Stephan Mathieu / Ekkehard Ehlers
Although I missed this collaboration the first time it went around, I'm really glad that I listened in on this re-release. A collaboration between Stephan Mathieu and Ekkehard Ehlers, Heroin is a lovely journey through sound that isn't to be missed if you're a fan of electronic music. A somewhat varied affair that swings from almost found-sound experiments to filtered and warped versions of classic tracks to minimal electronic. It's all very warm and pleasing, and given that it was recorded around the holiday season in the year 2000, you can actually feel elements of those 7 days creep into tracks (in some places more than others).
Opening with "New Years Eve," the album gets off to a great start with only a simple, lovely organ melody playing over the top of the sound of fireworks. It sets the mood early, and the disc continues things nicely with a loping, backwards drum track on "Rose" and more of those layered accordian/organ sounds. There are loads of subtle effects slathered onto the mix, but they only add to soften the corners even more, dulling the edges on static and noise and giving the tracks a gauzy feel. If there was ever a dead giveaway of the time of year that the album was recorded, it would be "Turkey Song," in which Vince Guaraldi's Christmas theme (sang by the Peanuts gang) is run through a watery sounding filter, making the kids sound like they've been dropped into the bottom of a lake and mic'ed up.
"Supertramp" ups the glitch and noise factor a slight bit, actually shorting out and stopping the underlying track several times while another repetitive organ melody plays. It's a longer track, but like most of the other pieces on the disc, is very absorbing and gives the listener time to sink into it like a big fluffy chair. On the other side of things, there are a couple tracks on the disc that just don't feel right given the setting. The two part track of "Blue Baby" aren't much more than varying low end tones that fail to go much of anyplace and just sort of break the feel of the disc, and while "Joshuas Theme" is an excellent track, it runs a slight bit long at almost 10 minutes. The disc ends up right where it started, as another organ melody plays solitaire over the crackling of fireworks (on a track of the same name). Full circle, and it's mostly a journey through warm fuzzies (of the glitch electronic kind).
In addition to the remastering and the fancy packaging, this re-release of Heroin includes an entire disc of "extensions" (remixes/reworkings/progressions) from like-minded individuals. Nobukazu Takemura reverts back to his more experimental side after his newer poppier entries, and his scattered electronic squelches, gurgles, and rumbling cut-up electronics recall more his Scope era work until a beat emerges about halfway through and rocks things out. The other standouts include a squirrelly, upbeat mix by Kit Clayton, a lovely wash of electronics, organs, and acoustic guitar from Fennesz that is some of his best work to date. In all, it's not an amazing collection of remixes, but it makes a nice companion disc to the original, and the two disc set as a whole sparkles with a great treatment from Orthlong Musork (plus, it's available for cheap).