Our Daily Bread 387: Gunther Wüsthoff ‘Total Digital’

July 13, 2020

ALBUM REVIEW/DOMINIC VALVONA




Gunther Wüsthoff  ‘Total Digital’
(Bureau B)  Album/10th July 2020


Attuned to the signals and broadcast traffic chatter of a very different kind when serving out his military service as a naval radio operator, the one-time Faust instigator and soloist Gunther Wüsthoff tapped into that formative training to search and tune-in to more imaginative and alien frequencies when set loose from the tumult of post-war Germany.

As the legend goes, Wüsthoff’s pathway towards sonic experimentation was laid out in art school, where he met future Faust comrades Rudolf Sosna and Jean-Hervé Peron. All three musical malcontents came together in the late 60s to from the band Nukleus. It was during this point that former leftist mouthpiece publication Konkret editor turn ad hoc record producer and scout for Polydor Records, Uwe Nettelbeck (through his filmmaker contact Helmut Costa) was introduced to the trio. Nettelbeck was handed the task by the label’s A&R honcho Kurt Enders, to find a German version of The Beatles, but also to tap into the burgeoning “Krautrock” scene that was emerging. What they got was something far more revolutionary and avant-garde: at their most confrontational and hostile they made Throbbing Gristle sound like The Beach Boys. As opposed to their compatriots Can, Faust excelled at breaking things.

The musical trio was merged with members of another Hamburg band, Campylognatus Citelli, whose ranks included Werner “Zappi” Diermaier, Hans-Joachim Irmler and Arnulf Meifert. Instead of a Teutonic Fab Four, Polydor were delivered an unruly fist full of industry dissonance and barracking noise. Wüsthoff for his part would play both synthesizer and the saxophone during his time with the often-fractious group; lasting through Faust’s most important and influential run of records during the first half of the 1970s (from the X-Ray iconic sleeved debut to the only album Wüsthoff would design the cover for, Faust IV).

Following his departure, Wüsthoff would take on roles at both Studio and Filmhaus Hamburg; but also take further studies in editing so that he could work freelance. Continuing his musical practice however, Wüsthoff’s sonic experiments became more and more informed by the aleatory.

Looking for imperfections and friction in the increasingly repetitive and slick production of the Western canon, he found that in explaining his theory to those accustomed to playing music in the doctrinal fashion, and against the intuitive grain of human instinct that the machine might be better placed to his musical methodology and motto: “Due to previous but also temporary excesses of mainstream consumption and the omnipresent, repetitive emissions of the western world’s music industry, devoid of contours and as slick as possible, we are faced with an indissoluble weariness. A criterion for music one can listen to today is, for me, that an element of friction is present: temporally, metrically, rhythmically, tonally or harmonically. Or that somewhere, something is somehow imperfect. Only then can music be truly alive.”[Gunther Wüsthoff 2005]

“Today I would add: Regardless of whether it is created by man or machine.”

And so, becoming a “music machinist”, Wüsthoff relinquished the idea of virtuosity for good, handing over a major part of the process to the machine. A compositional counterbalance between the synthesized and the human touch you could say: not “total digital” but getting there.

Collected in this retrospective compilation is a scattering of tracks from a twenty-year time span; from a trio of solar orbiting ‘TransNeptun’ suites to a number of more rhythmic erratic dashes and tubular metallic chimes. Tuning into planetary waves, the three-part (‘Anflung’, ‘Ankunft’ and ‘Begrüßung) ‘TransNeptun’ traces the tones and contours of cosmic satellites with a sonic generator palette of lunar delay, arpeggiator, whining dialed squiggles and hums. Through this off world broadcast, Wüsthoff traverses the Kosmische, hints of Bernard Szajner, a dance of binary languages and ominous prowling shadowy dwarf planets.

In a different direction the avant-garde ‘Dragon Walking’ sounds like a convolution of Populäre Mechanik and Reich; with touches even of Eno’s off kilter Warm Jets. Going through numerous cycles, from post-punk to robotic ballet, instruments are introduced in stages: a real sounding drum kit, hand drums, marimba (I think) and pizzicato notes. ‘Alien Crosstalk’ is a strange one. Bagpipe type bellows and concertinaed sounds are integrated with fucked-up House music, out-of-time piano and titular’s “crosstalk” of obscured voices. Though far too sophisticated as to sound distorted or a mess, the elements all seem to fit together in the end. And even when erring towards the disturbing and dark, seems less chilling but mysterious.

Wüsthoff’s philosophical driver, the “transitory nature of life”, is evident in the fleeting presence of those random generated sonics and instruments, which pass through an evanescent process.

Perhaps Wüsthoff doesn’t enjoy the profile of some of his former Faust comrades, but if your only knowledge of his experiments were from that period then make time to explore the solo work. A good place to start will be with this handy compilation, from a label that seems to act as a hub for members from that group’s subsequent work.





Faust Faust, So Far, Faust Tapes’

Faust ‘Faust IV’

Faust ‘j US t’



Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

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