In 1999 or thereabouts, Ed Pinsent and I interviewed Peter Rehberg at his home in Vienna. (The resulting article appeared in The Sound Projector 8, long sold out but downloadable from the SP website.) Back in those days, Rehberg and the like-minded souls whose music he released on the label he co-founded, Mego (Fennesz, Farmers Manual, etc) were seen by some as the vanguard of a new revolution in electronic music, eschewing the analogue synthesiser in favour of using digital music software to create and manipulate sounds which they recorded straight to hard disc. Their ‘instrument’ of choice was the Apple Macintosh, which had already revolutionised the ease of use of the personal computer. Since the mid-90s, a clutch of Vienna-based artists had been making a global impression, with the scene initially coalescing around the clubby, downtempo vibes of Kruder & Dorfmeister, Patrick Pulsinger and Erdem Tunakan. As the 90s wore on, the Mego crew emerged with a harder-edged, glitchy sound that could be heard on a regular basis at the Rhiz bar, Vienna’s new temple to electronic music.
A decade later the Vienna scene has splintered and fragmented, and Mego has morphed into Editions Mego, concentrating on archival releases as well as new work. But folk like Rehberg and Fennesz remain active, their Vienna roots showing in their quest for the perfect digital sound. And the Rhiz is still going strong, recently celebrating its 10th birthday with a week of concerts including a performance by Rehberg’s latest project, the duo KTL with Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))).
One of Editions Mego’s latest archival releases is a straight reissue of Rehberg’s 1999 album Get Out, which sounds every bit as crisp and agitated as it did back then. The notion of the reissue normally implies a kind of looking back, a distanced reflection on past activities. But there’s no need to approach Get Out in this way, since it provides an eviscerating sonic experience well in advance of most contemporary noise music. And despite advances in technology since it was made, it still sounds utterly contemporary. It hits you hard right from the opening track, with a barrage of noise that is scalpel-sharp in its attack. The noise is endlessly inventive and kaleidoscopic, with glitchy high-end frequencies battling against deep low-end drones like cats in a bag.
As the record progresses, though, Rehberg reveals himself to be no lunk-headed noise merchant but a musician alive to the effects of differing moods and atmospheres. On the awesome third track, a solarised major-chord melody is assailed by a disruptive glitchy drone, before reasserting itself with the unstoppable clarity and drive of great rock music. On “CF3,” the mood is ambient, tender and even organic. In fact, that’s the most striking thing about this record as a whole: that for all its skilful marshalling of technology, it’s a living, breathing entity with unmistakably human origins.
(originally published in The Sound Projector 17, 2008)