Very curious to hear to more from this project.

Chris Jeely | VITAL WEEKLY

Dekorder label head Marc Richter obviously has a penchant for collecting vinyl – or that’s at least what this debut release under the moniker Black To Comm suggests. Compiled from an epic array of vinyl sources ranging from obvious traditional/classical to psychedelica and distorted free jazz, Richter revitalises his abstracted sources, seeking out loops and fragments to create new swirling arrangements. Like many records involving the use of vinyl, the album ebbs and flows in a predictable but suitably rewarding way; Black To Comm continues in the vein of many contemporary turntable users, processing the sources heavily. Texture remains a reference to the origins of this session, rather than the purpose of investigation itself. Surface noise is an important element, but never quite resolves to become the central focus of any one piece. With the odd field recording thrown in, this record is an genuinely enjoyable listen. From dronescape to detail, it’s simple but well crafted and efficiently executed.


Eine höchst anschauliche Platte, die mit einem Track über Bienen beginnt auf dem sehr viel gesummt wird, dann geht's weiter mit einem erhebenden Track ordentlich psychedelisch, rückwärtsgeloopter Zausel, der sich passend, klar, "Levitation" nennt, und so geht es weiter quer durch verschiedenste Szenerien als wären wir alle digitale Pfadfinder mit einem Kulturbeutel auf dem Rücken an dem wir schön leicht tragen. Brilliant und extrem angenehm, eine Platte die zurecht eine schnurrende Katze auf dem Cover hat.

Bleed | DE:BUG

Auf dem Hamburger Minimal-Music-Label hat Chef Marc Richter alias Black to Comm seine bildschönen field recordings in ein Albumdebut umgesetzt, das vornehmlich aus Aufnahmen von Shellacplatten, Vinyl-Loops und Umgebungs- geräuschen besteht. Daraus zieht er eine dichte, verschroben gesampelte Spielzeugtruhenmusik, die mit Shellac-Cracks einlullt und mit digital veränderten Geräuschaufnahmen stört. Über kurz repetierte Loops wird die Nostalgie der Nestwärme durch den Computer gefälscht und zusammen mit Versatzstücken aus Vaudeville oder Free Jazz in einen emotionalen, letztlich hochkonzeptionellen und stets auch räumliche Enge kreiierenden Sound verblichener Zeiten überführt, der so wahrscheinlich nur heute entstehen kann.

Pascal Blum | KOMMERZ

Man muss kein Freund esoterischer Lehren sein, um sich für die meditative Ruhe der Black-To-Comm-Musik begeistern zu können. "Rückwärts Backwards" ist das Albumdebüt des Dekorder-Label-Betreibers Marc Richter, das er zwischen 2003 und 2005 in seiner Wahlheimat Hamburg und seiner Kindheimat, dem Schwarzwald, aufgenommen hat. Mit elektro-hippieskem Charme kombiniert er in seinen Tracks Psychedelia-Gitarren- und Geigen-Feedbacks mit Knarz- und Rausch-Loops, Vogelgezwitscher und anderen Naturgeräuschen. Trotz oder wahrscheinlich vielmehr aufgrund des Spannungsverhältnisses zwischen den zufälligen Fieldrecordings und den manipulierten Geräuschquellen erhält die Musik Black To Comms ihre atmosphärische Lebendigkeit und Dichte. Egal, in welcher Situation oder Umgebung man "Rückwärts Backwards" hört, die vertrauten als auch fremden Samples entrücken den Hörer von der Realität und umschließen ihn anheimelnd warm. Man fühlt sich geborgen und aufgehoben, als ob man dem Schnurren einer Katze lauscht. Nicht ohne Grund findet sich solch ein Vierbeiner auf dem Cover abgebildet, der bereits visuell auf die wohligen Klänge einstimmt.

Matthias Schneider | INTRO

At times it is hard to define in electronic / ambient / experimental music between composition and construction. Most of the times even the distinctions between the two get blurred. Unless there is a certain theoretical element outspoken before the recording or production starts, the mashing of these terms is one of the main features of a lot of music from the fringe. Almost every artist or release on Dekorder had this opposition and its destruction at least as a subtext hidden somewhere inside. Most of what you can find on the label defies any kind of structural process of development along guidelines akin to the “rules” of classic composition or songwriting but prefers to tag along very subconscious and emotional lines, which are perfunctorily established, mutated and just as easily destroyed by the idiosyncrasies of the artist, the basic atmosphere and of whatever happens during the process of recording itself. Thinking about it, this very intimate touch and look into the artists mind gives a lot if not most releases on Dekorder its special warmth, depth and humanity. And that is even true for Hegre.

On “rückwärts backwards” the warmth and emotional lushness of the tracks / sounds also comes from their origin as old vinyl loops from operas, springtime field recordings – there is birdsong all over the first third of the records – and the sounds of old-fashioned instruments. The hissing and scratching still imbued from the vinyl loops and the recording of those instruments adds another layer of antiquity. The title refers to this using vintage sounds and instruments, though it hides that these sounds are being used in a deeply modern manner for ambient soundscapes and drones. So there is nothing conservative or reactionary about this record, rather the reviving of old found (?) sounds and the re-connotation within a (for most people anyway) still futuristic and avantgarde concept of music is brewing up a recipe for safeguarding the way into the future for at least some of the concepts developed in the last years.

The effect is an awesome listening experience, as you can almost feel the streams of emotion and innovation running from the past into the future right by your side. In parts the sounds are reduced to the crackle and hiss of old records under a worn needle and those sounds blown up to supersonic proportions, to detect their minutest details. At other times field recordings like birds or the wind rustling bring up pictures in the mind of long lost peaceful autumn days in your childhood. In between the mood changes between droning layers of minimalist sounds mixed with noise bristling with life and energy and sample-based tracks contrasting quite clearly discernible bitparts of sound sources.

I am hard pressed to find the “slightly disturbing atmosphere hidden beneath the surface” the info-sheet writes about, except in some instanced where monotonous signals grow from nothing into big wavering sirens and then into single-note wall of sound drones, as for instance in “El Huis pt.1”. Most of the tracks, for me at least, shine with warmth and light, embracing the listener in a squivering and hovering feeling of home and all the good of a personal history. The variety of emotions encoded in the eight tracks on “rückwarts backwards” is quite big, but overall and within my poinf of view they are all more on the positive and lively side. Some of them even happy. Maybe it is just the picture of a cat peacefully sleeping that can never evoke any kind of negative connotations but radiates a feeling of pure comfiness.

Apart from the overall effect it is also worthwhile and nicely fullfilling to open an ear towards all kinds of small things and parts that were mixed into the tracks. “March of the Vivian Girls” is a moving, wavering and finally accelerating drone that takes its title from a short span of marching drums mixed into the back. At times the noises and crackles in the back are taken from old records, at other times they seem to come from distorting digital sounds until they sound like the analogous recording of wood burning in a stove. Where do the birds come from? Where do the vocals come from? Where do the various kinds of noise come from? Let’s check the glockenspiel in all its traditional, folkloristic glory or is it just an incident of randomness? Let’s track back the backwards recorded sounds of some tracks, e.g. the very last one, back to the title and enjoy the fine wordplay that seems to spring from the thought. Sometimes in dealing with these more subtle and refined electronica-records they can only give you as much as you give back to them beforehand. In other words, it depends on you, the listener, how much you’ll get back from them.

Marc Richter aka Black To Comm is the mind behind the Dekorder label, so the expectations towards this album were quite high. They were even raised higher by re-listening to his first 10” on Dekorder, where he produced sounds by using a filter that transformed pictures into sounds, which produced intense multilayered yet peacefully hovering walls of sounds and drones. What I wanted to hear was something satisfying both intellectually and as a pure listening experience. By which I mean, that when listening to it, I wanted to be able to enjoy it as an experience on a purely physical level but also get the undeniable feeling that I am listening to something new, exciting and worthwhile. The whole mass of people producing and releasing in electronic music have made both points harder to reach and more and more important for me as a listener. “Rückwärts backwards” lives up to all of these expectations and beyond.

Georg Gartlgruber | CRACKED

I was not familiar with Dekorder owner Marc Richter's musical alias, who must have released some vinyl or ep before, this "Rückwärts Backwards" being his full-length debut. The lavish, multi-coloured and vaguely surreal collage-based packaging serves as a good introduction for BTC's approach to music: Richter basically revisits pre-existing melodies by using shellac and vinyl loops, adding some bizarre vocals here ("Bees"), some toy gamelan there ("Virtuosity Is A Means To An End") and environmental recordings, creating floating and fragile soundscapes which will appeal anyone into Philip Jeck's humane turntablism. Tracks like "Lucifer Lacca", with its looped choirs and a slowed down, hyper-dilated string plucking, or "March of the Vivian Girls", with a triumphant crescendo of distorted melodies and skipping snare drums, show Richter's talent for out there but emotionally moving compositions - I'd dare say "experimental pop" (there are a lot of pops throughout, actually) if it didn't suggest radically different things. Not all tracks are as convincing and memorable as the above mentioned examples, but "Rückwärts Backwards" is still a finely crafted album, perfect for quiet and melancholic afternoons. (3.5/5)

Eugenio Maggio | CHAIN DLK

Già autore di un omonimo 10" dal crudo cipiglio rumorista (BU #69), Black To Comm - al secolo il signor Dekorder Marc Richter - cambia pelle e, obliterando le ragioni di siffatta denominazione (un pezzo dei torrenziali MC5), riveste di foschia drone-ambient le otto tracce di "Rückwärts Backwards". Ed è tutto un tremolare di field recordings, bisbigli di habitat boschivi, plananti melodie d'organo e vibrafono processate digitalmente, vecchie lacche inceppate in loop dal profilo sobriamente severo. Niente che non si sia già ascoltato, ma qui c'è l'indubbio merito di un assemblaggio di classe. (7/8)

Nicola Catalano | BLOW UP

Interessante uscita di Marc Richter sotto il moniker di Black To Comm, forte della sua stessa label, la teutonica Dekoder (quella dell' Hafler Trio), in un tripudio gentile e sperimentale di manipolazioni sonore e field recording. Elaborazioni ambientali ed anche melodiche fra organi vintage, piano, chitarre acustiche ed elettriche, registrate in analogico, sospese, quasi irreali nella finta nostalgia dei tempi andati, mescolando frammenti di free jazz, psichedelia, canzoni da vaudeville e motivi ancor più tradizionali, volendo al tempo stesso quasi celarne le fonti, mantenendo leggere queste influenze sull'ispirazione complessiva. Solo otto le tracce, approntate fra Amburgo e la Foresta Nera, un lavoro di due anni, personalissima meditazione che puntualmente c'induce a riflettere su quanto la computer music al suo meglio non sia affatto medium impersonale ma al contrario intima ed eclettica ricognizione su quello che sempre attorno a noi è presente e fluido.

Aurelio Cianciotta | NEURAL.IT

Black To Comm alias Marc Richter, fondateur du label Dekorder (John Hegre, The Hafler Trio, Guido Möbius…) dévoile avec ce Rückwarts Backwards un opus où prédomine l'art de la boucle. Ainsi se côtoient sur les huit titres que compte l'album sonorités psychédéliques et free jazz - orgues et glockenspiel à l'appui - soutenues à l'occasion par des chants d'oiseaux et autres fantaisies. On pénètre peu à peu dans un univers peuplé de mélodies surannées et d'arrangements naïfs, qui réussissent à créer une atmosphère à la fois mélancolique et cotonneuse, empreinte d'une douce nostalgie. Une démonstration de sensibilité et de simplicité à l'état brut.

Elodie Pellissier | OCTOPUS

Si l'introductif Bees nous laisse pendant 3 minutes en compagnie d'un essaim d'abeilles évoluant dans un milieu naturel où le vent souffle, les oiseaux sifflent et l'eau clapote, la suite des excursions sonores proposées par Marc Richter est fort heureusement quelque peu différente, quoique tout aussi curieuse.
Essentiellement basée sur la superposition plus ou moins abondante de drones, d'orgues vintage, de boucles chopées sur de vieux vinyles, de craquements, souffles et documents naturalistes, la musique de Black to Comm nous convie à des ambiances surréelles, hypnotiques, troubles et pas toujours des plus accueillantes.
De ce tissu sonore diffus émergent parfois des bribes de mélodies souvent sous forme de notes inversées de guitare (Levitation), de glockenspiel opacifié (Rückwärts backwards), de mbira (Virtuosity is a means to an end) ; des tambours militaires qui roulent (March of the vivian girls) ou des petits cris de gnomes et des voix féminines échappées d'un gramophone centenaire (le flippant Laccifer lacca).
Etrange et intrigant à plus d'un égard, Rückwärts backwards est un disque aux climats troubles, moites, parfois oppressants. (7.0)

Sébastien Radiguet | ONDE FIXE | BENZINE

Premier album de Marc Richter sorti sur son propre label Dekorder, Rückwärts Backwards, avec son titre bilingue qui sied bien à la musique enregistrée ici, semble s'inscrire tout droit dans la ligne défendue par Dekorder, au point que celui-ci semble n'avoir creusé de sillon que pour accueillir cette sortie. Sortie qui synthétise ainsi parfaitement l'esprit, mais qui est aussi, du coup, un peu attendue, et assez tranquille - trop peut-être pour secouer nos habitudes d'auditeurs.

Evoluant entre psychédélisme et musique informatique pure, en passant par les manipulations vocales et les arythmies métalliques fabriquées de bric et de broc pour un tribalisme bon marché et amusant, la musique de Black To Comm semble vouloir se jouer à plaisir des contraintes et des formes de productions. Lo-Fi bien que produite avec subtilité et sensibilité, elle juxtapose sons écorchés et boucles d'ampleur et d'intensité variables, liant l'ensemble à l'aide de synthés vintages, de guitares et de glockenspiel. Grenier musical où les samples ne se distinguent plus des compositions originales, où le field recording trouve une fonction ornementale que la musique électronique a tendance à délaisser désormais, et qui semble suggérer quelque souvenir triste à son auditeur, un parfum de mélancolie, une atmosphère qui ne manque pas de charme bien qu'un peu lénifiante. Dommage, malgré le charme certain de cet album, qu'il n'ait pas choisi plus résolument l'énergie et la vitalité à la mélancolie : l'ensemble n'en aurait été que plus séducteur.

Johnny One Shot | INFRATUNES

Het fijne Dekorder label wordt gerund door Marc Richter uit Hamburg (niet te verwarren met Max). Zelf blijkt hij ook in staat muziek te maken, want als Black To Comm debuteert hij nu met de cd Rückwärts Backwards. Het album is een verzameling opnames die hij tussen 2003 en 2005 heeft gemaakt en bestaat hoofdzakelijk uit gruizige scratches, vinyl loops in combinatie met veldopnames en elektronica. Je hoort onder meer stemmanipulaties, gamelan, duimpiano en insectengeluiden die hij hand in hand gaan met geluiden van orgels, gitaren, piano en klokkenspel. Dat levert een spannende, duistere en bovenal hypnotiserende hybride op van glitch, ambient, Vaudeville, psychedelische muziek, plunderphonics, soft-noise en drone-muziek. Het houdt het midden tussen Graeme Revell, Fennesz, Francisco López, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Deaf Center, Rapoon, Pimmon en Loren Nerell. Telkens word je verrast door de "gevonden" geluiden en de beklemmende, filmische atmosfeer die geproduceerd lijkt door het Tropische regenwoud. Marc Richter creëert hier een bloedstollende aaneenschakeling van intrigerend geluid.


Jeg sitter inne og stirrer ut av vinduet på en vår, ja det er faktisk vår, som er gråere og tristere enn noen gang jeg tidligere kan huske. Det er grått, det er kaldt og vått; en verden stikk motsatt av den vi serveres på Marc Richter aka Black To Comm sin debutplate Rückwärts Backwards. Richter er også mannen som står bak det lille plateselskapet Dekorder som kan skilte med blant annet John Hegre og Maja Ratkje-utgivelser i katalogen.

Vanligvis murer jeg meg inne gjennom hele den mørke vinteren med et utvalg plater som står til været. Avbruddene kommer kun av nødvendigheter som forelesninger eller jobb. Mørket, snøen og regnet skaper en stemning som innbyr mer til en flaske rødvin og Deaf Center, enn det gjør lyst øl og The Thrills. Men så pleier da mars å komme, ja jeg husker den gode gamle mars, den mars der snøen smelter bort og sola titter fram. Da dagene starter med at lyset sniker seg inn mellom gardinene i stedet for det uavbrutte og tunge mørke som har både startet og avsluttet hver bidige dag i tre måneder nå. Samtidig som været blir lysere, blir også sinnet åpnet og all slags varme omfavnes med større glede enn noen annen tid på året. Det er som om din beste venn, eller kjæreste, har returnert etter en flere måneder lang reise, der du med få unntak har hatt kontakt med han/henne.
Selv om det er en fullstendig mangel på vårlige elementer i år, kan det virke som om det er en biologisk innstilling i meg som forteller meg at det er på tide å tre ut av mørket igjen. Den som skaper den første varmen denne våren er tyskeren Marc Richter.

Plata starter med ”Bees”, et rent feltopptak av bier som surrer rundt i lufta. Surringen kommer nærmere for så å fjerne seg igjen, før den etter tre minutter forsvinner helt. Selve låta er ikke spesielt memorabel, men det er en god pekepinn på landskapet Richter tegner opp for oss på resten av plata. Stemningen er intim og naiv, som et perfekt soundtrack for de sommerdagene du befinner deg i en liminalfase. Andre sporet er ”Levitation”, platas sterkeste spor. Koselig vinylknitring ligger over en repeterende orgellinje og forsiktig klokkespill. Det hele får et varmt, meditativt preg, og etter hvert som låta svever av gårde fletter Richter inn feltopptak av skildrende bekker og fuglekvitter som skaper et stort og vakkert lydbilde uten å være for påtrengende. En vakker ambient hyllest til naturen, og en perfekt avkobling for alle som trenger fem minutters pause fra hverdagslivets evige mas.

Perlene fortsetter som på en snor etter dette. ”Laccifer Lacca” er en jagende låt bygd opp av korte loops som Richter har samplet fra noe som høres ut som en dramatisk operaoppsetning fra 40-tallet. Over samplingen høres et hav av stemmer og en dommedags lignende gitarspilling, og akkurat når lyden virker å nå sitt klimaks kuttes alt brått og tjue sekunders naiv barnesang avslutter et herlig forstyrrende spor. Tittelsporet kombinerer varm fuzz med repeterende klokkespill og gamle psykedeliske samples. Assosiasjonene går i retning av de fineste øyeblikkene man kan få med Fennesz eller Belong, og er en godbit for alle med en forkjærlighet for varme harmonier druknet i fuzz.

Slik fortsetter siste halvdel av plata også, det er ingen svake spor her. Rückwärts Backwards er gjennomført vakker og mestrer en perfekt balanse mellom naive arrangementer og surrealistiske, jagende droner. Plata ligger i krysningspunktet mellom den tradisjonelle og stille naturen, og den urbane og stressende moderniteten. Varmen som de analoge opptakene skaper står i kontrast til de jagende samplingene som bygger seg opp til mektige lydbilder. Men fokuset til Richter ligger på det varme og det gode. Akkurat som den mørke ”Laccifer Lacca” ender i barnesang, har hver eneste låt en avslappende og rolig atmosfære bak lydveggene. For meg virker det som om Richter aller helst vil ligge på en gressplen i stekende sol dagen lang, mens han lytter til lydene fra naturen rundt seg, men har innfunnet seg med at dette er umulig. Likevel deler han sin fantasiverden med oss, og gir undertegnede, og forhåpentligvis en liten haug andre, en perfekt start på våren. Og ja, nå tittet visst sola fram også gitt.

Morten Finslo | HISSIG

BLACK TO COMM "Levitation/Astoria" 7"

Got a beautiful new single from Black To Comm, the solo project of Dekorder head Marc Richter. Levitation/Astoria (Black To Comm 7") is a gorgeous, lathe-cut picture disc that combines one side of meditational float with another that chatters and boings like one of those great Nonesuch Explorer LPs heard through a closed window at the wrong speed when you're about ten years old and feeling very foggy on a combination of fever and cough syrup. Frankly, I prefer the more screwed-up side, but listening to it made me go back and get a bit deeper into the subtleties of its flip.

Byron Coley | THE WIRE

BLACK TO COMM "s/t" 10"

This is debut release from a 'new computer music artist from Hamburg, Germany'. I have no clue who is behind this, but I am sure it's someone who loves to put on some drone music, in combination with some finer points of computer processing. The result may count to some as drone music, but it's drone music of a more violent nature. The bowed sounds that open the b-side of this record, explode within seconds into a mighty violent drone, with machine gun shots fired through plug ins. References in the computer treated guitar music are obvious (think early Fennesz or Pimmon), but the whole violence that is generated is more linked to noise music ala Merzbow, even when there are more quiet spots to be noted here than on an average Merzbow CD. Quite a nice little record, which is albeit too short to have a good picture of what this guy can do. Looking forward therefore to the more extended programm.

Frans de Waard | VITAL WEEKLY

Presumably named after The MC5's free rock epic, Black To Comm is a computer music artist from Hamburg. On their debut release, Black To Comm, the sounds consist of cascading short bursts of electronic gibberish, woven into sheets of shimmer that fall through space glistening, then wiggle on the floor with all the grace and beauty of twitching Moray eels. It appears there are some guitar samples jammed into the mix at points, but it's a bit less like The MC5 than some might hope. Still, if you can imagine a version of that group evolving inside digital traditions, maybe there's a synaptic connection after all.

Byron Coley | THE WIRE

Label Chef Marc Richter präsentiert auf dieser titellosen 10“ seine eigene Interpretation von Drones, denen jeglicher meditativer Charakter abhanden gekommen ist. Die Platte beginnt mit einer unscheinbaren und langgezogenen Klangschwurbel, die sich plötzlich zu einer kratzigen Lärmkaskade entwickelt und genauso abrupt abbricht. Auf der B-Seite hat es dann den Anschein, als ob Marc einem australischen Ureinwohner seine alte Metalkutte überreicht, anschließend die Klänge dessen Didgeridoo´s durch einen Gitarrenverzerrer jagt und dann mit digitalen Kommentaren seines Computers versehen. Ein im positivem Sinne seltsames und viel versprechendes Debüt.

Daniel Döring | REVELATION

The info says something I don’t understand: photoshop-composition. Please, explain that to me. I want to know, how that works. But don’t ever explain this record to me. I don’t want to know how it works. It is more than sufficient to see and experience it work. These sometimes harsh, sometimes tragic multi-layered drones of Black To Comm live by their obscurity and enigma. Lots of frequency manipulation, digital and analogue, sampling and computer-effects make up an interesting and addictive mix of plain noise and colourful walls of sounds in effective drones. Expect to be drawn in, chewed and spit out, but leave a better person than you were.

Once again Dekorder strays far away from the dancefloor and releases music from the fringes of electronic music, even though visually – minimal design with uni-colored sleeve and no printing, clear-vinyl and limited edition of 250 – this ten inch might easily be mistaken for a dance-record in the bin. I’d like to see the face of the aspiring DJ, when he puts this record on the turntable in the store to do his customary ten-second-a-plate-listening (usually using his full hands and fingers to handle the records, which makes an old vinyl-lover like me cringe with disgust and pain. Obviously, these DJ-wannabes, though they all demand vinyl-records, either no absolutely nothing about vinyl – for instance that touching the surface with your fingers leaves marks of sweat and fat which make dust and dirt stick to the surface and thereby ruin the record – or they just don’t give a damn anyway.) Anyway, our young, supercool DJ-dude puts on Black to Comm, expecting some cool beats and a groovy bassline, and, of course, he puts the needle right in the middle of the first side, and ?boom? – he is confronted with a multilayered, quirky and weirdly sounding drone that actually starts at the beginning of the side, grows and grows and adds more and more layers and the slowly but definitely stops towards the end of the side. Our aspiring super-DJ won’t believe it, so he will flip the needle further and further into the record only to discover bigger and bigger walls of indescribable sounds.

Unbelievingly shaking his head, he might even turn the record over and start his accustomed procedure of listening into records, the well-known ten-second-a-record marathon by only listening to small portions of each record at the beginning, the middle and the two thirds-mark of each side. This way he is not at all prepared, for what is to come next, because side A of this release turns into a beautiful harsh-noise-piece at the end. Side B starts off like a Melvins-bass-drone-record and then moves slowly but steadily into the harsh-noise-territory of the end of side A by laying interferences and bass-drones over each other over and over again and then suddenly introducing interference-sounds and white-noise-frequency-manipulation. Actually, this is a beautiful mixture of Aube and Buddhist mantras, but I don’t think our DJ will see the references. My guess is, he will put the headsets away after ingesting Black To Comm, take a deep breath and search for the latest EP by Basement Jaxx or by any other well-known dance-project.

That’s a pity, because that way he misses the third track, that closes of this wonderful EP. Another nameless track, that combines more frequency-manipulation, but this time more subtle, with distorted noises that sound very much like a monster-robot breathing and a monotonous bell-sound. The dragon’s nightmares in the cellar of a Buddhist temple? Let your connotations and associations run wild, with Black To Comm, because there is not a single hint as to how you should take this music. What kind of liberty and freedom the artist employs you with, ain’t that grand? You won’t be able to put your finger on the spot and say what this really is. Definitely a hard ride through some surprising sounds, mingling with your own traumas and experiences and setting you on fire with noise, at other times lulling you into the belly of the beast to be devoured gladly. Or some such.

Georg Gartlgruber | CRACKED

Und die dritte 10" dieses recht obskuren Labels aus, ja woher eigentlich, ah, Webseite ist schön, Hamburg von allen Orten. Metaphorisch betrachtet würde ich mal behaupten diese Platte klingt wie der Sound einer digitalisierten Kloschüssel von unten. Jedenfalls auf der A-Seite die sich lang lang Zeit lässt, bevor sich mit in unerwartete (man dachte es passiert eigentlich nichts mehr) Harmoniewechsel, tja, wechselt um mit brachialeren Drones abzuschliessen. Auf der Rückseite dürften alle die solche Musik nicht kennen vermuten, dass das Bruttosozialprodukt über Nacht in die Höhe geschnellt ist, weil die Arbeiter sich in der Wohnung neben an so ins Zeug legen, ich vermute aber dieser Klang der eiserne Spähne wehen lässt dront aus einer anderen Richtung. Der letzte Track klingt so als hätte man einen Bienenstock in die Wanduhr gesperrt und würde die nun als Inhalator benutzen. Vielseitig das.

Bleed | DE:BUG

Auf der namenlosen 10" gibt Labelmacher Marc seinen eigenen musikalischen Einstand und liefert damit gleich einen Festschmaus für Freunde computergenerierter Musik ab, welcher zwischen pulsierenden Datenpaketen, tiefergelegten Hardrocksamples versus bohrenden Lärmschleifen (Sunn O))) als Laptop Variante?) und Kratz’n Knister Electronica pendelt. Auch ohne Pathosanfälle befindet sich das "Black" im Titel nicht ohne Grund.

Sascha Bertoncin | TRIGGERFISH

Die 10" des Projekts Black to Comm fasziniert mit sirrenden Laufgeräuschen. Wie singende Heuschrecken im Nebel klingt das.