FM Einheit + Irmler: Live at Berghain

Concert Review /
FM Einheit & Hans-Joachim Irmler

Live at Berghain, Berlin, November 29th.                  

The „Elektroakustischer Salon“ is not a very bourgeois 'salon', you have to admit. After the Moritz von Oswald Trio and Sunn o))), the 2009-2010 series presents a peculiar duo made up of FM Einheit and Hans-Joachim Irmler. 

FM Einheit aka Mufti aka FM (Frank Martin Strauss) was a key member of the industrial noise band Einstürzende Neubauten until he left the group in the mid-90s ('boredom' was one reason for leaving, he says). Claiming to hear things other people wouldn't notice, he is always looking for particular sounds to fit his ideas and he usually finds them by behaving ferociously with industrial construction elements and various tools and devices. Einstürzende Neubauten concerts were parades of custom-made instruments and today, FM is a radical representative of this approach, collaborating with different people on concerts, theater and radio projects. Hans-Joachim Irmler, the other German legend here, is the keyboard man of Faust, who are still active and even preparing the release of a new studio album in 2010. The members of the mythical Krautrock band, even though experimenting with concrete sounds like E.N., rather fiddled with studio techniques and electronics, but both groups share the idea of building an idiosyncratic language beyond academic conventions. 

Before anything happens, it's already a spectacle. Here come the two men onstage. You can't help thinking that Irmler, sitting half hidden by his banks of modified organs and keyboards, looks like dreamy Bob from The Boat that rocked (and perhaps like the old crazy Dr Jacoby from Twin Peaks). FM Einheit seems to play the role of a mad handyman: barefoot, walking on his pants (which he uses as a tool holder), a sledgehammer in hand, ready to hurt. He is standing before his instruments, two giant metal springs called spirals hanging from above, waiting to be hit. One spiral is longer and thinner and if you touch it, you hear something that sounds like a lasergun shot in Star Wars. The shorter spiral expresses the raw power of metal sound. All this takes place in the main hall of the Berghain, a former power station made of concrete and steel. Where else? 

Irmler sits, soon flickering like the flame of a candle, and oceanic waves, beautiful yet rather dark, spread out from the organs. Such soundscapes, endlessly merging together, should be hypnotic. But FM is the visual center of attention. Indeed there is much fun to watch him play, even if 'fun' and 'play' are quite inappropriate words here. Now and then, in order to make the sound thicker he plays a prepared and especially rhythmic track on a computer, but mostly he punctuates, garnishes or contradicts Irmler's music flow, acting with the spirals through various tools (first a hammer, then some screwdrivers and finally a power drill, which almost gets blocked inside) and methods (mostly hitting, stroking, scraping, the latter including impossible metal drilling).  

The thing is, both performers are producing a unique sound together. Irmler alone would have offered a kind of psychedelic soundtrack, like his 2006 solo album Lifelike. FM alone is always a concrète music performance, but leaning on Irmler's kosmische sounds he adds epic action in this cinematic atmosphere. Almost symbolic of a body/mind relationship, the duo is a worthy collaboration, and its muscular and hazy music definitely an impressive live experience. 

By Antoine Richard

Antoine Richard is founder of „The V Sessions“, an online portal offering streaming video sessions by artists from the world of classical and contemporary composition as well as sound art


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