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Berlin based artist Frank Bretschneider is well-known for the effortless rhythms that characterise his work. On Isolation, his new album - his second for LINE, he sets all that aside to deliver a surprising and disturbing study of sensorial space. Isolation was originally composed as part of an installation at the notorious stasi prison, Bautzen II where political prisoners were sequestered under extreme conditions. Unnerving, ethereal and jarring - for the ultimate effect, listen to this on headphones.


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Isolation by Frank Bretschneider
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8/10 Jim Staff review, 11 November 2015

Some ascetic abstraction of the highest order here as Frank Bretschnider steps out (again) of the inner-circle of über-minimalist electronic music label raster-noton for this release on Richard Chartier’s ever-experimental Line imprint. There’s also a departure in style apparent on this release, which eschews the interlocking percussive architecture of Bretschneider’s recent trajectory in favour of stark/subtle textures, unsettling spatial explorations and haunting drones.

The compositions here originally accompanied an installation at a former Stasi prison in Bautzen, Germany, that was notorious for holding ‘enemies of the state’ in solitary confinement, sometimes for years. In this sense, the piercing tinnitus tones, slowly evolving resonances and jarring segues of ‘Isolation’ are Bretschneider’s attempts to evoke the disorienting effects of extreme sensory deprivation. The big surprise for me though, given the grim inspiration, is just how beautiful the album’s incredibly focused arrangements sound.

The album starts off generally more disconcerting and claustrophobic, with ear-burrowing high-pitched frequencies cutting into an oppressive low-end hum, a hum that almost guts you when it is brutally switched off and then on again. Yet, by the time we get to ‘Vertical Time’, the same hermetic pallet becomes nuanced to the point in which it is capable of evoking vast arctic tundra, intergalactic voids, or some incredible feat of introspective visualisation a la Jack London’s ‘The Star Rover’. It’s a challenging but potentially mind-expanding listening experience, not unlike a more clinical and less ‘new age’ Eleh.


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