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Rrose & Bob Ostertag – The Surgeon General review

Releasing an unearthed studio jam that was recorded back in 1977 doesn’t sound like the most conventional way to launch a techno label in 2012. That said, Rrose probably doesn’t fit the EP-remix-EP-album-tour trajectory that most underground artists strive for. The producer was one of the last chapters in the Sandwell District story, and if “Surgeon General (1977)” is indicative of where Eaux is heading, then he is clearly seeking to use his new label to push experimental electronic music.

“Surgeon General” was recorded by Ostertag a quarter of a century previously and it starts with what sounds like the forlorn whistle of a steam train, weaving its way in and out of silence for a few minutes. Then there follows a deconstructed rhythm that drips like rivulets of water down a wall and bursts of eerie ambient sounds. Despite the fact that Ostertag used basic equipment and the composition predates contemporary electronic music, it has aged extremely well.

So what do Rrose’s modern treatments sound like? The producer’s creepily titled “Her Insides Laid Bare” remix is an atmospheric ambient arrangement, with the occasional anti-rhythm clanging away in the background. He/she adopts a different approach on the “No Child Left Behind” reshape. There, dreamy, filtered chords unravel over a skipping rhythm and pinprick beats, as a swirling but nonetheless forceful filter lends it the requisite momentum. Think Sandwell at its most esoteric and you’re close to the realms that Surgeon General operates in.

Richard Brophy

1. Bob Ostertag The Surgeon General (1977)
2. Rrose – The Surgeon General (No Child Left Behind)
3. Rrose – The Surgeon General (Her Insides Laid Bare)