Published May 04, 2011Anyone who's been paying attention to the experimental cassette underground over the last several years has been bound to come across a Jeffrey Witscher project or two. But it wasn't until the recent interest in synthesizer-based music by the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never and Emeralds that Witscher's most recent moniker, Rene Hell, caught on.
Following up on last year's highly acclaimed The Porcelain Opera, Witscher has unveiled his most staggering and accomplished recording to date, The Terminal Symphony, which sees its wide release via Type next Tuesday (May 10). Taking cues from his past projects like Secret Abuse and Marble Sky, The Terminal Symphony has bits of drone and noise but weaves them seamlessly alongside the extra-terrestrial kosmische zones he's been dwelling in recently as Rene Hell. The resulting record is an accomplished piece of modern experimental music that reaches across several disciplines, all while being one of his most listenable albums yet.
"I wanted to make a tighter record without flooding the content and giving up the space, instead blurring it," Witscher says of The Terminal Symphony in an Exclaim! interview. "I had some older material around, but for most of I started with a clean slate for all arrangements and with a list of ideas I'd formed over a few months while living in Europe. This record was a shift, consciously and unconsciously, towards whatever is next."
The lineage and influences of recent Rene Hell recordings have become difficult to trace. However, citing avant composers Arvo Pärt, William Allaudin Mathieu and Roberto Cacciapaglia, Witscher admits that classical music played a role in the arrangement and process of The Terminal Symphony. "People forget that the sounds from a synthesizer have to be designed first, before they're arranged into a song," he says. "So I took more time on hearing how classical composers have used abstract sound to fill and represent the song."
Despite only recently completing The Terminal Symphony (which follows 11 Rene Hell releases from 2010), Witscher rarely allows time to dwell on previous outings, instead always keeping his focus on the next album. "When a record comes out, I tend to be a bit tired of it," he admits. "I've listened to it so many times during the mixing, recording process with test presses and so on that I know it too well. Of course, when you have the finished product in your hands, it's great, but typically the exciting part -- discovering it and putting it together, arranging the audio, visuals -- is lost and I'm usually just ready to start on something else."
The steady stream of releases will likely be slowing for Witscher, as he finds the time to focus on his live show and personal life. Witscher tell us, "I need to sit back and take a breather. I have other work to do, possibly moving again and I want to really dial in a strong live set. That's important to me now perhaps because it's something I've never really focused on."
As for what fans can expect of his live show, he explains, "After touring with No Age, I had grown tired of the pieces I was playing nearly every night. I do a few variations of pieces off the new record and I've just scrapped everything and begun on an entirely new set based around my modular synth. When I'm touring I usually have a set of arrangements I'll have practised and which have plenty of room for improvising but they're not fully improvised each night. Doing one-off shows is different. You can put something together depending on the mood of the space or the type of show."
As recently reported, Canadians will soon get the chance to catch a Rene Hell show, as he hits Montreal as part of the Suoni Per Il Popolo festival on June 15.
Despite Witscher insisting that he's slowing down, 2011 should still be a busy year. So far, there are plans to follow up on this year's stellar debut LP as Mandelbrot & Skyy, his Krautrock-inspired duo with Daren Ho (formerly of Raccoo-oo-oon), not to mention a tour and possible new release with his proto-house outfit Cuticle, a trio with the aforementioned Ho and Brendan O'Keefe (Nimby).
In the meantime, you can pick up The Terminal Symphony on Type, which has also made a limited LP version that comes with a full-length bonus CD of tracks not included on the album proper. The entire Terminal Symphony is also streaming below.
Rene Hell - The Terminal Symphony by _type