Friday, February 6, 2009
mnml ssgs mx20: Klimek
Sebastian Meissner is a Berlin based artist who works across a number of different, yet related, mediums – photography, video, and sound art. His audio explorations, largely built around sampling and digital manipulation, have been released under a number of names: Random Industries, Random Inc, Bizz Circuits, Autokontrast, and Autopoieses (with Ekkehard Ehlers) – names which may be familiar with those who remember the experimental/conceptual Mille Plateaux label.
At the moment Meissner’s main musical project, and the one which drew my attention to him, is Klimek. First appearing on Kompakt in 2002, and every year since on the label’s annual Pop Ambient series, Meissner’s Klimek tracks are restrained pieces of beauty built from shimmering samples of plucked guitar strings (and other organic instruments). No doubt because of the Kompakt connection, Klimek is usually described as an “ambient” project, although the term – all too often used in connection with aural wallpaper or music to just relax to – fails to describe the tension that exists at the heart of Meissner’s carefully measured compositions. While the music is undoubtedly beautiful, there are moments of melancholy – even iciness. And if the music is meditative, it is because there are real-world issues and tensions that Meissner would like us to meditate and reflect on.
Consider, for example, the cover art of the 2004 ‘Milk and Honey’ album – it’s a photograph of Israel’s West Bank barrier.
Or the fabulous 2007 album ‘Dedications’ on Ezekiel Honig’s Anticipate Recordings, where every track is named for the two people Meissner has dedicated it to, thereby creating a link between them. For example, the last track on the album is titled “For Steven Spielberg & Azza El-Hassan”, which may not mean much at first glance – that is, until you put Azza El-Hassan into Google and realize she’s a Palestinian filmmaker. In this interview, Meissner said, “I want to draw attention to the relationships and tensions between two characters symbolizing opposite values, different discourses or personalities.”
It’s clear to see that Meissner’s work is intensely political – political in the sense that his work seeks to actively engage with, question, and open a discourse on various cultural, social, and historical scenarios. For example, he is concerned with Israeli-Palestinian issues, particularly with how these issues are represented and portrayed. For his 2002 Random Inc release “Walking In Jerusalem” Meissner built his tracks around field recordings he had made in the city. His platform Intifada Offspring is for “artists from Palestine, Israel and other regions who have dedicated their work to the artistic deconstruction of the so called Middle East conflict.”
For his ssgmix Meissner presents a narrative that flows fluidly across a wide range of styles and sounds. His thoughts on the mix:
This is sort of a personal selection of tracks which I regard as timeless (boundless) in terms of styles and sounds and I intended to mix across the various production years, but still to achieve a coherent and fluent listening experience. Also because I hope that through the recent changes on the global music markets and digital music formats listening and the perception of music (productions) generally becomes more free and independent of trends and time aspects (which were to my experience in all the past years very much dominated by short-living press coverage). There are sometimes up to 4 different tracks playing at the same time.
mnml ssgs mx20: Klimek (click to dl)
In keeping with the current ssgmix philosophy we’ll hold back the tracklisting of the mix until next week to encourage you (as George Michael once urged us all) to “listen without prejudice.”
You can find out much more about Meissner and his various artistic projects at his website, as well as listening to some of his Klimek tracks at his Myspace. You can explore his visual art at Ghetto Ambient and Autokontrast. Finally, many thanks to Sebastian for providing such a thoughtful and fascinating mix.