Dictaphone: m.=addiction
City Centre Offices

Berlin- and Manchester-based City Centre Offices has produced exceptional recordings like the compilation Cashier Escape Route, Ulrich Schnauss's Far Away Trains Passing By, Static's Eject Your Mind, The Remote Viewer's Here I Go Again On My Own, and Magic Radios by Morgan Caney and Kamal Joory. Apparently three years in the making, Dictaphone's m.=addiction is a stellar addition to that catalogue. The group is made up of Belgian multi-instrumentalist and arranger Oliver Doerell, clarinet and saxophone player Roger Döring, synthesizer player and arranger Klaus Bru, and voice contributors Malka Spigel (ex-Minimal Compact) and Heike Jeschonnek. The recording is relatively short, about 39 minutes in duration, and its eleven tracks are also brief, with one lasting a mere minute and the longest under six. But packed within the tracks is an incredible attention to detail and a sensitivity to texture that makes its brief running time moot. The recording shares some characteristics with Magic Radios in particular, while also exhibiting clear differences. Both organically merge acoustic and digital sounds in a rich, sophisticated manner, with Dictaphone using woodwinds more extensively to generate a deep aura of warmth and naturalism. The tracks on Magic Radios are songs, quite literally, whereas the succinct sound sculptures comprising m.=addiction are jazz-inflected fragments that exude a moody, noirish quality. That m.=addiction exudes a cinematic flavour isn't too surprising, given Oliver's background in composing theatre scores and Roger's in soundtrack work. Apparently the label describes the release as 'processed electronica slow-motion jazz' and the description generally seems apt. Certainly electronics are present throughout, whether used for beats or textural enhancements, but complementing it is the tactile warmth of woodwinds and bass.

Virtually all of the recording's tracks can be characterized as acoustic-digital hybrids that evoke the romantic mood of nocturnal Paris . Saxophones, accordions, guitars, clarinets, double-bass, and percussion blend with an extensive electronic array of clicks, hiss, static, and sampled voices. While each track is distinctive, some merit a more detailed description in order to illuminate the textural qualities of the music. “Disconnected,” with its wealth of whirring, plucking, and tapping fragments, is perhaps the best example of Dictaphone's expert handling of texture. Hissing, chirruping, and clicking sounds create a mysterious, avant-garde mood joined by keyboard accents, deep clarinet tones, and echoing cymbal accents. Döring's clarinet and saxophone contributions are noteworthy throughout and give the recording a humanizing dimension that it would otherwise lack. His saxophone playing is especially affecting in the elegiac “La Piscine” as it voices the beautiful theme against the sampled sounds of playing children. Created for Berlin-based choreographer Alex B, “Tango Doerell” deploys hiss, accordions, pianos, electronics, and strings to create a unique tango hybrid characterized by a rather drunken swaying feel. In sum, the fragmentary nature and brevity of its pieces give m.=addiction a rather unassuming quality. Yet, while it is not a groundbreaking release, it quietly stakes out its own unique territory in an accomplished manner. Unlike any of its fellow City Centre Offices brethren, m.=addiction creates a supremely convincing marriage of moody, 50s-era Parisian jazz and cinema with subtle treatments of glitch-based electronics.

March 2003