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Robert Henke - Atom/Document CD (album) cover


Robert Henke

Progressive Electronic

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1 stars "Performance for a matrix of 64 illuminated gas balloons and sound

A room is filled with deep, evolving noises from a four-channel sound system. An eight-by-eight array of white, self-illuminated spheres floats in space like the atoms of a complex molecule. Through variable positioning and illumination of each atom, a dynamic display sculpture comes into being, composed of physical objects, patterns of light, and synchronous rhythmic and textural sonic events. Change, sound, and movement converge into a larger form.

The height of each helium balloon is adjusted with a computer-controlled cable winch, whilst the internal illumination is accomplished using dimmable super-bright LEDs, creating a pixel in a warped 8x8 spatial matrix."

This is what meets you when approaching this record.... It originally started out as an idea inside the head of sound conceptualist Christopher Bauder, who has a history of turning ordinary items into sound- producing sculptures. Featured within the gatefold sleeve - as well as on Henke's internet home Monolake, this 'explanation' hovers like the very helium balloons incorporated into the show. In short: this album came into fruition after an artsy installation, where Henke delivered the music to a giant spectacle with all of these white balloons, LED lights and a very ingenious way of matching them all together - so as the music and the theatrics felt inter-weaved, interconnected - to give the audience that special modern and highly esoteric urban experience.

Tell you the truth, I would have loved to see this thing in a live setting - even more so, attended this event with a couple of beautiful art chicks that jump at anything with balloons in it - all slick and dressed up with my sole tie around my neck together with my yellow Bono glasses and a bottle of absinthe down my trousers.

Yet somehow when you approach this work, and yes here I choose the word 'work' - as it clearly demonstrates a will to be acknowledged as a piece of modern art, -this work feels stagnant and helplessly uninteresting based on the sounds themselves. Most of it circles around without purpose or direction in the now famous glitch style, which basically means electronic music made up of cut off television signals and other malfunctioning electronic equipment. Now, don't get me wrong - I happen to love glitch when it's done right - or let me rephrase that: when it's done interestingly. Atom/Document though feels like sitting behind a sofa with no view - listening to a guy changing channels on his television that only shows abrupt white noise. The only real musical elements that break through this contrived and hazy thicket are snippets of electronic percussive splashes that sound like chiming bicycle bells or a guy tapping his finger ring on a piano string. Lastly you've got the mellow piano segments that are as droopy and sad as a grey afternoon's pouring rain, but more than anything do these remind me of those 'realistic' advertisements for big banks telling you about the right way to spend money...

Maybe this album should have stayed in its original form, which is that multimedia art installation that I opened my review with? I don't know really, because I am no judge - and all I do is listen to music and subsequently try to describe the voyage. A lot of well respected electronic music writers have praised this thing - commended it for its dense atmospheres and conceptual vision. Frankly, I think they may have bought into the art house thing a little too much, because listened to without all the flashing white balloons, this thing is the musical equivalent of licking a newly cleaned window.

Report this review (#772727)
Posted Sunday, June 17, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars I entered this release with a biased prejudice to find out, as usual, that it is not that healthy to do so.

Anyway, without any twist or turns, this Robert Henke's "Atom/Document", 2008, is far from being trash, if anything, it is uneven.

A performace combining sound and vision and as any soundtrack release, one has come to terms with this limitation of half the picture. In this trying to approach different styles, maybe due to the unseen, as such, visuals in fact some sections are not that good.


What works out, works out great, to the point of bringing imaginary and personal visuals derived of the music, thus it in fact has a very depictive sonic nature. The music composition in general is intelligent and as such attractive. I did enjoy its changing electronic moods and its melancholic piano sections.


The electronic dance/trance like moments are very weak and in this flaw rests for me the real deal breaker of this release. What could have turned out as a great breaking point, like a Robert Henke's REAL "hard core/dance/trance/meditations", stays quiet short of doing so.

Besides that everything is quiet fine.

***3.5 PA stars.

Report this review (#1611968)
Posted Friday, September 16, 2016 | Review Permalink

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