Thursday, July 10, 2008

Dopplereffekt Dublin

I finally got to see Dopplereffekt play live at the Sugar Club in Dublin on 5th July 2008! All of the blurry photos here are by myself. I also saw another gig in Dublin just three short weeks prior to this which had striking similarities that I think would make sense for me to compare and contrast for this review. The gig in question was the first gig in Dublin by the reclusive Jandek, incidentally this was also a seated early show and he was also dressed completely in black as well. Black is obviously the universally recognised colour to wear if you want to be taken seriously! Although he did not go so far as to wear a mask. It was weird, even the ticket price was the same, considered by many as slightly expensive for what it was at 20 euro. In case you don’t know who Jandek is he has done over 50 albums of improvised guitar and singing since 1978 and only started to play rare live concerts in the last few years and he doesn’t talk to the press. He also has an obsessive fan website as well!
For both gigs I felt a compulsion to go. Both shows were considered more as events than just another gig by most of those present. It was this expectant and reverential atmosphere which greeted both acts when they took to the stage too. They could have done anything and the majority of the people present for that hour would have applauded. In Jandek’s case I was very disappointed and even bored after an hour of improvised solo guitar strumming and monotone singing of lyrics from a notebook without any acknowledgement of the audience. Part of the problem was that Jandek was the only thing on a bill which was staged in an art gallery, that was exhibiting his album covers as art in another room. Although it's worth pointing out that I spoke with some people afterwards who felt time had stood still and loved every bit of it. I felt that the live context was totally wrong for him (and me) and that I would have been far happier at home with one of his LPs. But what did I really expect, these people are considered outsiders for a reason. But it made me wonder, why after almost 30 years did he start playing now? But more on this later. At least Dopplereffekt had only waited just over 10 years when they played live for the first time.
Also in Dopplereffekts case the actual setting for this particular show was at least far more social. It was dark, you had a bar, you could talk and no-one seemed to mind. There was also a decent DJ to open and Decal supported with an epic industrial sound-scape set. Another DJ played for a short while before the two members of Dopplereffekt suddenly entered from the side of the stage and quickly took up positions at their keyboards. They were so quick in fact that their visuals hadn’t been switched on yet. In case you see pictures of them playing against a weird looking background for them you can rest assured that they haven’t dumped their usual visuals. I am terrible at remembering what tracks a group played and in what order so I won’t try. It’s always hard to remember what instrumental tracks are called anyway. But it was stuff from ‘Calabi Yau Space’ for sure and a surprising number of unreleased tracks. But whether this is normal or not regarding the amount of unreleased stuff I wouldn’t know. I do remember one unreleasd track which had what sounded like sampled female vocals.
The performance was what it was. A backing track was definitely playing for every track and every now and then one of them would play a keyboard line on top. They may have been doing more live than it appeared, Mueller was doing the counting thing with his hand a lot, which looked important. This was ok I guess, with live electronic music if you want to be anal about it you need to bring your whole studio to reproduce a track. For me it was like I said about the Black Replica shows, it was theatre. Stuff like the masks helped very much in this. One of my friends was impressed simply that they managed to maintain the pose and atmosphere for the duration of the gig. Maintained it by doing almost nothing yes, but it was by no means a case of emperors new clothes. The music was captivating in and of itself, more so than I thought it would be, the physical side to it was brought out by a good sound system. It was definitely not like hearing it at home. For the last three tracks people actually got up and danced in the front row. This was not simply to be contrary, the music was surprisingly danceable in this context. Maybe not the whole set but definitely those last three tracks had bass lines and beats which made people respond in that way. Again, I couldn’t tell you if there were spontaneous outbreaks of dancing at their previous gigs. As I’ve said previously I wish people would say more than ‘it was cool’ or whatever when commenting on having been at one of their gigs, but that’s obviously just me!
As well as volume their visuals too were crucial. They had had trouble getting their Mac, which was running the visuals, to link up with the projector earlier, one of my friends actually ended up fixing this minor problem for them. But I remember thinking how this visual element was so necessary for the show and if it wasn‘t there I think many would have had quite a different experience. The visuals themselves you’ve probably seen on any of their live YouTube videos already. There may have been a few new additions, titles like ‘Variable Dimensions’, 'Leptons’, ‘Higgs Particle Detected’ and maybe some of the picture and movie images were new as well, it might be constantly updated ever so slightly for each show, I don’t know. But it is a big part of the presentation and works pretty well, although it is quite a lo-fi touch really, it’s not sequenced to the music or anything, but it does all fit. If I hadn't already seen all of the YouTube live footage of them it would of course have been more of a surprise for me but this is the age we live in now. It's just that whether they knew it or not, the type of show they are doing is captured really accurately by a one camera wide shot. This is good and bad you know but it's essentially a pretty simple show led by projected visuals which depends a lot on your own level of expectation to carry it. With Jandek it was too naked and well lit up there, and he alone couldn’t carry it, I guess also my level of expectation was fairly low. I was really there because a friend had given me a free ticket and am more of a recent fan of the myth than the music to be honest. For Dopplereffekt I more or less stayed in the moment and was carried by the visuals, volume and that all important expectation.
Dopplereffekt may have played a bit longer than they planned as the video came to an end before they were finished, the computer desktop was up there for awhile but the video was quickly started again from its beginning. I would say the show was in total about 70 minutes give or take, with the video probably timed for an hour. Maybe they were responding to the active and appreciative crowd in going a bit longer? Like Jandek, there was no acknowledgement of the audience during the gig or an encore, that’s legends for you! In fact, how the show ended was with Heinrich Mueller leaving his seat quite abruptly, quickly followed by To Nhan Le Thi. The music kept going though for another two minutes maybe and people still danced. It was a weird end but in keeping with the show. I noticed that the visuals had previously come to a climax of sorts with the repeated text ‘Higgs Particle Detected’. To which my physicist friend beside me said, “No it hasn’t!” Although he assures me that Cern do expect to find it within the year. This thought obviously excites Mueller and co so I won’t hold this wishful thinking against them.
From the people I knew there, the audience itself was made up partly of serious Detroit techno fans, the obsessed, curious, young electroclash types plus people that are into electronic music and were aware of the occasion of the event. There was a reasonable gender mix as well but females were still in the minority. I was surprised to hear beforehand the descriptions of what they were going to be like; some people presumed they would be playing the ‘94-‘97 stuff, maybe this is fair enough, but also rubbish like expecting it to be somehow darkly sexual. I over heard the Nazi thing coming up again and again also. Which made me realise very starkly how you are only ever judged on the surface level and that these first impressions last. For Dopplereffekt it’s probably why they don’t do interviews or want to meet some of their fans.
Quite why both these artists have decided to begin playing live at this stage in their careers is anyone's guess. In both their cases I don't believe it's really to connect with the loyal fans after all these years, certainly going by the non-communication and lack of acknowledgment of us from the stage. Although, this doesn't mean they don't feel some sense of duty to reward people after all this time, their just bad communicators because they never did this before or that's just the type of people they are. Travel might be a slight lure also but money and self promotion is the most obvious reason for doing it. Which is fine in my book, they have every right to get whatever rewards are out there for them. In both cases the money would still just be underground money as they are both still very much fringe artists. The tickets for Jandek sold out yeah, but there were only 100 of them. I guess for Dopplereffekt you would still have got in on the night but the venue was pretty packed with a few hundred capacity. It's still good money for the level they are at though so it might be enough of a reason for them. Although neither artist had merchandise or records for sale so they aren’t exactly being mercenary either. Album sales could get a slight boost in that city I guess but I don't believe it would be really significant enough to begin touring but I may be wrong. I would say fun would be another reason but going by the type of people involved they don't seem like that would be on top of their agenda. Perhaps both artists think they are adding to the enigma, never a bad thing when you have an enigma to add to, but actually they are doing just the opposite. From their position that might be something hard for them to recognise but having seen them now I don’t think I would bother going again, not unless the show was radically different, in Jandek’s case I know I wouldn’t. If it was a local gig for me, sure why not go every week, but it’s about 100 miles to drive before I get to Dublin for example and I never do that journey lightly anymore. I have full respect for anyone who fly's to see them, but I don't have that kind of passion for bands or concerts anymore. Dopplereffekt definitely haven’t ruined the enigma or anything, I’m still just as curious, as you can see, but I don‘t personally think they have added anything to it by playing live. They have added an extra element to the whole package that’s all, an extra dimension if you will, but it’s only a slight addition in my opinion. With a different type of show, yeah, that could be something special, but they are evolving as artists and change is good. It’s funny, those couple of solo Dopplereffekt shows last year with just To Nhan Le Thi were actually more intriguing, because you kind of knew it could be better if they were both there. Giving people what they want is never a good idea. Tease us and we only crave more. It strikes me that Dopplereffekt using their own science terminology might on one level be viewing the shows as field experiments. Another plausible reason which might be partly at the root of it could be that bringing Drexciya into the live arena was something which certainly James Stinson stated as wanting to happen someday but which tragically never came to pass. So maybe if this was a wish which Gerald Donald also shared, then in a way he is fulfilling that desire with Dopplereffekt. It's hard to say, this is all speculation anyway, only they will ever know their true motivations and where it might be leading them could be just as much a surprise for them as us.
I’m not sure if this is what my regular readers would have expected my review to be like, I know what I write in general is never what new readers expect but this is how it turned out this time. It’s only my opinion anyway, everyone there had different ones which are just as valid. It was cool though!
So far only one Video of the show is up, but I will update this part of the post when and if more appear.
The DRL of Jandek
Check out this Jandek documentary and it will all make sense.


Blogger fatalerror said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my god a 70 minutes live that's a serious thing ! Considering they only have the "raw" material coded into their synths this is... wow... just monster. Your review is quite brilliant because of the simple fact it doesn't point at sterile details but it highlights what were your feelings. << You listen and you tell me... What you think. >> (Liz Copeland itw (; ). And that's definitely the most important fact actually this is why I'm a fan of their music. I'm fond of this unique vibe, feeling running through. Your review is highly emotional thanks a lot for putting those words.

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good review, without revealing any secrets - but making more hungry of dopplereffekt's live shows!

I think lots of people, that ever heard of dopplereffekt, expect hearing pure electroclash from gesamtkunstwerk. why? cause clubbing people like to dance. but: most of them are quite open minded enough to respect art and are positivly suprised about the show. in my opinion a live-show playing gesamtkunstwerk all the time, wouldn't work anyway. (;

7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I caught them in Athens some weeks ago. The things I noticed and those you describe are 99% the exact same, the setting, the music, things gone wrong, the maestro finger-counting, etc, which makes you wonder a bit... As for the performance, they both gave me an impression of acute stage fright hardly overcome by their theatrics (masks, immobility) and a generous portion of displaced humour (that's the videos).

Still I liked them a lot. I enjoyed listening to their music from a big soundsystem and watching the videos and the whole package, yet some people left early and others responded only to the harder stuff. For this project, the obvious comparisons are with Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, not with the UR or Gigolo guys, so it's better if someone approaches their concerts on that basis and not as a club night. And if they return (someday...) I'll check them again and I'd suggest them to certain people, just with clear warnings for the above mentioned.

And since I've never commented before, it's also a good time to tell you a big thank you for this blog and the time you spend on it for us.

6:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HM brings a lot to the lives.
If he finger counts, it's to make live improvised interventions at special moments in the tracks, there are plenty of them during the shows and they are incredible in matter of sound elaboration, rythm and beauty.
His partner too, is making an excellent job.

I suppose that they stay static because this work needs a lot of concentration and also, they certainly prefer people listening and watching the visuals than people looking at them.

These lives are unique and should be taken as some contemporary music shows, they go so deep into the future ! :)

4:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for the review - it's just as detailed (i won't say obsessive;) as the rest of the site, and i really enjoyed that. and thank you for this site and all the work you put into it.

5:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From your review, the performance sounds basically what I would have expected from them at this stage of their career. They're long past the Gesamtkunstwerk material (which technically is even older as that's just the re-issue of the Dataphysix output) and have moved into a more scientific/cinematic direction, albeit with occasional beats. I assume they didn't perform any of the more recent Arpanet songs (as you didn't mention any vocals), or anything they have released under their other names for that matter.

If they were to ever play near me, I'd probably still want to experience hearing them live, even knowing that I wouldn't be in for any surprises. Thanks for your thoughts on your experience.

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

if i could attend their performance (alas, they're not playing in the U.S.), i'd give heinrich a present -

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone could tell me what are those two devices at the center of the stage ? Have a look at "dopp+dub4.jpg". Midi devices ? Effect devices ? Thanks.

7:50 PM  
Blogger kiwanoid said...

i warmed up dopplereffekt gig in estonia in spring, it was the same effekt as u describe. i also met mueller at the backstage, we had a small talk and he really was like an alienrobot

12:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's a nice flickr photo gallery of the last gig in Glasgow (June the 8th 2008) here :

8:24 PM  

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