New Belief System

Alias Frequencies

he hardest trick Jochen Gutsch pulls off in his work as Hinterlandt, or at least the one I’m most jealous of, is his knack for extended compositions. Gutsch, a German musician who until recently lived in Australia, makes tracks that rarely dip below the nine or ten minute mark, often stretching up into the fifteen minute range, and yet he never, ever gets boring. There are certainly other artists who have made longer tracks I hold dear to my heart, but Gutsch is the only guy working in that territory near exclusively who has yet to make a song I wind up fast forwarding through.

Most of it, I think, is due to his second-hardest trick, the way he skillfully integrates pop catchiness into such lengthy tunes without running any ideas into the ground. Even more so than last year’s Poprekordt here the songs cover a lot of ground. The three major tracks on Poprekordt varied a bit, but basically took their melodic themes as far as they could go, with the shimmering “Guardando La Luna” in particular being practically recumbent.

The fifteen-minute “Deckchair Anthem” or the similarly protracted title track each possess enough material for a few more Poprekordt’s, but neither feel particularly busy, moving smoothly amongst sounds rough and smooth, strident and laid back, playful and terse. The former in particular almost feels like a demo reel for Gutsch’s talents, but that doesn’t mean it fails to satisfy on its own merits as well.

“Mehrgegenwärter” is more concentrated, sticking with the same digitized, stomping feel for much of its eleven minutes before samples of a computer voice saying “Access denied” and dolphin squeaks come in to liven things up a little. But even here, the closest to conventional techno Hinterlandt has ventured, things stay interesting; something’s always being introduced or existing elements are shifting enough to keep your attention diverted. There are artists who make a virtue of repetition, but there are far more who try that tactic and fail. Gutsch wisely keeps things moving, giving his ideas room to breathe.

“Au Revoir Mon Enemie” ends the body of the album with an absolutely beautiful wordless quasi-dirge, shifting for its second half to strangely plangent heavily processed distorted hum. It’s not the last track—the actual end of the album is set off by a gap on the back of New Belief System as well as by a minute of silence. It’s also Hinterlandt’s first cover: “Making Plans For Nigel” by XTC. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Gutsch stretches it out to nine minutes.

Even less surprising is that it works (those words, coupled with a mild expression of pleasant surprise, might as well be my motto when it comes to Hinterlandt). The drums are strengthened and echoed to dub proportions, most of the sounds are basically emulated albeit in slower, thicker form (the revelation that Nigel has a future in British Steel mirrored by the construction of the track in this form), and while Colin Moulding played it basically straight in the original, there’s an acid sarcasm in Gutsch’s rendition.

New Belief System is significantly more expansive, both in time and ideas, than Hinterlandt’s previous work, but the verve and whimsicality of sound that marked out Poprekordt as the product of an artist to watch thankfully hasn’t gone awry under the pressure of increased complexity.

Reviewed by: Ian Mathers

Reviewed on: 2005-01-06

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