Erik Bünger - Variations on a Theme by Lou Reed

by Erik Schoster
in Please Download Me

tagged reviews

When I found Erik Bünger's Variations on a Theme by Lou Reed at iDEAL Recordings I had never heard of him - I loved the recording, so the next day (today) I decided to try to find a little more out about him. A quick google search first revealed that he was a member of both Cycling 74's Max/MSP mailing list as well as the Yahoo! based plunderphonia mailing list dedicated to the discussion of John Oswald and other plunderphonics related subjects.

These pieces of information fit nicely into the puzzle I had already been presented. Variations on a Theme by Lou Reed is - technically speaking - simply a gradual granular deconstruction and time-stretching of an enchanting loop from The Velvet Underground & Nico's famous Verve album produced by Andy Warhol. Bünger chooses a sublime moment with chiming guitars and Lou Reed passionately crooning the word "heroin." Already he's set up a situation pregnant with possible meaning. Is he doing violence to Lou Reed's passion for heroin? The glam-rock and drug-soaked lifestyle both Reed and Warhol led? Or is the fracturing of Reed's voice and guitars a method of zooming in past the surface of meaning to raw aesthetics & skittering molecules of sound - maybe Bünger is attempting to get past the rock and roll, sex and drugs casing of Reed's music to the sounds themselves. Is he liberating Reed's own music from himself?

Bünger manages to engage this dialog in the simplest of possible methods. He simply slows the sample (pitch intact) down. The end result is a shattered and stuttering sitar-like drone, with the individual phonemes in Reed's voice stretched into a sort of raga.

Further digging reveals records of several solo and ensemble performances as well as affiliation with a Swedish arts collective called The Nursery. A realaudio recording of a February performance of the Erik Bünger ensemble, where the group deconstructs the sounds and images of instrument instruction tapes from the 80s and reforms them into a virtuosic improvised set of laptop-powered joystick wiggling is paried with a few words that I can only assume Bünger has penned:

- For me it's all about revenge, to take control over those who have controlled me. Those people who think control is the first criteria on musical ability lose the control in our hands.

I'll leave this review on that positive note - it's refreshing to see someone who clearly has a virtuosic control of his technique acknowledge the hollowness of it.

Update: Bünger has a new project online for the Swedish Radio called "let them sing it for you." It's an "interactive, ever-growing sound art project" which lets you enter text into a flash interface that plays the text back using plundered clips from pop songs. It's never been more fun to reappropriate the plastic, commercial history of pop music for your own personal creativity. :-) Here's the link.