(b.1975)/Ulrich MERTIN (b.1977)
Planet X [9:14]
The Hunted [4:57]
Gradual Annihilation of the Mind [10:27]
Point of No Return [5:44]
A Particle in the Vastness of Space [5:09]
Final Transformation [1:29]
Anima Aeterna [5:52]
Erdem Helvacıoğlu (TogaMan GuitarViol, electric guitar,
drum programming, electronics); Ulrich Mertin (viola, 5-string electric
rec. Berlin. No date given. DDD
INNOVA 798 [44:22]
'Planet X' is the post-modern equivalent of nineteenth century
programme music, or the contemporary avant-garde's answer to
the concept album once beloved of rock bands. The story begins
on the back cover: "Without warning, a new object - Planet X
- appeared in the heavens: a mysterious entity intruding upon
a vast ancient system. Hailed as a paradise by some, an expeditionary
force discovers instead that it represents a menace to human
existence. Hunted by a superior alien intelligence an explorer
is trapped and used as a test for the ultimate assimilation
and extermination of humanity. This is the tale of his doomed
fight, grasping for the last snatches of his soul."
This collaborative project between Turkish guitarist Erdem Helvacıoğlu
and German violist Ulrich Mertin is, according to Innova, "grounded
[...] in strings but also employ[s] unorthodox recording techniques,
sophisticated processing algorithms, and multi-tracking to achieve
a rich, complex, resonant texture. Throughout, the sound is
unmistakably forward-looking, evocative of the project's science
fiction themes and redolent of the eerie, sometimes dark feel
of sci-fi films like 'Alien', 'Moon' and '2001'."
Mertin and Helvacıoğlu not only wrote the music together,
they performed, recorded and produced it. Certainly, they cannot
be faulted in any respect except composition, and there much
will depend on the listener's opinion of experimental electronica.
Not that it is all that experimental, however. Helvacıoglu's
biography describes him, perhaps inevitably, as "one of the
most renowned contemporary composers of his generation in Turkey.
His music has been called 'revolutionary', 'groundbreaking',
'luscious and unique'". Yet there is not much of any of that
in evidence on 'Planet X'. In fact, it is Mertin's biography
that is more indicative: his "musical activities cover a wide
swath, from classical and contemporary to electronic and club
The opening title track sounds rather like a slice of American
arthouse film soundtrack, the gentle electric guitar riffs adding
an audience-friendly rock flavour; a 'vibe' - as the composers
would put it - that returns briefly in A Particle in the
Vastness of Space. Unfortunately, The Hunted reproduces
the synthesised repetitive banalities of mainstream Hollywood,
and some of these tracks, far from recreating an alien world,
more often than not remind the listener of Hans Zimmer or Danny
Elfman. On the other hand, The Hunted is really the only
track that has nothing interesting to say, and elsewhere, as
in Point of No Return and Anima Aeterna, gentle
washes of sound do seem to lap the shores of some cosmic ocean.
The highpoint is probablyGradual Annihilation of the Mind
which, its pretentious title notwithstanding, does at least
offer a glimpse of Helvacıoglu's promised radical imagination
with a detailed and evocative exploration of sonics that is
ominous if not extra-terrestrial or annihilative.
In total, there is at worst nothing offensively random or -
The Hunted aside - blandly pop-art about these pieces.
There is moreover a sombre melodic thread of sorts that binds
them into a reasonably coherent whole. On the whole, not an
essential buy for anyone, and not great value in terms of minutes
to the dollar - but for those interested in American-flavoured
electronica, 'Planet X' is an interesting if stark destination.
Sound quality is immaculate, a given for Innova recordings.
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