Steve Roden & Frank Bretschneider: Suite Nuit (Line)
Suite Nuit is an interesting document of the meeting of these two musical minds, dating back to 2004. Steve Roden is a Pasadena-based sound, visual, and mixed media artist who’s been releasing work under his own name and in be tween noise since the mid-nineties; in fact, as a full disclosure, his first album was something I discovered in ‘95 or so when I was still publishing a paper fanzine, and he and I struck up a correspondence that lasted some years. (This release has put me back in touch with him, a nice bonus!) Roden’s music has always struck me as inherently organic, equally informed by technique, process, and instinct. He’s called it “lowercase” in the past, music that focuses on the slightest of details and encourages — perhaps demands — active listening. Bretschneider has released numerous works in the last fifteen years or so, largely focused around severe, minimal electronics and how those interact with the concept of rhythm, whether in the microscopic beatmaking of his Komet project or the improvisational jazz inspiration of his album EXP. These recordings evolved out of a commissioned performance for the 2004 Suite in Parochial festival in Berlin, Germany, and comprise their first collaborations. It was part of a series of site-specific collaborations between artists of various disciplines (sound, music, video) who “were encouraged to address the unique sonic, visual, and cultural contexts of the Parochial Church of Berlin Mitte.”
While Bretschneider can often be heard exploiting the tiniest fragments of electronic sound, Roden is more unpredictable, with a career that spans all sorts of tinkering, both visual and aural. The very hushed, lulling patterns that start off the second half (their “practice” session) feels more like Bretschneider’s Rand or his Komet alias at first, but then a series of strange drones layer on top that are no doubt the handiwork of Roden. This push and pull between their aesthetics is pervasive, and it’s at the core of what makes Suite Nuit sonically exciting. Those more familiar with either artist’s work will be pleasantly surprised by the twists and turns the soundmaking takes as they feed off one another. It splits the difference between Roden’s world of “lowercase sounds” and Bretschneider’s exploitation of computer sounds and error music. Despite all of the activity that is happening above and below the surface, there is something meditative about Suite Nuit that allows it to go down smooth and linger, like a massage for the ears.