“Oh hey construction seems like a suitable subject from my latest experimental electronica project.” One can only assume this thought crosses the mind of every self-respecting member of the electronica avant-garde – how can I make a naff noise sound interesting? Dirk Dresselhaus, aka Schneider TM seems to have cracked it, after living with the scourge construction noises for seven years, he decided to respond to this annoyance by turning it into music on the aptly named album, Construction Sounds.
Every noise in Construction Sounds is taken from local construction in Dresselhaus’ neighbourhood, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Once a working class area of the city, Prenzlauer Berg is now firmly gentrified and it is this that he sets out to capture on Construction Sounds. But if this choice of subject matter is a social comment, it is a buried one as Dresselhaus makes no reference these social changes. Instead what is presented to the listener is detached from any location. Dresselhaus seeks to draw the comparison of the construction worker with tools and the musician with instruments, blurring distinctions between skill, craft and art. Pneumanisch highlights this point with its juxtaposition of engine and drilling sounds and birdsong.
Construction Sounds will be familiar to anyone who has lived in a city, town, near a building site or has had a headache. On the opening track a pulsing hum presides over the silence. At first it is noticeable and irritating, but gradually it recedes into the background as the whirrs of machines are combined with the erratic clangs of workers drilling, chipping and hammering. Eventually the hum completely disappears and the remaining sounds leave a hollow echo that is mysterious and haunting. These cold echoes make you wonder what exactly is being constructed; perhaps it’s one of the dungeons from Saw.
At times the combination of machinery is stark and raw with little treatment, but elsewhere, Dresselhaus lifts the sounds of industry to ethereal and hypnotic levels, such as on Container. Sounds are drawn out and screech like the distant call of a mighty whale, a divine celebration of man’s power to wield power tools. Later in the record, Container Redux presents the same sounds at normal speed and the illusion is broken, the mighty whale is no more than a squeaky door or wheel. Bimanual Complexity offers the closest thing to a melody on Construction Sounds as disparate noises are brought together at increasing intervals until they resemble a kind of weird industrial techno. But despite this resemblance the distinction remains that Dresselhaus uses the noises in themselves to create music, rather than using musical instruments to create noise.
Construction Sounds is an interesting reflection on music and crafts. In comparison to recent releases it would appear to sit in a similar camp to Matthew Herbert‘s One Pig project but, unlike Herbert, Dresselhaus is not seeking to make any statement. Instead Schneider TM invites the listener to project their own meanings and sense on these intrusive sounds made beautiful.