Words are Missing

(AGF Producktions; 2008)

By Mark Abraham | 22 February 2008

After Antye Greie-Fuchs’s initial entry into the musical world in the mid-‘90s as part of Laub, she turned to a solo career that has attempted all manner of artistic interpretations of the minutia of daily communication. The languages we use, here, might mean html or coding languages as much as actual words. Which might seem overly academic or not, depending on how you view the explosion of late ’90s university com-cult courses investigating the cultural ramifications of the hyperlink, but it’s the way Greie-Fuchs tackles the transition of e-poetry (fragments of software manuals, coding fragments, or the fundamentals of speech) that makes the artistic dissections available for popular access.

Her new album is dance music, sort of, but given that the basic intent of Words are Missing is to interrogate the origins of the meanings of words by expressing meaning (or meaninglessness) without words I’m not sure you can deal with the album on two levels at once. By which I mean, and maybe this is irrelevant because with few exceptions ain’t nobody gonna dance to this stuff without some remixing anyway, but you can’t get your funk on and examine the intent at the same time, I don’t think, because the artistic aspect of this is quite cerebral and isn’t necessarily wrapped into the action of movement. Not that I’m complaining that the album is too static, either; simply check out “Where the White Animals Meet” and assume that she’s a fan of Mouse on Mars, but also assume that she’s not enough of a fan to follow that duo down the road of trying to make the beat hefty enough to theoretically jazz square people’s feet.

So it’s definitely not static, but neither does it assume that all conversations flow freely like a script without any non sequiturs or tangents or sneezes or cell calls or interruptions whatsoever. In that sense, it’s an album that takes as it’s inspiration the ways in which meaning is constantly interrupted, whether the joke gets to big for the punchline (watch how those Whitney Houston keyboards loom comfortably towards the end of closer “Underwater (Run!)” like we’re going to get a sentimental rom-com ending before everything just…dissipates) or the components of language themselves are just not useful enough to convey meaning (see how the vaguely marshal noises of “Food Combination Chart” refuse to actually push forward even though nothing ever really seems off). It’s a thing many electronic artists hint at but few have the guts to follow through on so viciously over such a range of styles.

It’s kind of weird, but this album is kind of like a pre- or post- growing pain (yes…both) that hints at just how much more classical or artistically-based electronic artists have been approaching populist dance-orientated music in recent years. And not in the Herbert-pick-a-concept/utility sense either; in the Eliane Radigue-puts-out-the-hottest-dance-track-of-2008 sense, which, “Coginitive Modules Party II” with its pulsing beat anchored by vowel clips and groans kind of is. And it’s not that clear a juncture, of course; this album isn’t a cusp, and this transformation has been happening for a while (whether through glitch, or Matmos-style sampling, or whatever), and it’s even true that Laub was (relatively) pop-orientated in the first place. So this isn’t quite Xenakis goes Kompakt, or Rylan finally downloads the Native Instruments Komplete or anything. But what it is? One of the more thoughtful takes on dance music from an entirely un-dance perspective in a while, and one that breezes through giant herds of influences, from glitch (“Dread in Strangers Eyes”; “Kreuzwortraetsel”) to industrial (the absolutely punishing “Presswehen”) to ambient (“Mohr Und Die Raben Von London”; “KZ,” sort of) to out (“I-War”) to silence (“Present/Absent”).

More importantly, of course, is just how listenable the thing is, even if I wouldn’t necessarily call it easy listening. (And, incidentally, if you want the best experience: I was at the New York Public Library last week looking through ’60s issues of The East Village Other while listening and one of the issues was collaged together from articles and ee cummings concrete poetry and “Oops for Understanding III” came on and my head exploded.) But what Greie-Fuchs does better than most is tie the roots of her delvings into the electronic music past to identifiable currents. All of the genres listed above are perceptible in most of the tracks at the same time that mixing them never provokes a mess. In fact, my only criticism of the album lies in the similarity of some of the tracks which, given that there are 16 of them, and despite the gorgeous album artwork that provides an image to associate with each track and gives further concept to the whole affair, means that while the album has an incredibly unique sound some of the individual tracks do not. Then again, I guess that’s part of studying meaning too, right? We all want to have our individual voices, but many of us, if we’re being honest, return to the same subjects time and again. Greie-Fuchs’s strength lies in characterizing the moments within that minutia, finding beauty in the wreckage of all our wasted words.