AGF Words Are Missing

[AGF Producktion; 2008]

Styles: dubstep, minimal techno with vocal gimmick
Others: Klangkrieg, Laub, Ellen Allien, Pole

AGF is the solo moniker of German sound artist Antye Greie-Fuchs, a prolific practitioner of glitchy electro. Her trademark is the clever dissemination of her own voice in chopped, worked-over samples. She teamed with Jürgen Kuhn last year under the name Laub to release Deinetwegen, a minimal techno appropriation of the blues reminiscent of Ekkehard Ehlers’ work on A Life Without Fear. She’s also going to nab a production credit on Ellen Allien’s new long-player SOOL. Beyond her participation in the current Berlin techno scene, Greie-Fuchs’ attachment to arts in general becomes clear when you flip through the pretty digipak of this record, Words Are Missing. Beneath beautifully textured photographs of pavement and graffiti and a handful of minimalist, vividly colored drawings, she provides links to websites of art installations, health food cooperatives, and even Wikipedia pages. Seeing the URLs typed out below the artwork makes the record seem like a sort of transliteration of a webpage, a self-contained network of references that must be flipped left to right with the hands, rather than scrolled through top to bottom with a cursor. In short, Greie-Fuchs knits an open fabric of influences around her record, endowing it with a candor and permeability rarely seen in Berlin techno.

But what does this record sound like? AGF’s stock-in-trade is the vocal rainshower: aqueous drips of her voice patter over the grooved, dusky surface of the bass and through metallic apertures, occasionally condensing into blurred, overlapping clouds. AGF wields this technique with aplomb, yielding pretty, if not original, results. One could look to Björk’s Medulla as a reference point, as well as Dutch group Klangkrieg, who released a record 10 years ago based on the same conceptual ploy (check these album [album->] [covers->]). Both AGF and Klangkrieg focus on crafting murky, industrial soundscapes rather than snapping together the boom-tik latticework that undergirds the lion’s share of minimal techno. In this way, Greie-Fuchs is a logical collaborative choice for Allien, who must swoon over the mean, static-laced swipes and deeply reverbed collisions that punctuate nearly every track on Words Are Missing. These are the very sounds the Bpitch Control impresario unleashed on Thrills three years ago and has embraced on numerous mixes since.

Words Are Missing swings between formless, clipped cooing, motorik propulsion, and deceptive kitchen sink anarchy with varied results. Opener “Words Are Useless” is a fine example of a compromise between structure and atmosphere; “Cognitive Modules Party II,” on the other hand, relies too heavily on a pedestrian beat and feels didactic rather than promising. “Oops for Understanding III” is the ostensible single of the record, combining elaborate polyrhythm with encroaching dread. Pretty! “Dread in Strangers Eyes” sounds like a collection of remnants scavenged from a techno scrapheap and shocked into shuddering motion with an electrical pulse. It’s a clusterfuck beautifully answered by “Present / Absent,” a one-minute palate-cleanser with nothing but Greie-Fuchs’ voice.

Despite its variety of worthy ideas, at 55 minutes, the record is likely to test the patience of some listeners. Fat-trimming could reduce Words Are Missing to a much more polished, coherent work, but such a move may be at cross-purposes with AGF’s apparent desire to break open minimal’s hermeticism. What’s more, it would be a real shame to miss the moody reflections like “KZ” and “I-War” nestled in the album’s back half. Briefly put, AGF has exploited the dubby, hairline cracks in minimal techno to create something refreshingly unhinged. It’s well worth a listen. Tip!

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