Armed with a sampled rhythm and shredding feedback, Swedes Henrik Rylander and Leif Elggren do the lord’s work on Gottesdienst, their first collaboration, recorded live in Göteburg in 2005. There’s nothing especially ecclesiastical about the piece, though from eyewitness accounts, one can imagine that the force of the live performance sent more than a few in the crowd into prayer for the salvation of their quickly degenerating sense of hearing.
Rylander’s 2004 solo disc Traditional Arrangements of Feedback showcased his ability to wrangle feedback, bending it to his musical will, and it’s a technique that’s all over Gottesdienst. A snippet of strings – repeated for nearly the 20-minute duration of the piece – is its rhythmic base, interspersed occasionally with fragments of recorded dialogue. Laid overtop with heavy-handed abandon is a thick sheet of white hot sound, a distorted presence that threatens to demolish all in its shadow, though the less abstract facets of the piece endure unharmed. Gottesdienst isn’t a complicated work; the two aforementioned ingredients are its primary players, with minor deviations as the sampled strings and vocals are altered underneath the gritty screams and roughly hewn gurgles. The monotony that evolves from the largely unchanged rhythmic base would be nicely mind-numbing if it weren’t for the intrusive quality of the oft-insistent feedback, but, all the same, at its stormiest, Gottesdienst stays firmly tethered where a more tumultuous climax might have been more effective. Still, even if the two individual voices might be better if more thoroughly intermingled, there is a hypnotic effect to the work, and it’s not hard to see how it might have mesmerized live.
Annexed to Gottesdienst are two remixes of the work, one from the iDEALIST, the other from C.P.U. The former wraps the recording in a hazy cloud, with the hint of a rhythm somewhere in the depths, and the spirit of the feedback carried on in a subtle buzz. The drone of the iDEALIST’s reconstituted Gottesdienst isn’t concerned with the relationship of the piece’s primary actors; instead it dilutes the two and molds them into an amorphous dirge. C.P.U. works in an even more incongruent fashion, and while the second remix contains more identifiable remains of the original track, C.P.U.’s filters and effects render the music far more inorganic. Both remixes are interesting slants on Rylander and Elggren’s original, and, unlike so many releases they feel as substantial (especially in the case of the iDEALIST’s) as the piece upon which they’re based, not extra scraps tacked on in a misguided attempt to offer more value to the paying consumer. It’s not to their detriment that Rylander and Elggren are upstaged a bit by their remixers; it’s a product of the disc’s construction, both in terms of time (the original piece constitutes just over half of the CD), and the way a rather straightforward statement, with two individual voices, is slowly dissolved as the disc progresses, forcing two into one, clouding the simplicity of the original performance, and wiping nearly all traces of Rylander and Elggren from Gottesdienst’s mutilated corpse.