Jan St. Werner summons flux and fragmentation on Spectric Acid, building up the record's blistering, locomotive beat structures around the correlation of musical spectra. Their movements triggered in part by peaks in frequency envelopes, rhythms buckle and fracture according to a complex logic that slides past aural perception and harmonic resolution; a “phenomenological alchemy” (Rădulescu) takes shape among unsteady synthesizer whirls and stammering percussive phrases. The effect is deadly, paralytic; but listeners willing to surrender to Spectric Acid’s movement might find themselves taken to wider horizons of trance. Crucially, Werner turned also to the ceremonial rhythms of West Africa in his shaping of Spectric Acid’s bending timescales, and one can hear a clear impress of Vodoo drumming in the way rhythmic patterns cross converse, teeter off-beat, and rapidly redouble.
Though it shares with 2016’s Felder (Fiepblatter Catalogue #4) a desire to spill beyond metric linearity and notated time, Spectric Acid strays from that record’s breathy spatiality towards more pointed concerns with motion and the liberation of rhythm. In pursuit of this new direction, Werner borrows, on the one hand, from the structural techniques championed by the Spectralist school of the 1970s; breaking free of the tempered system through a focus on frequency and timbre, spectral composers like Gérard Grisey and Horațiu Rădulescu introduced sweeping, tectonic temporalities untroubled by notes and intervals, refining what Edgard Varèse before them had evangelized as a fragmentary, atomistic approach to form given to a “[constant] changing in shape, directions, and speed.”
A record both brute in force and exacting in its sensitivity to perception’s effective limits, Spectric Acid offers fresh glimpses of the deft compositional grasp Werner has developed across over two decades of practice, whether in Mouse on Mars and Microstoria or on his growing log of solo records. Treat it less as a document than a potent sonic distillate, to be taken on an empty stomach for full effect.
- Walker Peterson Downey
released August 25, 2017
Jan St. Werner music, artwork
Rupert Smyth art direction