The endangered guitar is Hans Tammen’s guitar-add-computer hybrid, and a vehicle for unending sonic explorations. Together with Lars Graugaard’s sophisticated interactive computer sounds, patterns and grooves they become Infernal Machines, and a world of rhythms and sonic escapes opens up. Their performances and recordings is music with tight electronic punches, dizzying chases and unreal, compelling atmospheres.
This is neither “infernal” nor any other kind of wretched music, but music of a place in space that is rife with sonic pleasures, intense and dangerous encounters, and mesmerising even irresistible delights. But the music has conceptual layers that makes it monumental in its complexity and with an intensity that certainly can be suggestive of otherworldly creatures.
The digital, non-human sounds and melodic gestures are counter-balanced by construed yet strangely natural rhythm patterns and motions where beats drift in and out of time, mutate and wash away, only to be reeled back in and dressed up for more adventures. This gives the album a warm and structured feel with long stretches that develop with tranquility and composure, in spite of the sizzling and burning energy that lies immediately beneath and constantly pierce the sonic surface. Like a husky patina on what is not really such a rigid and unyielding shell.
All composition by Lars Graugaard and Hans Tammen
Instrumentation is interactive computer and modified guitar
Recorded by Lars Graugaard and Hans Tammen, October 22, 2015 at James L. Dolan Recording Studio, NYU Steinhardt, New York, USA
Technical assistants were Daniel Pasqual and Urosh Jovanovich
Mixed and mastering by Lars Graugaard at James L. Dolan Recording Studio, NYU Steinhardt, New York, USA
Artwork by Vladyslav Kamenskyy
DANCE LIKE SHAQUILLE O’NEILL
We close this brief review with a boldly experimental release. The release “Rife” comes from the clang label and is a collaboration between Lars Graugaard and Hans Tammen under the moniker Infernal Machines, and is a successful meeting/clash between the computer manipulations of the former and the derailed guitar of the second. Observing a balance between self-contained sonic explorations and rhythmic urgency, the outcome of this session is a bizarre and unheard hybrid of stupefying, distorted drone music and alien funk, shaken by epileptic tremors. Intense and recommended to the most daring of listeners.
Meet the American-Danish duo Infernal Machines.
Infernal Machines is Hans Tammen (guitar, electronics) and Lars Graugaard (electronics). The first is known among others for the development of his own instrument, the so-called Endangered Guitar. His solo compositions are characterised by a myriad of contrasts that often based of unusual solutions such as soldering and combining different components during performances. Graugaard in turn creates innovative software.
Under the name Infernal Machines they have released their second EP “Rife” on the clang label. The artists present three compositions as an unusual mix of electronic sounds set in uncommon time signatures and with unexpected twists and turns that flow as a magma of industrial techno noise drones.
Extreme solutions do not scare a certain Hans Tammen and his friend Lars Graugaard. The two musicians joined forces a few years ago to form the Infernal Machines project (their self-titled debut album of 2013 is available only in digital, again on Clang). Tammen changes his electric guitar sounds in realtime through software (the instrument also has a name: ”endangered guitar”). Graugaard moves in more abstract territories building apocalyptic science fiction scenarios with his machine. The three tracks of the mini album Rife show well the difference achieved by two masters of the digital noise. NOT JUST NOISE
In the name Infernal Machines, Hans Tammen and Lars Graugaard – endangered guitar with custom-built software and interactive, computer-generated sounds respectively – have released Rife. Combining their initially “cold” sounds with the natural melodic lines in atmospheres where the beats lead the continuous and endless musical journey in the form of sound clusters and discharges. There is a constant rate of exchange with electronics that complement and support the various musical structures.
Infernal Machines is Lars Graugaard and Hans Tammen. Both respected composers in their own right, they’re also, independently sonic innovators. While Tammen is perhaps best known for his Choking Disklavier, Rife features a guitar/computer hybrid in the form of the ‘endangered guitar’, while Graugaard brings interactive computer work to the table for forge rare patterns and grooves, with some interesting and, in parts, bamboozling and dizzying results.
Yes, this download album may only contain three tracks but it has an overall running time of 28 minutes and is so texturally rich that any more would be to be left beyond gorged.
‘Is That A Light?’ pings and pops, drones and groans over rapid percussion resembling bongos. Building an intense insectoid scratching clamour, it drills its way into the cranium. The album’s centrepiece, the eleven-and-a-half-minute ‘Ashen Lines’ hits as a laser attack. Pulses form hectic and cacophonous polyrhythms that shift and mutate. Scraping and rattling against one another, churning and circling.
‘Steady Jolt’ marks a radical departure, as a strolling bass-line – remarkably conventional, by all accounts – wanders hesitantly toward a flickering curtain of electronic light that cascades and iridescences. Pulsing dance beats emerge as the sonic spectrum slides into another realm.
It’s not a work you can readily pin down, its shape in eternal flux. Constantly shifting, no two bars are entirely alike, as layers build and sounds evolve and transform. By the end, you find yourself wondering just how you arrived at the end destination – not that it matters, because it’s very much about the journey.
“Infernal Machines is a duo where both performers are so fascinating that they deserve their separate bios as an introduction to this review.
Hans Tammen plays the electric guitar. There are hardly anyone more nostalgic or even conservative than electric guitarists and their audiences, as they rave about boring reissues of legendary instruments. This suggests that the instrument is not about to undergo any radical innovations, and the classic sound is just that… classic. But Hans has developed his own instrument as a hybrid between a guitar and a soft-synth: The Endangered Guitar. The name sounds like a poor joke at the expense of heavy metal, but the instrument’s sound is fortunately a lot better than that. The software listens to the guitar and decides which effect parameters to manipulate. The guitar sound informs the software regarding what to edit and this in turn becomes the actual sound output. Another interface that Hans uses for sound manipulation is the Leap Motion Controller, a sort of Kinect for PC, and we have often seen this type of controller in electronic music. Most importantly, the sound is indeed very adventurous and I can’t help hoping that such sounds also would find their way into traditional popular music such as rock and metal.
Lars Graugaard was born in 1957 and has since long been involved in music. In recent years his interest has been growing in the field of electronic music, and more specifically in music made with computers. His fame in this area is still on the rise and a quick listen to his releases reveals that this is more than justified. Ten years ago, he wrote a PhD on movement and emotion in interactive music, and as a flutist he has traveled around the world with both “old” and contemporary classical music. He is an all-rounder, to the extent that the word eclectic almost does him an injustice.
As these two geniuses unite under the moniker Infernal Machines, they inevitably create some very high expectations. But do not worry, they are fully met because the music sounds exactly as the name suggests: The machines draw you into an intense and hell-bound trip.
The record opens up with the quite attractive “Is That A Light?”. The track treats us to gloriously bizarre clangings and glitchy drums – but everything remains within the four-four meter. It’s a great track to start with, but not the main reason why we often will return to this release. The second track “Ashen Lines” is what has made us especially addicted to Infernal Machines, and it has even made us dig into the previous work of the artists. It is a track that is hard to describe, but terms like “insane and depraved” come readily to mind. The sounds seem like they are from another planet and throw you right into a Dantesque dream-world. Escapism? Say Houdini…! The track starts off quite busy but Infernal Machines still manage to build up a dense, eleven minute long track that is so varied that there is not a single moment of boredom. On the contrary, the ‘repeat play’ button is pressed instantly. In fact, I can hear this track all day, provided I can have a date with the brain doctor afterwards. Due to the complexity and rich layerings we keep hearing new twists even after many listenings. There are subtle but also downright blunt mutations of the sound, unreal changes in rhythm and much more to be spellbound by. The release closes with the quieter but also rather nervous track “Steady Jolt”. Here the two gentlemen go merrily experimenting with different rhythms in the intro and then attempt at various polyrhythms later on in the track. The issue is further enlivened by a jazzy improvisation on Rhodes. The rhythm that keeps the on-goings together is the standard boom-shack, spiced up with hi-hats and a few claps. A surprisingly commercial choice in the light of the rest of the release, but probably essential to keep the avalanche of clangings and melodies in check. “Steady Jolt” is the composition that appeals the least to us, but in itself it is still much more interesting than 90% of the experimental releases we get to hear.
The three compositions are not so easy to place as inspirational lines can be drawn to quite a lot of artists. The tracks are quite melodic, which admittedly is not synonymous with harmonious. Despite its explicit experimental nature, I suspect that this music can attract a lot of people to the camp of the avant-garde music.