Cristian Vogel – The Assistenz
Cristian Vogel’s contribution to electronic music is unquestionable. Along with Neil Landstrumm (Pure /Sativa) and Steve Bicknell (Lost), Vogel and his associates provided an anarchic counterpoint to the big club and festival apparatus that sought to surround techno music during the early to mid-’90s. Like the aforementioned Landstrumm, Vogel’s music was a vividly freeform amalgamation of influences.
It pitted Detroit minimalism and Chicago ghetto house with hip hop’s love of cut-ups avant garde’s non-sequiturs and experimental divergences. On key ’90s EPs like We Equate Machines with Funkiness , Artists in Charges of Expert Systems and In the Bag (as Blue Arsed Fly) he distilled these techniques into stripped down, jittery techno tracks full of mercurial energy. The ’90s also saw Vogel tease out his wildly individualistic streak on a series of benchmark albums l- Absolute Time, Body Mapping and All Music Has Come to an End.
Later that decade and into the early-’00s it seemed that Vogel had tired somewhat of the techno form and the Busca Invisibles and Rescate 137 albums touched on elements of 2-step and what sounded like early iterations of dubstep and what became ‘bass music’. The producer’s work from the period 1993 to 1998 is back in the spotlight now thanks to a compilation of remastered tracks on Belgian label Sub-Rosa. But where is the anarchistic creative spark that triggered those works? Fans of his wild chaotic work will be reassured to know that it still burns brightly but that with the passage of time the pace of delivery has slowed.
On his latest work, The Assistenz, there is a reflective tone. The logical explanation for this is because it follows two dancefloor centred albums and Assistenz is the third and final part of a trilogy. However, there is also a sense that he is digging deeper than Vogel has ventured before. The album was recorded in Copenhagen and named after a cemetery. On the drawn out, cavernous opener “Hold” or on the dub soaked wails of “Barefoot Agnete” this backdrop is apparent. That said, there are shades of Vogel of old at play here too; “Vessels” centres on a pummelling grinding rhythm that plays at a far slower tempo than would have featured on ’90s Vogel material.
This doesn’t mean it has lost any of its ferocity and if anything the layers of gritty noise on”Vessels” and the horror vocals on “Telemorphosis” which also rides distorted, gut-busting kicks show up the gloom techno brigade’s faux-misery for its lack of authenticity. It’s telling thought that ”Telemorphosis” ends with what sounds like the closing of a creaky rusty cemetery gate – is it through this entrance that the haunted “Barefoot Agnete” enters the mortal world? “Snowcrunch” is also visited by a former being, the shadows visible against the smoky dub chords and knotted beats.
Caught between the furrowed brow intensity of tracks like “Vessels” and supernatural elements, Vogel has conjured up there is also the dream-like ambient hum of “Signal Symbol” and the playful beatsy “The Merman’s Dream”. After half a lifetime spent creating chaos, Assistenz finds Cristian Vogel in rare, reflective form.
5. Barefoot Agnete
6. Cubic Haze
7. Signal Symbol
8. The Merman’s Dream