Blaze Colour Burn is a new work from electronic music pioneer and innovator Jan St. Werner (Mouse on Mars, Lithops, Microstoria) inaugurating Fiepblatter, a series of genre-dismantling releases on Thrill Jockey that will encompass electro-acoustic experimentation, algorithmic elements, scored music, digital signal processing, field recordings, improvisation, public performance and graphic works. These pieces aren't just about sound; they're about location, structure, time, aesthetics. Stories that overlap and interact with each other.
The five pieces gathered here find the Mouse On Mars co-pilot giving full vent to his wired, witty and wildly ambitious artistic practice, and constitute a radical new approach to sound, one that does away with traditional hierarchies. The two-part 'Spiazzacorale' is an edit of an 8-hour performance given in a public piazza in the Umbria region of Italy, and like MoM's recent live collaborations with musikFabrik, it advances and explodes conventional ideas of orchestration. The "players" include a flute orchestra, a traditional Umbrian band playing a time-stretched chord derived from the harmonics of the piazza's church bells, a lone vibraphonist in the piazza centre, and pre-recorded music sounding from inside the piazza's cafes. This dynamic, mammoth 8-hour performance - authored, arranged and processed by St Werner - gave fresh new meaning to the term "location-specific", and here on record, unmoored from that location, it becomes even more mysterious and exhilarating.
'Cloud Diachroma' and 'Sipian Organ' are extracted from original scores made for films by visual artist Rosa Barba; they feature acoustic recordings juxtaposed with DSP manipulations. Again, there's an extraordinary level of spatial depth and awareness at play; this is music which, in the grand tradition of electro-acoustic diffusion, comes at you from all angles and forces you to consider your own body's relationship to music, to think more deeply about the very nature of "hearing", to freshly wonder where sound ends and you begin.
'Serra Beacon', an edit of which was used to score an abstract short film by Roberto Lange aka Helado Negro, combines an excerpt of a guitar feedback composition by Ian Vine with St Werner's mischievous, mutant electronics. On the face of it, it's a plaintive, almost meditative piece, but beneath that calm surface everything is moving, in flux, vibrating with life. The same can be said of the elegant, engrossing 'Feed Opener', wherein it becomes difficult to distinguish between acoustic sound-sources, field recordings and electronic interventions.
St Werner's cutting edge technical prowess and avant-garde strategies go hand in hand with a natural and unshakeable sense of lyricism and harmony; complexity comes not at the cost of beauty. But in the end this record, and the Fiepblatter series at large, has a more serious purpose: to deconstruct and deterritorialise the very idea of sound, to liberate it from such limiting categories as "popular" or "academic", and to instead explore its potential as a raw material, massaging it into structures that are unconventional, non-hierarchical and free.