Tilman Ehrhorn: Past Utopia (Neo Ouija)
When Coil suggested that we worship the glitch in the mid 90s, it was in Frankfurt that the phenomena really boiled over between 1999-2002 or so, with Mille Plateaux releasing its seminal series of compilations Clicks_+_Cuts alongside a variety of extremely minimal instrumental albums from artists such as snd, Alva Noto, Sutekh and more. Over the span of a few years, many like-minded artists explored the outermost limits of subtractive electronic minimalism before marrying it again to a beat and encouraging their audience to dance. Ehrhorn himself is no stranger to this community, having done time on Mille Plateaux and Resopal before landing on UK-based Neo Ouija for his third album. In the fast-paced world of music journalism and its habit of consuming, cultivating and ultimately disposing of micro-genres and aesthetics and trends, 2011 may seem behind the curve for a time to release an album of warm, glitchy IDM. But timing and trends be damned, because Past Utopia is a fantastic album that looks as much inward as it does back to the recent past for inspiration. Despite having much in common with ambient-glitch legends like Jan Jelinek or even the chronically bent and manipulated sounds of Mouse on Mars’ repertoire, Ehrhorn’s tracks here feel cozy and introverted to me. Zips of static, fragments of sounds, crinkling textures and woozy pads figure in heavily over the course of the album’s ten tracks, with mood varying between a jerky, detached funk (“The Crown,” “Sat”), something slightly gloomier (“If There Wasn’t Rock”) and even smoothly strident passages (“Relocating,” “Radio Patrol”). I’ve sat with the album for a while now trying to describe it eloquently, but it’s a difficult one to pinpoint verbally. Instead I recommend taking a listen and enjoying it — it’s a solid album from start to finish, one of the best glitchy releases I’ve heard in years and surely in the running for best of the year.