Wieman - The Classics [Baskaru - 2014]This cd comes in a digipak with oddly innocuous artwork: a cowboy lassoing horses on the front cover, with minimal shapes and patterns on the inside. All of which leaves the listener very unsure what to expect. The album has five tracks, with three around the eight minute mark and shorter/longer tracks at four and twelve minutes length.
Normally, I make an effort not to “research” reviews: I like to attempt to judge a release purely on the release as given to me. This has advantages and drawbacks. However, in the case of this Wieman album, I felt compelled to search out the label spiel to get a grasp on what it was and lo: “…complex constructions that can at time sound like pop/dance songs, made entirely out of samples drawn from a very specific and predetermined corpus.”. This solved a lot of questions I had. The whole album feels odd, wonky; not in a bad way, just a feeling that something is amiss, or hidden. The label explanation makes sense of all this. “The Classics” is constructed entirely out of samples from songs that have “classical music-tinged titles - words like “symphony”, “rhapsody”, “overture”, etc.”.
The album is an odd, often clouded listen; rooted in something akin to techno, yet displaying odd shifts and passages not common to that genre. There are many sections of looping, often to the point of minimalist “audio hallucination”, with said loops subject to subtle tweaking and processing. This general atmosphere of unease and wonkiness continues until the fourth track, “Mega decontructed live wish”, which suddenly jolts the ear with a looped thrash metal riff: this was the point where I asked myself, “Whats happening here?”. The riff is so out of place on the album, that it suggested to me that sampling was perhaps the foundation of Wieman’s work; hence my checking of the label spiel. As the spiel points out, its much more sneaky than the “standard” plunderphonic approach: it doesn’t go to great pains to advertise the source material, render it recognisable. Instead, everything is skewed (often dulled and reverbed) to make woozy constructions which sound like techno, but clearly aren’t: its that grey area that makes it so interesting - and initially confusing. So we have submerged beats, reverberating under shimmering whines, with some melodic patterns and vocal loops that become shifting mantras. All of which are accompanied by detritus-like sprinklings of noise and synth-like spew.
Form and content conspire on “The Classics”, to produce an enthrallingly “odd” listen. If these tracks had been more “tradition” collage pieces, the ear would “recognise” them so much easier. Instead, Wieman serve up techno-bound works, constructed from “wrong” materials. Whilst its probably fair to say that nothing on the album would truly set a dance floor alight - though there’s some nice, twitchy tech-house rhythms on “The King Ist Queer” - the fact remains that the tracks’ clear use of techno/etc structures make for a fascinatingly ambiguous listen. Well worth your time and ears.Martin P