Reviews by Massimo Ricci

The A23H chronicle


ALFRED HARTH - T_ERROR + kr ./. jp (Slowalk)

There is no doubt that Alfred Harth is a man whose sense of rebellion against injustice and overlooked historical occurrences is extremely developed, and his refusal to behave like an ignorant - shrugging shoulders, raising eyebrows, wearing smirk smiles and "who cares?" looks - resides inside his life's principles. This DVD/CD set contains many examples of Harth's unapologetic creativity, constituting one of the best openings for those who would like to try and sketch a path through his artistic career and human convictions. "Terror is error", an apparently obvious statement, is not so evident when we think about our daily doses of fake news and false demons that governments and their media networks would like us to believe in. Harth's stance about these facts is adamant, and no anti-war movement or Michael Moore movie will convince the knowledgeable ones that things can really change. All it takes to seduce these self-proclaimed dissidents is a bundle, and the involved forces in this struggle are clearly uneven.
The "T_ERROR" DVD is a nerve-twitching document in that sense. It is mostly built upon a continuos vortical superimposition of sources that belong both to Harth and his partner, visual artist Yi Soonjoo, seamed with historical films from the Second World War and various kinds of TV samples, complete with short clips of William S. Burroughs. To represent disinformation, Harth uses a technique called "walk through tools": he photographs a video monitor, xeroxes the photo, records the xerox with a camcorder and so forth, thus alterating shapes and colours of the original object until it becomes another thing altogether. What television constantly perpetrates, Harth symbolizes through his pictorial work. Describing this video in detail would be foolish; one should go with the flow and remain nailed to the couch, iced by thousands of multidimensional frames, all the while listening to a fantastic soundtrack which melts the best and the worst of our daily listening: the author's polychrome visions and the bloodcurdling cries of an about-to-be-beheaded prisoner are nearer than you might think. As a bonus, there is also a short extract from a live performance by AH and Kim Hyung Tae at the Ssamzie Space in Seoul, "Provisional Government"; you can see the artists improvising over some of the images that became the basis of "T_ERROR". Nice touch.
One of Alfred Harth's main goals is bringing to a wider attention the cultural and material damages that Japan subjected Korea to between 1910 and 1945, and for which Koreans have not received sufficient repayment or excuses. In the notes, the author raises five sharp questions dealing with this issue, his hope being that, sooner or later, Japan will act civilly and recognize their past (T)errors. The "kr ./. jp" CD is Harth's way to represent this proposition; lasting less than 40 minutes, it is once again a sock in the eye of convention à la 23. "1st Question" is a classic attraction of opposites, in the form of a "hardship vs symphonic" melange born from Harth's collation of orchestral samples and abrasive string instruments. "3rd Question" continues that war of attrition, this time in a more electroacoustic-oriented style, as strident acuteness (perilous for the ears, if you wear headphones!), repeated skips and interferent emissions are layered upon Harth's sweeter wind tones and synthetic waves in a fascinating futuristic counterpoint that's also one of the most minimal pieces ever conceived by the Frankfurter, although somehow connected with EAI's more attended quarters. "5th Question" is quintessential Harth, an omnicomprehensive pastiche of radio samples, accelerated tapes and rhythm machines working at an infernal rate while warped orchestras and over-energized, fast-forwarded saxophones whose tone is a munchkin alien's cry take our cerebrum into new dimensions of explosive hyperactivity, culminating in a snippet of the "Jaws" soundtrack that brings the whole to conclusion in an oceanic wash - or is that a white-noise cumulus? "Contury Cheiron MMV" (you have to love these titles...) is the final and longest track: Harth's dangerously intelligent sax fantasies introduce a collage of oblong shortwaves, pulsating hiss and dismembered articulations over which all kinds of wind-instrument evolutions create a frighteningly dense texture; one can choose to follow a single pattern - the noise, the slow melodies, the fly-buzz nervousness, the marching band-like fragments - or just decide to be completely bubbled over by the majestic mayhem. Things get kinda calmer halfway through the piece; a tranquil piano enters the picture, a few reflective chords underlining simpler scenes, but it doesn't last. In fact, a techno-scented sequenced pattern becomes the basis of robotical anarchy, where outlandish harmonies and dissonant acquaintances between different timbral families flow into a conscious sense of guilt (which is exclusively mine, though...) until cut'n'paste devastation is finally reached. Everything is disobedience, and Alfred's never ending phrases get glued all over the place with convincing authority, forcing us to reconsider our position in the superficial chit-chats about matters that decide millions of people's destiny. Pre-recorded bagpipes, jew's harp and faraway melancholic sax lines seal another obscure genreless crystal. Total music? Yes, it is.

In Touching Extremes