AGF – Words Are Missing (2008)
Every week GARY STEEL pulls another random album from his bulging shelves to cast a critical eye over.
Antye Greie is a German electronic musician with an accent towards both sound and visual art. Don’t let this put you off. Words Are Missing is not some academic gallery-oriented exercise in grim drones, despite its experimental nature. Yes, she has done sound installations as well as music for theatre and dance. She also works under the name Poemproducer and has collaborated with acclaimed Finnish sonic sorcerer Sasu Ripatti (aka Vladislav Delay).
As with Ripatti’s work, the sound quality on Words Are Missing is a treat for the aural cavities and, in fact, it’s the hi-res illusion that she conjures and the extremely psychoactive stereophonic picture that first makes an impression.
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Despite its abstract leanings, each composition on this 16-track album is clearly carefully structured, and the imaginative and playful way she constructs the pieces make for a constantly engaging listening experience, despite the brevity of many of the tracks and relatively episodic nature of the endeavour.
The sound design was forged in 2007 but could easily be 2022. Electronic musicians with an in-depth knowledge of the hardware and software that Greie used might have some success in dating the recording, but to me it sounds thoroughly contemporary in every way.
I love that there’s nothing clichéd or imitative here. She uses voice but as the title suggests, it’s wordless. She integrates her voice in various ways – sometimes it’s textural or sensuous but it never dominates the sonic spectrum. Similarly, there are occasionally beats – sometimes glitched and scratchy, at other times as tempo placeholders or near-techno, but the album is not beat-driven. There may be drones embedded in the sound design but they’re never obvious or boring or of long duration. There’s always plenty happening but seldom any clutter, and each track is quite different from the last.
In the blurb, she’s described as a vocalist, software musician, producer, label-owner and e-poet. Words Are Missing is her fourth solo album and on it “she leaves words behind (to) create a huge palette of unique sounds to work around the phenomenon of silence, speechlessness, deconstructed language and impeded communication.” There seems to be some theorizing and meaning to each track, which is all very interesting, but what I get from the album are some really trippy audio explorations.
The hard cardboard digipack is beautifully presented with booklet and artworks for each of the tracks, and it’s a thing of both beauty and resilience: if only the originators of the compact disc format had set these kinds of standards from the beginning.