RASTER MUSIC: A PROFILE

Another label whose name seems to on everybody's lips these days. Associated with their fellow Germans Mego and A-Musik they provide a nexus for the ever expanding field of "experimantal techno" or "post-techno", or "microscopic sound" or "damaged technology" or "sounddesign" or whatever name this new european electronic music is being saddled with lately. Compared to Mego their press releases seem dry and non-ironic in any way. For those of us in our early thirties there is a slight bit of deja-vu with these folks (and probably more so in Raster's case) - I am reminded of the very early eighties, when the fascination with computers first gripped the pop world, resulting in such quaint gems as Kraftwerk's "Computer World" and George Clinton's "Computer Games". Well here is an attempt at a viable hybrid of both those worlds, with the added dynamic of serious "art" concerns, which seems so alien and seductive to Americans. Their CD's feature seamless clinical design with minimal text and an over-abundance of white backgrounds. An unusual feature is personnel photos on the back of each CD. Beyond that the idea that this music is "data" and computer generated "product" ("sounddesign" is a term often used in Raster's own literature) is strongly suggested - every CD (except the noto clear series) features slight variations in cover design - color and title and slightly differing cover image being the main differences. Track titles on every CD are always generic: "stop", "flex", "tape", "trans", "turn".

Iiterview with Frank Bretschneider of Raster Music

1. Can you tell me about the origin of Raster Music label? Who owns the label? About how many copies of each of your releases have you pressed? Where is the Raster Music studio located? Can you describe your facilities, location and equipment?

In 1986 we founded a group, called "AG.GEIGE", which was heavily influenced from The Residents, EBM and New Wave. We experimented with tapes/synths/guitars/german lyrics and live videos. The band had three releases: "Yachtclub+Buchteln" (1987, klangFarBe), "Trickbeat" (1989, Amiga), "Raabe?" (1991, Zensor). In 1988 Olaf replaces another member of the group and after the split in 1992 we had all the equipment and we agree to run our own label. The owners are Frank Bretschneider and Olaf Bender, we press 1000 copies of each release, the studio is located in Chemnitz/Saxony/Germany and we rent two rooms for studio and office.

Equipment:

Apple Power Mac 7200/90
Apple Macintosh Quadra 800
Apple Macintosh Quadra 650
Emagic Logic Audio
Emagic Sounddiver
Digidesign Sound Designer
Digidesign Audiomedia II & III
Digidesign Sample Cell II
Steinberg ReCycle!
Steinberg X><Pose
Propellerhead ReBirth RB-338
Doepfer MAQ 16/3
Korg MS 20
Korg Wavestation EX
Korg Wavestation SR
Oberheim Matrix 1000
Clavia Nord Rack
Novation Bass Station
Yamaha VL 70 m
Quasimidi Rave-O-Lution 309
3 x Roland PMA 5
2 x Korg A2
Alesis Quadraverb
Zoom 508 Delay
Solton MDD-1500 H
Motu Midi Express
Motu Pocket Express
Miditemp PMM 88
Tascam DA 20
Sony DTC 60 ES
Yamaha ProMix 01
Sennheiser HD 265 linear
AKG K-400
Alesis Monitor Two
JBL TLX 12
Samson Servo 500

Discography:

mxr 001 kyborg.same (12")
cdr 002 komet.saat (CD)
cdr 003 noto.spin (CD)
cdr 004 tol.trap (CD)
cdr 005 produkt.float (CD)
cdr 006 ø+noto.mikro makro (CD)
vyr 006 ø+noto.mikro makro (Double 10")
cdr 007 goem.stud stim (CD)
cdr 008 noto. (CD)
vyr 009 kyborg.swing (12")
cdr 010 produkt.stretch (CD)
cdr 011 komet.flex (CD)

2. Can you describe some art/sound installations that Raster Music has been involved with recently?

Here's a project description of our "Wardenclyffe Project":

The Wardenclyffe Project was first created during documenta X as a result of the cooperation of the artists and musicians Marko Peljhan (aka Projekt Atol - Makrolab) and Carsten Nicolai (aka noto). They looked for possibilities to scan and transmit information and signals into communication system of a wider reach. The project was supported and broadened by the musicians Olaf Bender (aka byetone) and Frank Bretschneider (aka komet) of the music label rastermusic and noton. Wardenclyffe Project 2 was realised during the ostranenie '97 forum in Dessau, Germany (November 1997). The project project is based on the session-like intermixing of tapped satellites, wireless transmissions and radio. Wardenclyffe is a project which can be continued at any place on earth by a spontaneous and open structure. This is another connecting point with Tesla's global ideas.

Wardenclyffe is a place on Long Island in the state New York - U.S.A. In 1906 the inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla set up an wireless plant for a so-called "world system". This world system was not only supposed to give the possibility to transfer energy without cables to any place of the world, but also function as a worldwide communication and information system. The wireless plant was never finished completely and 6 years after it's founding giving up and pulling down because of a lack of money. Nearly a century after this visionary experiments on a worldwide and accessible to everyone energy and information system an art project relates to this global idea. Wardenclyffe project No. 1 emerged within the scope of documenta X as a result of the cooperation between the artists and musicians Marko Pelijan aka Makrolab and Carsten Nicolai aka noto.

In the preparatory phase of their exhibition projects they were looking for a possibility to infiltrate information and signals into communication systems. The project was supported and enlarged by the musicians Olaf Bender aka byetone and Frank Bretschneider aka komet from the label rastermusic/noton. archiv für ton und nichtton. The artist's project Wardenclyffe inquires the possibility of a musical interpretation of Teslas Vision. On the one hand it is reflected in the choice of instruments, in Dessau three band generators were used. The structures arising from it are mixed sessionlike with satellites - beeing intercepted - and radio signals. It is not a try to integrate the available signals into a conventional, musical stereotype, it's rather a question of examining the aesthetically quality of this signals. The essential formation principles are therefore filtration, accentuation, raster, reduction. The global ideas of the project are reflected on the other hand in it's continued idea. Wardenclyffe is a growing project, which is - because of it?s spontaneous and open structure - possible to continue in every place of the world and therefore it intellectually picks up the thread of Teslas worldwide ideas.
On April 19, 1998 Wardenclyffe project No. 3 will follow in Rotterdam.

3. Is there any way you could explain this germanic "electronic" music phenomenon of the A-Musik, Mego, Cheap, Sabotage, Mille Plateaux, Laton, A-Musik labels which I (and other lowly Americans like myself) lump together mindlessly? Is there any sort of feeling in the Raster Music camp that these other european labels are doing something compatible with what you are doing? Or is there no connection whatsoever?

We have a connection to Mego and A-Musik and I think they doing the same as ourselvess: to explore the possibilities to extend music with/through technology. But because of the strict separation of art from entertainment (especially here in Germany), the results of this research are more radical and I think this is the phenomenon of the german electronic music. We see us also in the big tradition of serious german electronic music (the Cologne School) and are more interested to connect art, research and technology than to do pure entertainment.

4. What do you have planned for the future of your label and/or store?

To continue to release our music, to play more live, to develop a visual component for the live events.

5. How prominent is your label/store's profile in the German art/culture/music scene? Is there more interest in your label internationally than in your home town?

Yes, absolutely. Our most number of pieces we sell in the US/Canada, Japan and Australia. In the german "scene" we are a little bit known.

Rastermusic labelprofile:

[The following texts were provided by Frank as an introduction to the label and its main cast]
Rastermusic is a label which has dedicated itself to a form of music which can be described with words like sounddesign, technology, rhythmics, soundaestetic and minimalism. The music is mainly produced and created with the help of electronics and/or computers. Because of the musical possibilitys, the circle of artists, who frequently change formations is steadly expanding. New unused impulses and ideas are the results of the growing cooperation. The main location of production and experimentation is the labelown studio. There it's possible to work without time and money limits. The final mix and mastering of the one to maximal three publications produced each quarter are also carried out there by the founders of the label Olaf Bender and Frank Bretschneider. A second strong point of the labels work for the future, which is already indicated on the packing of previous releases, will be the use of more visual aids. By CD-releases it would be in the form of additional CD ROM-tracks (CD+/Multisession-CD's) and at (planned) live-events with computeranimations steered through software. The sublabel NOTON - founded and leaded by Carsten Nicolai deals extensively with specific types of electroacoustic soundcreations: for e. music used on exhibitions and installations, soundspaces.

[These excerpts from NOTES / # 40 / March 97 set up the major players in the Raster, er, roster]
A label, which must already be mentioned in his present, early stage in one breath with let's say Mille Plateaux, Rather Interesting or Source: We're talking about electronic with a view to right in front... Well, this label is calling rastermusic and with the expression "Raster", above all graphic designers, printers and general the people from the world of print media are combining a lot of. "Raster" means splitting up a thing or an existing condition in his component parts and put it together afterwards.

So rastermusic - the label resides in Chemnitz and is running by Olaf Bender and Frank Bretschneider. A studio is connected, where the recordings of records and CD's are made. Olaf and Frank describe their common philosophy in this way: "Rastermusic with his label politic feels obliged to a kind of music, which can be outlined with the words sounddesign, technology, rhythmics, soundaesthetics and minimalism. The music is defining itself as mainly electronically and/or computerised produced and arranged. The musical material is realised by a circle of artists in varying casts, who becomes bigger and bigger."

Olaf and Frank are working in a completely different way, like others in the "scene" and another way then usual. Because they have a studio of their own, so nearly they can work independent of time and costs and they themselves are looking after the production and the mastering of publications. They are working with an inimitable coolness and distance, which is enviable. And so cool they present themselves, so cool is also we can hear under the generic term "rastermusic".

Asked about their background they mentioned varying artists and bands: Cabaret Voltaire, Can, Kraftwerk, Throbbing Gristle, Negativeland, Mark Stewart or Chris & Cosey. All of them are standing - not for one line of music - but for innovation, intention to change, creativity, belief in improvement. By rastermusic there is certainly another point making a distinction between other named musicians, perhaps excepting Kraftwerk: matter-of-factness. Matter-of-factness instead of emotion or excitement.

KOMET is a one man project, the album is calling "Saat". The sounds and rhythms of the nine tracks, with the titles "sign", "flut", "gate", "phase" or "welt", are disclosing their "chrome shiny", modern, silent and relaxed elegance in the course of repeated listening. We are talking about pure "electronic listening" on the border to timeless ambient. Sound buildings and sound constructions are created, on one hand they remember on perfect, geometric-abstract, perspective drawings, on the other hand they offer rooms the listener can fall in. There is no unnecessary ballast. Komet has developed a conceptual work, winning an amazing range because of the concentration on what is absolutely necessary. That is music, totally uncoupled from trends and tastes of our time and our future. Big and exquisite aesthetic, music for falling out of the time!

In comparison to komet.saat we find by TOL deep basses and sounds similar to topical dub techniques. The CD "Trap" becomes a little bulky hearing enjoyment - you have to hear it as well 3 or 4 times again - because of the entry of strange voice samples, unorthodox breaks, which are "fraying" sometimes the beats of the 8 tracks, and unusual echo effects. The numbers were composed by computers, mixed live, transferred back to the computer and there they are cutted and composed new. The varied and unusual sound adventures and sound experiments happen on a pleasant and "conciliatory" base of permanent grooving bass lines - giving some numbers really the possibility to dance.

The third project: PRODUKT and the excellent 5-track-work "Float". What here happens has almost hypnotically effects - key word no.1 is "monotony". Produkt is developing a sound, an idea, a groove and the numbers - between ten and eighteen minutes long - rotate around this idea. This has then the exemplary loop character and the listener is feeling like a moon circling around his planet in elliptical curves. For produkt.float it's possible to use the word "psychedelic", these strange, rousing rhythmic experience has marked "tripping" character. There you can find silent suggestions of House traditions. Sometimes you feel - for instance by "trap.core" - beamed back to the early period of avant-garde electronic, too. Perhaps produkt.float is the most accessible work of rastermusic until now.

Rastermusic has founded with NOTON a sublabel, which is looking after documentation of performances, music for exhibitions and other events. First artist of Noton is Carsten Nicolai from Chemnitz. He is performing as NOTO, the name of the album is "Spin". The track "Spin" exist in 24 different versions and variations. Carsten is the label manager for Noton. In this way the contact to Mika Vainio came about, who is on the second Noton-publication. Mika Vainio from Finland, also known as Panasonic, who published by Mute, contacted Carsten. Beside Jimi Tenor and the Dancelabel Sähkö, Vainio is the most known synonym for the new electronic of Finland. He gave himself a second alias "Ø" for the cooperation with Carsten. Both were playing as Ø+noto a really interesting work, which is looking in its radicality for something equal.

goem = Minimal techno from The Netherlands.
goem = Frans de Waard - probably most known from his ongoing work with Kapotte Muziek (since 1984), a group that fully concentrates on recycling through musique concrete. Besides he is a member of ambient group Beequeen, Quest, Shifts and does "silly" (in his own words), preferable unsolicited remixes as Captain Black. His day-job occupation is with Dutch record company Staalplaat. Roel Meelkop - visual artist with a strong interest in music. He is a member of the dutch electro-acoustic band THU20, and composes solo under his own name. Last year Trente Oiseaux released his first solo CD ("9 Holes In The Head"), which was internationally well-received. Together with Frans de Waard, he is also a member of the live version of Kapotte Muziek. goem = entirely made with a device called "Student Stimulator". This was found in a thrift store, and it's use is to give rhythmical pulses, to coordinate a steady response. The machine is used by Goem to create a wide tapestry of beats, which are triggered by synths and efx. The result is listening music with steady beats. "Stud Stim" were recorded live in the studio, september/december 1996.

equipment used: Student Stimulator/Korg MS 20.

The Music: disc by disc descriptions:

All text within quote marks below is from Raster's own "press releases" - rest are my own interjections.

mxr 001 kyborg.same (12")
"Up to date analog-techno that incorporates the 303 in a subtle way. The four acid pieces really make a very fresh and unused impression and the simplicity of the tracks from Kyborg are representative of a new coolness."

cdr 002 komet.saat (CD)
"Somehow you can imagine yourself standing in the middle of a shiny aquarium with airbubbles rising up all around you. You have a very modern sounddesign without all the unnecessary loaded down weight."


cdr 003 noto.spin (CD)
"24 loops, up from below/down, fast/slow, forwards/backwards, loud/quiet...Minimal using (Akai S01, mixing board, DAT) with maximum result."
Wooden and metallic sonorities distorted, effected, and juxtaposed with rich layers of ambient drone. Endlessly cycling scratches and clicks, with distant nearly melodic synth-like sheets of sound that always threaten to become a full-blown orchestral movement- yet never do. Simplicity and confusion- like a meeting between the looped focus of early Dome and the exploratory ear of Asmus Tietchens.

cdr 004 tol.trap (CD)
"Composed on the computer, mixed live, then transferred back to be edited and arranged... In and out short melodylines, and hard grooving basslines that hold everything together."
Distant and dubbed out machine rhythms - like Adrian Sherwood meets Kraftwerk's Man Machine - lush and mysterious, moving leisurely through a delicately assembled haze of pristine keyboard sequences and spartan mechanical beats. Overall a very desirable and elegant laid back user-friendly atmosphere.

cdr 005 produkt.float (CD)
"An elegant looking electric-car driving down the avenue, dressed with tiny spoilers, a disco glitter sticker on the back of the rear-view mirror, no faster than 80 kmp.hour and always straight ahead."
Less (reggae) dub, but most definitely from the same languid drawn-out mindset that produced the tol.trap CD. As the press release so helpfully notes, the opening track does indeed float on for 18 lysergic minutes, and reaches some sort of endless all-delay peak around the 15 minute mark. Track two approaches a near-industrial heavyness, somewhere along the lines of a less funky, slower-paced Kahn & Walker. The attachment to unvaried hypnotic rhythms and maximum echo leads to a very worthwhile "psychedelic" (though not always tranquil) feel overall.

cdr 006 ø+noto.mikro makro (CD - also vinyl version-vyr 006)
"Suggested from soundexamples of a magnetspintomograph and radiotelescop-recordings from a pulsar, the four tracks are restricted to very simple and reduced patterns and rasters."

cdr 007 goem.stud stim (CD)
"Entirely made with a device called "Student Stimulator". This was found in a thrift store, and it's use is to give rhythmical pulses, to coordinate a steady response."
Not as lo-fi as the words "found at a thrift store" would make you think. The basic sound of this "Student Stimulator" however is indeed primitive and hiss-heavy no matter how efected the sequences and scratchy static pulses on the CD are. Comparable perhaps to a Mika Vainio remix of the noto.spin CD, or inversely, a reduction of Panasonic to nothing but the minimal machine beats. This is another of the clear jewel case series - just a clear sticker with track titles and credits.

cdr 008 noto.(infinity) (CD)
"The source of the sounds are mostly based in sound structures who carrying information like telephone, fax, signaltones that means very simple + sinewaves... The title of the cd marks in one point the aspect of the length and the endless copy of the elements, in another point it associate the construction structure- the loop."
72 tracks of tones and signals, the sound of information itself, ocasionally recognizable as your favorite piece of low/high/no tech equipment takes its turn on the "mic". Play this in an office full of computers/modems/phones/faxes/printers/pagers and watch everyone's eyes and ears light up in confusion.

vyr 009 kyborg.swing (12")
cdr 010 produkt.stretch (CD)
"Produkt has always stood for hypnosis, but this time everything is much more composed and concentrated than on its predecessor."
Sleepier than their debut, this CD keeps their dreamy floating techno sound moving into more "ambient" territories of slow motion echoed beats, and even (on track 9) the sort of synth sequence that can only be described as "Moroder-like". The sound overall remains "cool" and detached, with each sound distinct and separated in the mix - the signature of this label it seems.

cdr 011 komet.flex (CD)
"Even if the tracks begin so strange tricky like for instance "stop" or "pol", a familiar groove turns up soon. Komet guarantees in spite of clearness always a pleasant, relaxed flow between trip and electro - abstract hypnotic pop."

Contact:

Raster-Noton
Website: www.raster-noton.de
E-mail: office@raster-noton.de

Frank Bretschneider
E-mail: 100522.3536@compuserve.com