“All great art is born of the metropolis”, wrote the modernist poet Ezra Pound. He was wrong though. Cities have a lot to offer artists. The invigorating rush of the new; the stimulating shock of the exotic; the freedom of being untethered from a single culture or history. But some art thrives on re-treading an intimately known territory.
As the name suggests, Phil Struck’s Schleswig-Holstein Aufnahmen is a series of recordings exploring Germany’s northernmost state. Schleswig-Holstein is the isthmus (or land bridge) connecting Germany to Denmark. The opening track sets the tone, its melody fluttering like a breeze from the coast. A faint pulse lends rhythmic structure, the sound of a lone figure hiking steadily on.
How much do we need to know about our favourite landscapes? Struck’s recordings document direct experience. They also hint at the complex webs of history and memory that colour a sense of place. “Speckenbeck” foregrounds fuzzy interference, analogue crackle, and fragments of found sound. But these artefacts are present throughout the whole album, criss-crossing the surface like fissures in a rockface.
While wind and rock are sonic reference points, the track titles evoke fire and water to complete Struck’s elemental picture. His melodies subtly morph, imperceptibly as geological shifts. My favourite track, “Grube” [“Mine” or “Pit”] suggests an excavation into the earth. Struck begins in beatless, cavernous ambience. Plinks of keys drop occasional stones during the descent. Faltering but hypnotic drumming rises from the deep to meet us.
Much of Struck’s music has picked individual strands from the synthetic fabric of techno, reweaving them into cold, abstract textures. 2018’s NNO introduced some organic ambience, especially in the billowing cumulus shapes of “Klouds”. Schleswig-Holstein Aufnahmen extends this, knitting the analogue and electronic into a subdued and heartfelt whole.
Struck’s direction is shown on the most lyrical track, “Sommertage” [“Summer Days”]. A repeated burst of strings precedes the soft thud of footfall. Struck captures the rhythm of seasonal time, syncing it with the motion of an individual person passing through a familiar place. This is patient music. It lacks the populous energy of the city or the nightclub; but it captures the endeavour of human experience dwarfed by time and space. (Samuel Rogers)