“I dream of a dance floor where Motus would be enjoyed,” says Thomas Köner. “What kind of society would allow that?”
His ambition isn’t necessarily wilfully controversial or provocative, but it nevertheless underpins a desire to unshackle music from the notion of grids, beats, BPMs and electronic music formalism. Motus is the latest instalment in Köner’s gently subversive approach to analogue synthesis, something I first experienced way back in June 1996 with ‘Untitled’, a track included on a CD given away with The Wire (Miaow! (…Cats What I Call Music)). That track was, on face value, a recording containing virtually nothing, a distant, ephemeral rumble easily overtaken by real life; to experience it, one had to tune everything out, turn it up loud and concentrate very hard. Only then could you hear the rich, undulating turbulence that the piece was actually constructed from. It was loud music, just presented very quietly.
Motus, comparatively, is bold, noisy and restless. Freed from the tyranny of the beat, tracks like ‘SUBSTRATE (Binaural)’ take their forward motion not from an obvious rhythm, but the ebbing waves of a modular sequence, whose pace only alters materially when the waveform is tweaked. The effect is, for those used to hearing music anchored to a pattern of kick drums, hi-hats and snare sounds, mildly unnerving. You want to attach these sequences to a rhythm, even though it’s not there, your inner clock suddenly thrown off track by a subtle modulation here or there.
Strangely, the effect of this – despite being made from nothing more than artificial waveforms and electrical current – is to remind you that nature does not cling rigidly to perfection. Gusts of wind don’t readily adhere to a quantised location on a screen; a bird’s flapping wings are not operating at a consistent BPM; your heart is more than likely not beating at precisely the same pace as it was when you started reading this (it will either have slowed down through disengagement or sped up through the panic of a beat-less musical world). It takes pieces like ‘SUBSTANCE (Suicide)’, and the other six tracks on Motus to make you realise that.
Motus by Thomas Köner is released February 6 2020 by Mille Plateaux.
Words: Mat Smith
(c) 2020 Further.