Sitting, Going Places
h, the concept album. As with patriotism, it has ever been the refuge of scoundrels. Here we have four tracks of electronic music put down by one Jochen Gutsch in Sydney, Australia, designed to evoke the kind of mental journey one takes while being bored to death on a plane trip.
It is not, thankfully, as dull as all that; while parts of Sitting, Going Places do reflect the influence of Eno (Music For Airports, of course), Gutsch has tried to reflect the way your mind might seize upon a certain phrase or image and play with it. The result is more compelling music than might be expected, although the concept gets a bit muddled in the process.
The opening part of 'Taiwan' and the closing minutes of 'Cologne' are the most mundane, sounding more like the sort of thing you'd expect from an exercise like this. These parts are music for the endless taxiing of the plane around the runway while you shift, settle into your seat and prepare for the trip. 'Taiwan' highlights Gutsch's more ambient side, building a fragile, drifting melody over top of warm, buzzing tones.
But once 'Oslo' starts, we're out of ambient territory. Beginning with a chopped up sample, it quickly laces together various fuzzily toned beats and sounds to create an actual groove that is more menacing than you might expect, given the subject matter. 'Oslo' is easily the highlight of the disc, showing that Gutsch has a good ear for a hook as well as an interesting library of sounds. Most interestingly, after about six minutes a piano and a slurred human voice (presumably Gutsch himself) enters, singing a quiet refrain for a few minutes before the song collapses into echoed, decaying fragments. The effect is quite lovely, our passenger tossing and turning in sleep and dimly overhearing the torch song from his neighbour's headphones.
'Santiago' and most of 'Cologne' groove along at a slower tempo, shifting almost randomly from one element to another, only connected through the rapid beeping background of each track.
And this is perhaps its downfall. I can buy Sitting, Going Places as Gutsch's mental journey during a plane ride, but it's a bit too scattered to evoke the same sensations in other listeners. At the same time, the sounds make more sense in terms of the concept than just as four random tracks, so I don't think he should have necessarily have ditched the concept altogether. As it is, Sitting, Going Places is good rather than amazing, although thankfully (at just over forty minutes) very focused and easy to listen to. I look forward to listening to it on my next trip by air.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2003-11-13