Hans Joachim Irmler & Christian Wolfarth: Illumination LP


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There are records in the world on which we hear newly composed music, and yet simultaneously have the impression of travelling through time, space and sound.

With „ ILLUMINATION“, Hans Joachim Irmler and Christian Wolfarth have presented us just such a jewel on vinyl. There are electronic thunderstorms and digital Big Ben gongs, clicks’n’cuts electronica like that of minimal techno music from the mid-nineties, dark sound collages and atmospheric soundscapes; as if PINK FLOYD and POPOL VUH were greeting us from afar. Seldom, when listening to a record for the first time, have I gotten such a strong impression of hearing new tracks while simultaneously making a trip through the history of experimental pop music since 1966.

Little wonder, one could say – seeing as Jochen Irmler is a contemporary witness of that very history. This veteran keyboard player of the Krautrock cult group FAUST has kept open ears and a flexible mind, but is, at the same time, a sort of administrator and impressario for the Krautrock scene – acting as bridge-builder for following generations of popculture. Most specificly with his „Wasser- und Wiesen-Festival“ KLANGBAD (an esteemed outdoor festival next to Lake Constance) and his FAUST studio – which has both veterans and newcomers to experimental sound beating a path to its doors.

Here is also where Irmler met the Zurich-based drummer Christian Wolfarth – who is, literally, a sound cook – as the renowned jazz man actually trained to be a cook once upon a time. As a musician, Christian Wolfarth tends to cross genre borders in his work – with theatre, dance and video. Apart from that, he likes to romp about in the experimental contemporary jazz szene. But he has also released several solo albums. On ‘Illumination’, Christian Wolfarth shows himself to be a master of reduction. Using only snares and cymbals (without including the bass drum), he plays his way through the soundscapes that Hans Joachim Irmler entices from his keyboards and clavinet. Meanwhile things are spiced sparingly with modified voice snippets (as in „Peshawar“ for example) and electronic background static.

All in all, it’s an album for listening to rather than dancing to. Irmler composed, as it were, in a free- style mode: Its creation began with sound expeditions – which were all mixed at FAUST studios. Then, from these, the titles evolved.

The album title itself came into being this way as well: ‘ILLUMINATION’. Indeed this title is meant to evoke many associations. That much is certain. Namely, the era of Enlightenment, secrets, epiphany – figuratively as well as literally. The cover artwork shows a modified sunrise. It aptly symbolizes the quality of ‘Illumination’: fresh field studies in the realms of experimental pop music, combined with bows of recognition to their beginnings forty years ago (the A-side is filled with a single piece!).

Listen und let your imagination flow!

Manfred Heinfeldner (Popculture Jockey)