© 2017

Hanno Leichtmann
Minimal Studies
MIKROTON CD 24 | 2013

Edition of 500.



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1. Study One
2. Study Two
3. Study Three
4. Study Four
5. Study Five
6. Study Six
7. Study Seven
8. Study Eight
9. Study Nine
10. Study Ten

Hanno Leichtmann modular system, bass synthesizer, guitar, ebow, organ, sampler, signal processors
Kai Fagaschinski clarinet
Boris Baltschun electric pump organ
Sabine Ercklentz trumpet
Alex Stolze violin

It all began with Study Ten.

After releasing his 4th Static album, which included ten songs, about 15 musicians and which took almost 6 years till its release, Hanno Leichtmann had the wish to record an album in one go, without endless recording and mixing sessions.

While experimenting with his modular system he discovered a method to compose that, what he later called Minimal Studies.

A modular sample player which can be controlled manually, by a sequencer, LFO or any CV source would make the basis.

So first there was the loop from Study Ten. Leichtmann added a bassline and some static tones made with a guitar and an ebow. A sampled choir. Then he asked Sabine Ercklentz to add some trumpet layers.

The first idea was to send the basic loop to different artists which should add different overdubs. And so to have 10 different versions of one song.

But then Leichtmann made more and more loops and used the same compositorical method on them.

So we have: a rhythmic-tonal loop, a deep synthetic bassline, static tones from ebowed guitars or a synth. And one or two melodies or melodic patterns played with an acoustic or sampled instrument. All the pieces have about the same length (approximately 4 minutes long).

The finished recording lets one think of (classical) minimal music but also of club music, ambient, dub or drone music.

These all have at least one thing in common: reduction.

Hanno Leichtmann invited these fine musicians Boris Baltschun, Kai Fagaschinski, Sabine Ercklentz and Alex Stolze to play on Minimal Studies.


Just Outside, Brian Olewnick:
A new name to me. True to the title, Leichtmann has constructed ten studies that adhere to certain minimalist aesthetics. Overall, I hear echoes of early Riley in some parts and early Carl Stone (in the harmonies) in others. Leichtmann (modular system, bass synth, guitar, e-bow, organ, sampler, signal processors) uses contributions on various tracks from Boris Baltschun (electric pump organ), Sabine Ercklentz (trumpet), Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet) and Alex Stolze (violin), kneading them into his framework. The results, while perfectly pleasant, are far too pat, so much sonic wallpaper, with easily swallowed bass lines and flowery frills atop. Sometimes, as on “Study Six” (with Stolze), those bass lines verge on parody, bearing an 80s slickness that conures up unfortunate images of rolled up sleeves on suit jackets and Hollywood faux noir. Very well done on its own terms, I guess, but way too tame for my taste. For those who find Fennesz heavy going.

Vital Weekly, Frans de Waard:
And finally perhaps a somewhat more unlikely presence on Mikroton, which we always know to be into improvised music, is Hanno Leichtmann, who is perhaps also known for his work as Static. His (single) CD has ten tracks, all around the four-five minute break, recorded using modular system, bass synthesizer, guitar, ebow, organ, sampler and signal processors, plus a couple of guests on electric pump organ, trumpet, clarinet and violin. While this is probably quite removed from the more ‘dance’ like sounds of Static, the element of rhythm is not far away. It’s funny that just the other day I was playing a Steve Reich remixed CD (with Coldcut, Howie B, Matronik and such like), and then this arrived, which seems like a straight continuation of those remixes, embedded in an even more minimal surrounding. Leichtmann creates samples of his sound material and loops them around. Not in a static (pun not intended) way but in a rather musical fashion. The very short loops – some of them – are ultra short and remind me of Oval, but they are spliced together with longer sound particles and it makes all very nice music. The missing link – perhaps – between minimal dance music and improvisation, albeit with electronics. Bouncing stuff, that floats around nicely, and with all of these piece within reach of the length of a ‘pop’ song, this works even better. Leichtmann’s emphasis on the bass sounds unveils his roots in dance music, but his overall notion stretches far beyond that. Excellent work, genre crossing and boundary hopping.

The Squid's Ear, Darren Bergstein:
Hanno Leichtmann’s not exactly what one would call a prolific fellow; forgetting one sole soundtrack, his prior full-length was released on the Karaoke Kalk label way back in 2006. Minimal Studies is virtually a polar opposite to the fey synthfolk leanings of that earlier recording. Leichtmann apparently chooses to indulge his wide taste in sound art fairly democratically, as his debut here on the always-fascinating Russian label Mikroton attests. In many ways, Mikroton is something of a loner in the great wide electroacoustic landscape; where once such a genre had a proliferation of labels working the analog/digital interface (For 4 Ears, Crouton, Formed, trente oiseaux, Ritornell, Cut, etc.), many have now fallen by the wayside. Mikroton has emerged as the last label of its type standing (begging the pardon of erstwhile, since their own brand of austere soundscaping has carved out an even narrower niche than its Russian cousin); Leichtmann’s ‘defection’ to their ranks says as much about the artist’s progressivist agenda as the label’s own keen radar for making tactile Leichtmann’s vibrant new projections.
And Minimal Studies is indeed an impressive work. It’s easy to be taken first with Leichtmann’s intuitive sense of tone placement and obvious comfort with both his instruments and his compositional methods. Working with a sparkling array of old-world electronic gear (modular synth system and bass synths, in addition to guitar, ebow, organ, and sampler) and the ubiquitous signal processors that give the music it’s hands-on, knob-finessed purple glow, Leichtmann’s creations cry out through the speakers fully realized, minus categorical straitjackets, devoid of rigid or preconceived subtext. The sturdy analog waves and resonating pulsations found across “Study Six” and “Study Seven” would have undoubtedly made Robert Moog sit up and take notice, not to mention pricking up the ears of Terry Riley, The Necks, Laurie Anderson, and any number of staunch texturologists.
Bear in mind that Leichtmann’s a careful fellow, too. “Minimal” though his approach might be, these works aren’t simply studies in sonic economy, arid ideation, or superficial tonality. If anything, Leichtmann’s made constructive choices every bit as infused by flavor as appropriate ‘placement’ in the mix. Though not occupying the same continuum by any stretch (other than a shared love of similar noisemakers), it’s not too wayward to think that Tangerine Dream’s Edgar Froese could have pursued similar directions had his motivation been driven by purer artistic impulse rather than commercial approbation. As is, Leichtmann’s fanciful synthetic capitulations lay bare the slightest familiarizations of most olden-day, hirsute Teutonicists.

The Drone, Olivier Lamm:
Le patronyme sur sa carte d’identité ne vous dit peut-être rien mais si vous avez déjà tourné autour ~scape et du dub digital teuton, vous connaissez sans doute Hanno Leichtmann. Dans les années 2000, ce batteur de jazz au look d’ingénieur agronome a sorti sous le nom de Static une floppée de disques d’electronica minimale de plutôt haute volée via City Centre Offices, Karaoke Kalk ou Dekorder, liés par tous les doigts de la main à ceux du Pole de Stefan Betke (qu’il accompagna un temps en tournée) et à tous les projets de l’indispensable Jan Jelinek (Gramm, Farben, Ursula Bogner). Entre la musique improvisée la plus sévère, l’electropop croquignolette à la Morr et et les ruines glacées de la minimal qui grésille, Leichtmann a construit une oeuvre discrète, feutrée mais pas effacée pour autant. Récemment, on l’a mentionné s’illustrer au sein de Groupshow, magnifique résurgence de krautrock électronique qu’il anime avec Jelinek et l’excellent Andrew Pekler.
Passionné depuis toujours par les cent millions de variations autour de la répétition, il repousse un peu plus loin les limites de son propre minimalisme avec ce bien nommé Minimal Studies, emballé pour le label moscovite Mikroton. Seul face à ses cymbales et machines ou accompagnés d’explorateurs du versant ultra-minimaliste de l’improv, il fait une musique hypnotique mais heurtée, bien moins monotone qu’elle n’en a l’air. Tous les fans des premières oeuvres (les plus belles!) de The Field seraient bien avisés d’y jeter une oreille.

Skug, Curt Cuisine:
Zum Abschluss gönnen wir unseren Ohren noch ein klein wenig Entspannung. Mikroton CD No. 24 stammt von Hanno Leichtmann und bietet elektroakustischen Minimalismus mit Gastmusikern, dementsprechend als »Minimal Studies« betitelt. Diese sind erstaunlich zugänglich, ja, an einigen Stellen nahezu tanzbar. Man fragt sich beinahe, wie das ins Mikroton-Portfolio passt (wenn man es nicht schon wüsste). Andererseits ist das Attribut »zugänglich« sehr unterschiedlich auslegbar. Wer unter tanzbar nur die Dorfdisco versteht, ist hier fehl am Platz. Aber das ist natürlich im Grunde die falsche Argumentation, weil erneut einer Ausschließungslogik folgend. Die Hälfte der hier vorgestellten CDs knallen vor uneingeweihten HörerInnen ohnehin schallend die Türen zu. Das ist ihr gutes avantgardistisches Recht, aber es ist doch auch schade, weil die nach unverbrauchter Musik dürstenden Massen auf diese Weise wohl kaum gewonnen werden können. Und Vladimir Kudryatsev sein Label weiter aus eigener Tasche betreiben muss. Dagegen wollen wir jetzt aber endlich etwas unternehmen, oder?

Paul Khimasia Morgan, The Sound Projector:
A wonderful album from Hanno Leichtmann who is quickly becoming a rival for my electronic music listening affections with my current favourite block pusher Rutger Zuyderveldt.
Having made that comparison, I’m now reminded how far experimental electronics has come, or how far they have been assimilated into popular culture, depending on your standpoint. I’m thinking of the radical experimentalism of Kluster, for example; their 1970s output like Eruption or Klopfzeichen or Em Und Texte; frankly genuinely deranged masterpieces of the form. You can hear echoes of Leichtmann’s countrymen if you have a mind to keep an ear out for that sort of thing, but this is more formal and distilled.
Ten pieces of music perhaps more developed than their description as mere “studies”, but, I would argue, incongruously labelled “minimal”, as the wealth of detail and space doled out by his brutish analogue “modular system” as he calls it (disappointingly, there is no mention of the manufacturer of the synth in question) is unquestionably maximalist in its conception. Yes, some of these tracks are a few steps away from finished maybe (but not that many); a latest catalogue of ideas, or a document of a month’s worth of sampler experiments or, indeed, a finished work, are perhaps all things this album could be perceived as. And I quite like that aspect; the uncertainty of what these pieces are. Aside from the titling of the pieces “Study One” to “…Ten” and the factual deliverance of production detail, no other information from the author of these “studio sketches” is presented. There’s elements of motoric rhythm here. Certainly, a Germanic history of rock is implied in these tracks. The sound overall is bold and punchy thanks no doubt in some way to Pole’s Stefan Betke’s mastering.
Hanno Leichtmann augments his own parts with contributions here and there by Boris Baltschun’s electric pump organ, Sabine Ercklentz’ trumpet, Kai Fagaschinski’s clarinet and Alex Stolze’s violin.
Track one, “Study One” goes like this: “Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing Bing bing bing” and sets the tone for the album. That’s the charm of the sampler. The retained clicks and the pops of Leichtmann’s relaxed sampling process as the loops roll on and on. Delicious synth toppings are added slowly like a television advert for upmarket icecreams. “Study Two” is the sound machines make when they dream. “Study Three” reminds me of something that might have come out of Conny Plank’s studio in the late 90s but without the ominous patina of grain he somehow managed to imbue his productions with.
“Study Four” and “Study Five” are a continuation of the delicious edited and looped dream which Hanno Leichtmann has lulled us into. Until, on “Study Six”, he presents what is to me the most “pop” arrangement on the disc and one of the most beautiful; examples of repetition in electronic music you’ll ever hear. Boris Baltschun on electric pump organ here.
During “Study Seven” and “Study Eight”, my mind wanders: for me, as I have already indicated, it is impossible not to think vaguely of 1970s German Kosmische Rock and often Kraftwerk in particular while listening to this album, but “Study Eight” especially, seems to me to be Can’s sole UK chart hit “I Want More” filtered and detourned through Hanno Leichtmann’s willing machines and fertile imagination. “Study Nine” reminds me of more German musicians, this time Tangerine Dream, or perhaps Edgar Froese’s 1975 solo album Epsilon In Malaysian Pale. But in a good way. Fittingly, the final track, “Study Ten”, is the most sombre and restrained piece.
Hanno may have possibly titled this release as a faux work-in-progress but it is anything but. For one thing, it coheres. The pieces slot together like well-hammered tenon joints in a chunky piece of hand-made furniture. I can imagine this music being played in a nightclub, or an art gallery or the way I’ve been using it at home: to start the day as I’m giving the kids their breakfast.

Современная музыка, Илья Белоруков:
Так случилось, что диск Ханно Ляйхтманна (Hanno Leichtmann) попал ко мне во время этих зимний дней в марте: невзирая на календарную весну, природа наградила Петербург снегом и морозами. Но помимо этих сопутствующих неприятных пунктов, доставшихся от зимы, пришла и весна: яркое солнце еще не греет, но бесконечно радует лучами. Так при чем тут Ляйхтманн?
А дело в том, что его музыка как раз и похожа на такое состояние перехода от одного к другому. Наверное, никто не будет спорить, что с первых же звуков “Minimal Studies” вспоминается наследие проекта Oval, ведомого Маркусом Поппом (Marcus Popp). Ханно использует короткие семплы, выстраивая из них ритмический фундамент, напоминающий о заедании диска в плеере. Саунд очень и очень мягкий, весенний, если уж на то пошло. Затем Ляйхтманн принимается за басовые или мелодические партии, либо сразу совмещяя их. Это короткие простейшие 2-3-5 нот, легко воспринимаемые; кажется, что ты их слышал раньше, а теперь подсознание лишь пропевает фразы в мозгу. Ляйхтманну помогают друзья: Кай Фагашински (Kai Fagaschinski) на кларнете, Алекс Штольце (Alex Stolze) на скрипке, Сабине Эркленц (Sabine Ercklentz), Борис Бальчун (Boris Baltschun) на электрооргане. Они играют так, что звук инструментов очень легко потерять в общем миксе: при первом фоновом прослушивании я и вовсе не обратил на них внимание и не думал, что на записи присутствует акустический звук. Именно это нововведение становится отличительным знаком музыки Ляйхтманна. Но что интересно, роли звуков поменялись кардинально. Электронные звуки звучат тепло и в них чувствуется жизнь, а акустические инструменты маскируются под механистичную холодность машин и передают некую отсуждённость. Этот переход и изменение в звуках – знак времени, а именно тенденций предыдущего десятилетия в экспериментальной музыке. Если раньше музыканты пытались приблизить звучание электроники к акустике, то сейчас всё наоборот. У Ханно первое все-таки превалирует над вторым, но что будет дальше? Этот звуковой обман сродни погодному: зная, что уже наступила весна, организм начинает перестраиваться под переходное время, но остатки зимы напоминают о себе.