Recordings from two installations/performances by the Berlin-based sound artist that explore the physical presence of sound phenomena, by producing the impact of electronic music but with purely acoustic means.
Brand first became entranced by ratchets—a percussive instrument/warning device that generates clicking sounds—when he discovered the extraordinarily loud high-density sound they make when played in unison with their gearwheels turning at high speeds.The original performances and the new work – a vinyl recording of a ratchet concert performed in 2021 – are indeed similar in many ways. Yet what we find most striking, happily, are their differences.
The new recording remains as perplexing as ever: not only does the analogue sound of the ratchets, made up of an infinite density of high-speed clicks, somehow manage to sound typically electronic, but the sounds they generate can be heard without speakers, yielding a result that resembles electronic music but has been produced in a far less contrived and more natural way.
Another difference is that Brand has put together—for the other side of the record— a new series of drone pieces made with motors that resemble those he uses for the ratchets. When the motors start up they produce a pulse, which is made audible by the coil in the motor and can be controlled with considerable precision. The first and third drone works start with the last four notes of pieces of music by Duke Ellington and Henry Purcell respectively, while the second uses sounds from the motors. The pieces alternate between harsh and dulcet tones and elegiac melodies, exhibiting considerable variation.
"Jens Brands has created a large number of installations, musical performances and Interactive Media works. He uses the concepts of parallel activities rather then ideas of fusion.
The pieces presented on this recording focus on sonic events related to electronic music (such as intense volumes and dynamics, white noise, square or sine waves) but stay entirely acoustic. On a live performance of the ratchets, the sounds are generated with the idea of a physical, sculptural, yet invisible presence. It might happen that the body of a person moving around in the audience has more impact on the sound then the variations produced by instruments themselves.
'I was always interested in the idea of making acoustic music that has the quality of electronic music,' muses Dortmund based musician and visual artist Jens Brand. "Electronic music is fantastic, but I don't like speakers very much."
Take his performance entitled 'Motors And Styrofoam'. Pieces of glistening white styrofoam fitted with small motors hang from the ceiling above the audience's heads, squatting balefully in mid-air like lopsided clouds. Acting as a resonator, the styrofoam amplifies the whirr of the motors, which builds up into a loud, persistent drone overlaid with overtones.
Equally uncompromising is The Ratchets, which deploys a number of football rattles, those small wooden devices originally used by hunters. The ratchets are set in motion by motors whose speed and direction are controlled by a computer: they click busily away, producing a dense, enveloping sound reminiscent of heavy rainfall. In performance, the sound of the ratchets is spellbinding in its rawness and intensity, attaining impressive volumes as it interacts with the features of the space."
Rahma Khazam, The Wire
Recorded and edited by Radboud Mens at Galerie Weisser Elefant, Berlin, 2022.
Limited edition of 300 superglos printing.
Jens Brand (born 1968 in Dortmund) is a sound artist based in Berlin.