Though I have no idea what Black To Comm really means, the key to appreciating what Alphabet 1968 has to communicate is blackness and contemplation. Experimental in nature but far broader in scope, Marc Richter’s Type label debut is, in essence, meditation music for stoned techies and audiophiles. If you want to clear a room when the party is over, put this on. It is anti dance music. To even call it music is at times a stretch as often it is simply noise. Whatever it is, it is always interesting, sometimes even for what it isn’t. You will not hear this on the radio unless the airwaves are taken over by pirates with good taste. You won’t want to buy the album if you are looking for the next catchy single or generic pop song. But, if you are looking for something that will challenge and enlighten you, then Alphabet 1968 is a good place to start.
Exhaling the rest of the purple smoke from your lungs, candles flickering around the room, you close your eyes and fit the headphones snugly around your ears. Pressing play, “Jonathan” grabs you immediately with its stark soundscape. Is that a child’s voice? Rain falls and is glitched. A piercing drone hovers above a hazily forming piano’d musical element. Layers build and break down into a drone, which carries through into “Forst.” In fact, this track is mostly all drone. Strange intrusive elements come and go, not unlike one’s thoughts while meditating. A bell here and there is a reminder to wake up outside of the body.
Jewelry box music opens “Trapez” and carries through over a wash of digital haze. Chaotic, muted melodic elements break through and break down. Plodding plucked piano punctuates ”Rauschen” Screeches span the spaces and spill over into the sci-fi “Musik fur Alle.” Stacatto strings build tension. It’s musical, mostly. Well composed plucked strings blend with layers of sonic activity until everything is washed away in fuzz and chaos. “Amateur” continues the musical but not quite, introducing a braying organ and layers of drone. One gets the idea that the title does not describe Richter.
“Houdini Rites” opens with clanking. Is it the train coming? Or clanking on cell bars? Just when you start to feel claustrophobic, the track opens up, again into layers of drone, clanking carrying on. Able to pick out layer upon layer, you are suddenly grateful for the sonic isolation of the headphones. Just when you start to become a bit agitated by the drone it calms and fades.
Vast, deep tones appropriately open “Void” as backward voices wisp past. Drone fills the space, the cracks filled by layers of liquid noise, some identifiable, some not. Like the rest of the album it is complexly textured but simple. In the midst of the chaos, “Hotel Freund” comforts you like a friend. The warm rich sounds of harps and strings blend with jungle chatter and voices. You can almost feel the warm spring breeze on your face. The most melodic part of the album, like everything else, fades. Replaced by drone and the sounds of children playing, these too fade into silence.
Never before has the silence at albums end seemed like an intentional part of the album itself. Immersed, first in sound then in silence, a church bell chime in the distance brings you back from your journey changed. It leaves you contemplating well after the disc has stopped spinning and because the tracks are so densely layered repeat listening always reveals something new. If that’s not the mark of a good album, I don’t know what is.