Kg Augenstern: Tentacles

Gruenrekorder has not only repeatedly demonstrated a remarkable talent for identifying special artists and granting them an outlet by which to disseminate their works, the label also maximizes the impact such projects can have when they're presented so elaborately. A clear case in point is Tentacles by Augenstern duo Christiane Prehn and Wolfgang Meyer, multi-dimensional sound artists who have lived and worked on the ship Anuschka for many years. The album title isn't as odd as it might first appear: the recording, which traces a five-month trip the two undertook in July 2014 from Berlin to the south of France, takes its title from ship-attached tentacles that scratched the bridges under which the duo traveled as they made their way through canals and rivers. Tentacles, issued in a 500-copy edition as part of Gruenrekorder's Field Recording Series, thus functions not only as an especially tactile aural diary of the journey but also a sound document that sensitizes the listener to the subtle differences in sound properties between one bridge and another.

We begin at Augenstern's mooring place in Berlin-Rummelsburg, where sounds of traffic, a barking dog, wind, rushing water, and the tentacles themselves, that when aggressively scraped generate a steely, rustling noise that's rather alien-sounding, collectively establish a clear sense of place. Having passed through thirty bridges in the opening leg, the boat eventually enters The Netherlands by way of the Havel and Rhine rivers, loud scrapes marking the boat's advance. Birds twitter, dogs bark, voices murmur, and a saxophonist practices scales as the ship makes its slow passage across hundreds of kilometres. Eventually, the duo reaches La Vilette in central Paris, witnesses the familiar sights of the Seine and its famous bridges (Pont Royal, Pont Neuf, etc.), and moves on to Lyon and the Mediterranean until the Anuschka reaches its winter mooring place, its 2450 Km journey now completed.

What makes Tentacles extra special is the deluxe manner by which it's presented. To complement the CD's sound files, a full-colour, forty-four-page booklet containing photos, text, and maps provides a fascinating amount of context for the project. Separately indexed tracks document the journey's stages, the sum-total of which is supplemented at disc's end by two short installation-styled pieces. The cartographic images are attractively designed, and the photo images and text details provide excellent support. Marring the presentation slightly are a few instances where ‘where' is mistakenly used for ‘were,' but the error is not so severe that it undermines the project; in a perfect world, another edition of the project would see the flaw corrected. It's a fascinating and engrossing project, that small misstep notwithstanding.

September 2016