Saison Concrète | LASSE-MARC RIEK


Saison Concrète | Lasse-Marc Riek
GrD 26 | Audio CD / DVD BOX > [Sold Out]



Sounds of the four seasons, condensed into one acoustic valuable — that describes the work of conceptual artist Lasse-Marc Riek. Birds migrating in late summer livestock returning from the alps in fall and April’s showers are some of the more recognizable incidents. Above all, the artist forms a fascinating soundscape by working with a huge variety of sounds and noises, and with each acoustic part he creates a composition complete by itself. Saison Concrète — coltish and jaunty or unfathomable melancholic — cover the span of a whole year. Thus, Riek’s journeys through nature’s sounds subtly turn into reflections about the nature of sounds. (Stefan Militzer)




12 Tracks (44′22″)


The work „Saison Concrète“ was composed by the source of 12 parts run Kalenderstücke (Geräusch des Monats) during 2010 at Deutschlandradio Kultur.



Finalist at Prix Phonurgia Nova 2010 (art radiophonique et nouveaux médias).



Published by Semperflorens.


Gruenrekorder / Germany / 2013 / GrD 26 / LC 09488





The Watchful Ear
Now here’s a very good CD. Lasse-Marc Riek is a German musician / composer / sculptor of sounds, describe him as you will. he runs the Gruenrekorder label but this new solo album, titled Saison Concréte is released on the Russian Semper Florens label as an edition of 500 housed in a DVD sized box. Now, this composition, a single forty-four minute work is crafted from a collection of field recordings, some played straight and some processed. Amongst the material used are recordings of water, rain, wind, thunder, birdsong, in fact most of the list of predictable elements that usually have me screaming about how little originality there is in this area of music. Somehow though, and here lies the essence of something I am always at a loss to explain- these sounds are all twisted together, along with a number of other more original recordings, to make something that has far more energy and vitality about it than we normally hear in this kind of work.


When it began, I feared the worst for this disc. After a very gradual rise up out of an extended opening silence a grey whispery roar rumbles away for a while. I can’t quite tell what it is, but it resembles the wind in leafy trees. Then a passage of dreamy, drifty choral sounds appears, and the music threatens to disappear into new age ambience when crash, some kind of heavily treated streak of sound rips across everything, followed quickly by many more, resembling some kind of sci-fi laser weapon shootout for a bit, throwing everything up in the air as if feeding the music through a shredder to see what came out the other side. From there the music flows on into snatches of just about everything, from what I believe could be the sound of boats rocking rhythmically slowly against a harbour to swarms of insects, barking packs of dogs and a few noisy sheep, including one stand-out moment when a single baaa, processed somehow into a slightly sinister yell appears from nowhere amongst some unrelated sounds.


It is very hard for me to pin down what sets this disc apart from much field recording arrangement for me. Perhaps it is the element of surprise that often springs up, perhaps it is just something about the way the various, on the whole excellently recorded, field recordings are juxtaposed, so that soft sounds collide with crashing chunks of sonic debris, chattering birds dissolve out of thunderstorms and fragment into the soft chug of a diesel engine, which in turn is hushed by long metallic chimes. A brief collapse of everything into near silence roughly halfway through the disc is recovered by a clockwork-like tapping and children’s voices, more sheep, bells and all kinds of scratchy, crackling detritus that is somehow all combined really well into something that just all works together. The music never stands still, but while this could be claimed about much other inferior work of this type, it isn’t a case of a bunch of disparate items faded into one another, there has been a lot of thought put into what works well together, and how the ingredients can all be combined in such a way that they give the music momentum and energy. This isn’t a CD celebrating the art of field recording, but a carefully, intensely composed piece of modern musique concréte.


It isn’t always perfect. The energy built up in certain passages perhaps only serve to underline one or two areas where the music flags a little, but as with the powerful opening, when rings begin to drift into predictable areas the music seems to wake itself up quite quickly. I am still not sure what I think about the composition’s ending either, as heaving church bells are gradually overtaken by some kind of seaside carousel / barrel organ that brings the composition to a sudden halt. I love the sound of such machines, but the kitsch element here could be just a little too much, especially as such novelty isn’t present anywhere else, but each time I listen I feel differently about it, and always smiling to myself at the tune as it plays, so maybe its the perfect ending simply because of how it leaves me wondering.


Good stuff then, an exciting, razor-sharp composition that extends field recording arrangement into something more than just polite layering of beautiful sounds. This of course isn’t the only example of music like this. Eric LaCasa’s W2, Cordier and Murayama’s Nuit and a number of others work well in similar ways, but its nice to have a further addition to the canon.


Richard Allen | a closer listen
She can be all four seasons in one day. Sting’s words were written for a loved one, but they also apply to this release. Saison Concrète is the sound chronicle of a year, an exquisitely designed symphony of sound from Gruenrekorder’s Lasse-Marc Riek. Riek’s field recording work is well known, but this single long-form piece sets off in an entirely different direction. The key components are the mixture of natural and human elements and the addition of dronelike sounds. It’s the album The Avalanches might have recorded had they been armed with microphones instead of turntables.
For the first few minutes, the sound is barely audible, and one thinks, oh, this is relaxing. But then the pings and pops and rustles and hums set in — sounds that could be expanding ice or factory steam. A gentle, cold rain begins to fall; a sheep bleats, perhaps disgruntled after a long walk. The dual mystery of sound origin and seasonal location only adds to the allure. These recordings are not necessarily arranged by time as much as they are by memory, and memory follows a loose chronology at best. It’s not important to know whether the flock of birds is migrating during a storm or finding shelter; we are able to make up our own stories, prompted by the sonic map. A man tells his granddaughter about the beautiful churches of his youth; chimes toll; private school children pour onto the playground. But time passes so fast, and innocence is lost; already it’s summer, and swarms of bees are on the move. If only we could return to who we once were. If only we had made better decisions. Now the winter is approaching, and we have not yet begun to cut the wood. The sled dogs howl quizzically beside us, waiting to be tethered. We’re all waiting for something, but it passes by like impersonal traffic. But then through the wind and the woods we hear it once again: the traveling carnival has returned to the village, trailing streamers of hope and age-flecked paint. We have made it through another year.
Saison Concrète is a story for all seasons, an invitation to reflect on the line between the cyclical and the straightforward, the observed and the peripheral, the reality and the impression. Teeming with variety and meticulous in construction, it’s destined to echo across the seasons and fold itself into the crumpled map of time.


Having listened to so many Gruenrekoder releases over the past couple of years, I automatically think of the label when I hear the name Lasse-Marc Riek, given that the Germany-born conceptual and sound artist is a founding member of the audio publishing company that since 2003 has issued all manner of splendid soundscapes, field recordings, and electro-acoustic recordings. But let’s not forget that he’s a music producer in his own right, with his Saison Concrète release (500 CD copies) on the Russian Semper Florens label a recent example of his work. He might just as naturally have released it on Gruenrekoder, given its field recordings-based concept and design.
It’s an uninterrupted, forty-four-minute acoustic rendering of the four seasons, an entire year’s array of sounds condensed into a single, detail-packed soundscape. The material follows its own idiosyncratic journey, becoming explosive and turbulent during one episode and restful and pacifying the next, with Riek including sounds both literally evocative of nature elements and others more abstract and open to interpretation. Sounds flow together with nary a moment separating them, resulting in a fluid travelogue of ever-changing character.
Many of the sounds are, of course, derived from acoustic field recordings designed to reinforce the seasonal theme of the recording. Human and non-human forms interact alongside sounds associated with natural and industrial phenomena, with all of it artfully arranged and sequenced and Riek careful to not overwhelm the listener with too much detail at any given moment—though the total effect is psychotropic and even, at times, dizzying. Encountered during the trip: rain drizzle and thunder, assorted scrapes and creaks, a downpour so huge and violent it suggests a tsunami, the aggressive cries of birds, crowds of people talking, bell tones resounding, music boxes and cowbells tinkling, insect swarms buzzing, sheep bleating and dogs whimpering, machines and vehicles rumbling and rattling, and church bells ringing. Saison Concrète is so encompassing, in fact, it could be used as a prototype for collage-based field recordings-based projects of its kind, as a primer to introduce listeners new to the sound art genre, for example.


That Lasse-Marc Riek is one of the founders of Gruenrekorder is evident from the similarities between some of the atmospheres informing Saison Concrète and the vague, half-tangible depictions of diverse environments in Merzouga’s Mekong Morning Glory (see above). This 44-minute work emerges from a protracted silence, after which all the possible variations on what we already know on the subject are presented one after another: buzzing insects, far-flung droning, tinkling objects, whimpering dogs, rustling steps, rain, children, birds, reiterative aspects of unknown mechanical processes. But what sets this CD apart from the rest of the worthless crowd is the way in which Riek has composed the whole, attributing the right specific weight to every acoustic illustration and deciding which details to highlight. The consecutiveness of the events is as carefully scripted as a piece of theatre, each occurrence a definite character moving across the stage and flawlessly reciting a part. The brilliant finale — a barrel organ emerging from a sea of bells and choirs to seal the envelope with a popular waltz — would seem an appreciative nod to some of Christoph Heemann’s ironic twists. But Riek deserves better than mere comparisons: the smoothness of his work’s overall impact is directly proportional to the sense of involvement it generates in the listener. Tedium is not a factor.


Gruenrekorder boss Lasse Marc Riek also has new album out, on Russia’s Semper Florens label. Riek’s main interest is in field recordings, as of course he proofs with his own label. Yet in his own work he doesn’t always rely on pure field recordings, but rather processes these sounds. In this work he uses sounds which German radio broadcasted every month for a year and Riek composed his ‚four seasons‘ of it. An acousmatic work. I think the work starts in the winter, with what sounds like sticks on ice, and then we get the whole year, birds arriving in spring, the summer breeze, cows in the alps, birds migrating again, and then slowly getting dark and darker, autumn has arrived. All pretty straight forward in what it is, but I guess that’s fine enough, its about how its made. Riek does a fine job here. There is a certain amount of sound processing going on, maybe a bit too much reverb in the early minutes of the work, which is in fine balance with the various bits that come to us unprocessed. A very nice work – if there be points it would be 8 out of 10.


Josh Landry | Musique Machine
Lasse-Marc Riek is a German composer of deep listening works, and a strong proponent of field recordings. He has released several albums, as well as co-founding the Gruenrekorder label, which specializes in field recordings. This album from 2011, „Saison Concrète“, contains a single piece, 44 minutes in length. Like many such albums, it is a very quiet and subtle album. It is no use trying to listen to this album on your stereo: headphones and a quiet listening environment are required.
The only other album I had heard by Lasse-Marc Riek, titled „Harbour“, was purely field recordings, and apparently unedited, as far as I could tell. So, it is with wonderment that I discover the lush synthesis of organic and electronic texture, of natural and human input, that exists on „Saison Concrète“.
It takes several minutes for the piece to reach its full volume. At first there is only the hushed rain of a white day. Ghostly drowned chords rise up from beneath, and draw us from this place that felt so familiar to me into a digital maw of endless reverb tails possessing an unreal smoothness of movement.
There are certainly elements here which could have been found on „Harbour“: around the 10 minute mark, we hear the creaking and groaning of ropes pulled periodically taut by the lapping of waves, and rain (again), with greater intensity this time. Soon, we are among the waves, inside the cresting waves, and many seagulls are fiercely crying at once, as if squabbling over a carcass. This is closer to the sea than we got on „Harbour“.
The piece takes a surreal turn as the black velvet pure tones of bells and gongs are struck, first in a vacuum, and then with the odd accompaniment of bustle and conversation, the sounds of a crowded festival. After this, we are inexplicably honed in on the sound of a buzzing bee, trapped in a box or light fixture, and fades in the swarm, massive and ominous, especially in the closeness of headphones. All of these sounds are masterfully miced and recorded.
In fact, the recording quality is so flawless that at one point I became convinced that the garbage truck heard at the 25 minute mark (hissing, beeping, stopping and starting) had actually pulled up on my street until the pause the CD to make sure. At this point the piece is at its most cacophanous, as grey shrouds of spiralling granular synth engulf the listener in a Coil-esque fashion.
The album is quite listenably paced; every couple of minutes the sound changes, often drastically. The abstract narrative formed by the disparate sections seems somehow profound, yet entirely outside the realm of typical musical ‚emotion‘. Many of these, afterall, are natural sounds, which are ultimately the most complex of all, and seem to consistently and endlessly fascinate while eluding clear interpretation.
The ending is truly odd: loud, jarring carousel music circles around us for the last couple of minutes, and it’s hard to tell whether one should interpret this with a sincere and sentimental frame of mine, or a cynical, ironic one.
The only comparable album I’ve heard is Steve Roden’s „Berlin Fields“, a similarly structured 40 minute patchwork of myriad contrasting environments and electronic manipulations. Like „Berlin Fields“, „Saison Concrète“ is a masterwork that proves the infinite potential of this genre. Anyone with a decent set of headphones should pick this up immediately.