Total absorption into the work. Complete dedication to a piece of art to the point of self-alienation. That is how the novelist Gustave Flaubert wrote about “artistic hallucination”, when the world begins to double, to reproduce itself before a perception that becomes detached from the self. Brett Naucke’s EMS Hallucinations are the result of a week-long residency at the Elektronmusikstudion (EMS) in Stockholm last year, where he was able to experiment with the Buchla 200 Series and Serge Modular systems and their extensive sound palettes. His approach is historically informed, aware of the environments that shaped these devices from the 1970s and the people that used them to push the limits of electronic music, as well as of the currents that have grown, however unrecognizable as part of the same lineage, into the twists and turns of contemporary dance music. The hallucination as a vehicle of another reality juxtaposes past and present, and the album presents to us a kind of reconstruction of a time made strange, of the distortions of working exclusively on a project that resulted in hours upon hours of recordings.
One of the most interesting aspects of these hallucinations is that they sound simultaneously new and familiar, their doubling of historical currents altogether belonging to no clear context alone. The recreation of rhythmic dance staples of recent times within sweeping psychedelic tones that clearly belong to the 1970s produces an uncanny sense of having heard it all before, but not here, and not now, as if it was the distant memory of a recurring dream. The first half of the album, composed of a Buchla 200 Series collage, creates a sense of forward movement through pulsating repetitions surrounded by vintage-sounding space ambience: its fast flows and stark transitions reminded me of both the way in which techno builds an immersive sense of motion and that in which new age music seems to craft narratives and concrete moments out of abstract drones. In other words, the hallucinatory clash of times of electronic musics brings to the fore the newness of the old and the oldness of the new in a deeply satisfactory, clear manner.
The second half of the album is made of recordings from both the Buchla 200 Series and the Serge Modular, and the difference with the first part is stated from the very beginning, when the sounds are like glitches and errors, set against a droning background. The free-styling of the first half often recalls the messiness that characterizes the work of electronic music pioneers and the rawness of their technique; the second half is much more streamlined and smooth, the kind of hi-definition experimentalism we are now used to, gliding into its different sections like movements in a classical piece. However, this smoothness of flow contrasts with the more aggressive development of the synths’ sounds, often noisy and abstract, turning the track into something akin to a lost document of the 1970s avant-garde, paradoxically preserved in the latest of digital technologies, existing beyond past and present. This hallucination shows us an impossible soundscape, a revelation of styles and devices whose potential will never be exhausted, and that are yet contained in musics we no longer consider associated to them.
Naucke’s work momentarily doubles the world of electronic music to reveal the threads and traces of historical processes, an absolute immersion into the hidden relationships within genres and subgenres for us now to hear. But even if you are, like myself, not entirely knowledgeable on the many references of the styles in question, what makes EMS Hallucinations incredibly engaging is its sheer clarity, its willingness to provide a complex soundscape in immediate, perhaps even didactic, form. Where many an electronic artist deals with history through layers upon layers of experiments barely legible to an outsider, Naucke manages to calmly and warmly lead us through his hallucinations with care. Trust his surreal suggestions, and yourself in the uncanny. (David Murrieta Flores)