September Collective, All the Birds Were Anarchists

Philip Sherburne

By Philip Sherburne

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

All the Birds Were Anarchists

September Collective

All the Birds Were Anarchists is a collection of sketches by an improvising trio of laptoppers. If their music sounds particularly spontaneous for something made with computers, there's good reason. The group — Barbara Morgenstern, Mapstation's Stefan Schneider and Paul Wirkus — was born out of a 2002 tour where each artist performed solo; growing restless with the nightly show sequence, they began ending their sets with a group improvisation, and their loops gelled well enough to propel them into the studio, where improvisation remains at the heart of their practice.

Three German laptoppers play with sound like Silly Putty, elongating shapes and smooshing them back together — violently.

Morgenstern's melodic piano lines run like a gold braid through many of the songs, and elsewhere a Rhodes or a spindly electric guitar takes the lead. But what's most interesting is the commotion in the background, as fleeting combinations of sounds make furtive walk-ons, deliver tossed-off lines that completely shift the direction of the drama, and melt back into the wings. There's something about acoustic loops — judging from Wirkus 'bio and artist's statement, he relies heavily on samples of strings and piano — that lends itself to this kind of Silly Putty play, elongating shapes and smooshing them back together, violently. You get ghost images where two sounds fuse to create another that might or might not actually be there. A track like "Das Meer" sounds a lot like something Talk Talk might have done had they been using similar tools — not only for the poignant piano melody and brushed drums but also for the way the structure seems to dissipate into thin air.