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Peter Rehberg - Work for GV 2004-2008

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Artist: Peter Rehberg

Album: Work for GV 2004-2008

Label: Editions Mego

Review date: Nov. 3, 2008

Compared to the powerful concision of Peter Rehberg’s earlier albums as Pita, Work for GV 2004–2008 should be nothing more than a compilation. How else are we supposed to understand a record that combines bits of soundtracks from three different stage productions? The eight tracks here were culled from the music Rehberg contributed to choregrapher Gisèle Vienne’s stage productions I Apologize, Une Belle Enfant Blonde and Jerk. The fact that Work for GV holds together as a unified statement illuminates, more than anything, the depth of Rehberg’s craft.

The use of synthesizers on Works would suggest a new direction for Rehberg. That’s not the case, though. Instead, it represents a refinement. The digital glint and finely tuned storm of shrapnel might not be so prominent, but the irreducible logic with which Rehberg constructs his pieces is still present. What’s changed is that he’s distended his vocabulary of jagged chord fragments, stuttering rhythms and knife-edge static, turning it into woozy, indeterminate shapes that are nearly (but not quite) unmoored. “Slow Investigation” is 13 minutes of heavy, stretched-out mass, put through relentless mutation, and pocked with tonal debris. It’s immersive stuff, utterly captivating, and very unstable.

However, there are more than sonic aesthetics to be examined. The content of Vienne’s work is, to say the least, morbid. Jerk takes as its subject matter the murder spree committed by Dean Corll in 1970s Texas. On “ML3,” Dennis Cooper relates a story of extreme domestic violence. Without going into details, it’s deeply unsettling, more disturbing than any of the sonics on the album, and makes one question why you’re listening to it. Cooper’s other texts here (the perverse relationship described on “ML6” and the bleak imagery on “Black Holes”) are just as disheartening, if not as harsh. Not having seen Vienne’s works, I can only imagine, based on photos and descriptions, their effect. Based around the (non)interaction of music, text, movement and puppetry, they seem to depict a world where nothing is safe, not even one’s body, and especially not one’s relationships.

Rehberg, and by extension Editions Mego, specializes in this discontent. It is present throughout his catalog as a barely concealed menace, a sense of violence lurking everywhere. Even the flickering theme of “Boxes & Angels,” seemingly lifted from some early-’90s acid-house track, can’t escape the desolation. For 11 minutes, it perseveres as Rehberg filters it again and again, compressing it and decompressing it, each pass violating it just a little bit more. It’s a subtle violation, but a violation nonetheless.

A society with this kind of subtext is not a healthy one, and art that would ignore it could be seen as dishonest. The works of Vienne and the music of Peter Rehberg, then, are very honest, and are not meant to entertain us; they are meant to challenge us. If you walk away unmoved, or undisturbed, then something is not right with you.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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