6/10• Protecting My Wildlife
• How Can I Move
• Simply The Best
• Frei Sein
• Little Nothing
• Leaves Are Falling
• Slow Snow With her career now spanning four decades, Gudrun Gut has been around long enough not only to witness some of the earliest innovations in electronic music history, but to be a part of them too. Her solo output has proved to be sporadic and multifarious, but Wildlife may fairly be viewed as a continuation of Gut’s wonky, intellectual take on tech house as explored on 2007’s I Put A Record On. Indeed, its finest moments are those where she recaptures the adventurousness of that album and demonstrates her knack for ear-candy sampling.
Gut often works by seizing a tiny fragment of a work of wider scope, zooming in, decontextualising, and progressing from the sonic potential of that brief moment. ‘Little Nothing’ begins with a microsecond of chamber music stuttering like a lagging computer, which is slowly replaced by a tonally ambiguous aura of synthesisers, as if it’s constantly on the verge of finding its feet. Similarly, ‘How Can I Move’ uses a sample more like the ghost of a string ensemble than anything stable, while standout track ‘Erinnerung’ uses sampling to the opposite effect, playfully contrasting her vocals’ excessive reverb with a gorgeous snippet of clean electric guitar sliding.
Less successful are the tracks built directly around the album’s central irony – the idea of a downtempo electronic record about gardens (both metaphorical and real). Wildlife is Gut’s first album since leaving Berlin for a new life in the rural retreat of Uckermark, but she seems to deliberately avoid any evocation of the pastoral imagery these circumstances suggest, other than the barely audible mooing of a cow on opener ‘Protecting My Wildlife’. This is especially unusual given the trendiness of ‘organic’ elements being incorporated into IDM. But by any measure, Wildlife sounds dated, certain tracks calling to mind many of the now-unfashionable tropes of trip hop – particularly its hazy, introspective dub rhythms and tempos, and Gut’s breathy, monotonous vocals; it’s a style intrinsically rooted in ‘90s culture, as are so many of those drum machines…
Overall, it’s difficult to join the thematic dots, especially when the record’s emotional side is so suppressed. It befits the techno genre to sound disaffected and mechanical, but one might expect Gut’s lyrics to expand further on the subversive atmospheres she creates. There might be some more salient poetry in the more prominent lyrics in her native German tongue, but lead track ‘Garten’ is rather lazy in its imagery: “A garden full of veggies / a garden full of blood” – it seems at once heavy-handed and vague. Most baffling is her intentionally disengaged cover of Tina Turner’s ‘Simply The Best’, stripped of all its melody and punch in favour of techno alienation.
Still, Gut should be commended for her idiosyncratic combinations of ideas. Headphones are required to appreciate the complexity of her approach, but close listening alone may not be enough for her message to come through. That depends on how far you get on board with the mantra of ‘Protecting My Wildlife’ (“The little things are big…”). If Wildlife doesn’t fully capture the imagination, it’s because Gut’s ideas are so subtle, and her vocals so understated, that its most interesting facets are its tiniest details.
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