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Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase - Seashard

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Artist: Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase

Album: Seashard

Label: Senufo Editions

Review date: Apr. 17, 2012

In the past 13 years, Chris Cooper has released only three full-length albums under his Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase guise. It’s hard to tell if this concision is because these albums of playful concrète abstractions demand meticulous, time-consuming methods, or Cooper just doesn’t need to say any more. Both could be true. But it could also be just as true that these records are the product of a swift, intuitive mind, one used to working quickly and not sweating the results. Seashard (here an LP reissue of a self-released cassette) carries on this confusing tradition in fine style.

Cooper’s background doesn’t really help us contextualize his solo music, as he’s been a part of some of the most sui generis groups around. He’s been a guitarist in psychedelic collective Caroliner, worked with noise-rock performance artists Fat Worm of Error and been a founding member of improvising ensemble The BSC. While his work with those groups is significant, it’s the inscrutable mixes of improvisation, tape music, prepared guitar, synthesizer and found sound he makes as Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase that really show off his skewed vision.

This lack of clarity, of any identifiable conceptual or musical hook that can be easily traced is Cooper’s most recognizable trait. His work reminds me of the scene in Alice in Wonderland when Alice believes she’s found her way out of the Tulgey Wood, only to have a dog with a broom for a head immediately come and sweep away the illuminated path. In other words, it’s absurd, hallucinatory and riddled with questions about how he gets from one point to the next. Just as you get an idea of where he’s headed, he pulls up the ground behind and erases the next step.

At various times on Seashard he’s liable to do anything: move from a tight, rhythmically frenetic passage to sparse, sonar transmissions, introduce a pulsing section of low-frequency oscillation, then slip into a series of synth filigrees. He interjects parts of crisp digital synthesis with sounds that are either tape-manipulated horns or a recording of passing race cars. There are door buzzers, chiming percussive effects like a miniature gamelan, drum machine mutations and much more. He can get impossibly dense and busy — but never so that each and every element can’t be heard — and he can dial back his flow to just a single element or two. He doesn’t compose so much as make controlled splatters of sound around the stereo picture.

If there’s an element of the cartoonish here, it’s intentional, as Cooper’s idea of sound manipulation and structure takes a page from the book of cartoon physics. There are impossible shapes, rapid accelerations, unheard of twists and turns, abrupt and violent stops. But in the end, no one gets hurt and everyone has fun. It’s what you want from music that draws on the theoretically limitless resources of not only electronic music but improvisation: be full of surprises but have the skill to make every surprise logical — even if that logic is your own twisted one.

By Matthew Wuethrich

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