[rumori] Holger Hiller
rumoriatdetritus.net [rumori] Holger Hiller
Sun, 20 Dec 1998 01:14:08 -0800 (00914145248, 199812201001.CAA29142atmail.currents.net)
Well this is cheating since the record originally in 1992, but I've finally
managed to borrow a friend's copy of Holger Hiller's "Demixed" and it's
pretty impressive. It's a remix CD based on his 91 album 'As Is', which in
itself was a sample-heavy album building tracks around Can, Stockhausen,
and even Negativland's "Yellow Black and Rectangular"... at the time
Negativland samples in a self-aware context made the record a neat cultural
signpost. But on the whole the sampling is employed towards some fairly
normal 'songs', and it doesn't leave my shelf that often anymore.
The remix CD is a different creature entirely, and finally getting to
listen to it now in 98 it just keeps occuring to me that it's sort of a
lost classic of sample-based music. Hardly as minimal or verse-chorus
based as the source record, 'Demixed' samples the source material along
with just about anything else it can think of. The aesthetic is: complete
timbral change every 10-20 seconds, the more jarring and violent the
juxtaposition the better. And these aren't fragmentary samples; they'll
include 4 whole bars of something, a familiar techno record, tribal
recording, vintage musique concrete, relatively untransformed -- but over
the course of the 3 minute song, move through a dozen other sounds as well.
A neat example of artistically justified use of extended and recognizable
samples, because the overall result is clearly a new work.
There's still very little out there today that keeps this level of radical
pacing up for 50 minutes, and I can't really think of anything from 92
anywhere near this densely assembled. I'm pretty sure it's also the first
remix album based around the work of a single artist, let alone album by a
single artist, an increasingly common phenomenon.
So ANYWAY the reason why it took me 6 years to find it, was because it
seems as if it never achieved an official release. It wasn't clear why at
the time, but now that I've finally got it here and can hear the 60 second
Prince/Family song, James Brown yelps, Kraftwerk's 'Numbers', among other
major label properties, it's easy to guess why no one's ever heard of this
record -- in the early nineties, underground dj's were innocently and
unself-consciously working with untransformed fragments, and perhaps Mute
assumed such a project would fly under the radar much as other similar
works had done in the past. But by the time the project came together, the
climate had changed enough to have made it clear to Mute that this was an
completely unreleaseable record. Impossible to remix or edit down to
anything longer than thirty seconds. License the samples? By 1992, a 5
second James Brown sample was costing Public Enemy $20,000. Kraftwerk,
Prince, etc... all this for a minor project by a relatively obscure,
low-sales artist. Too expensive to release.
I think this is a record that would have had a very distinct impact on the
electronic music scene back in 1992 -- although a few copies were sent to
friends and peers (for instance, the members of Negativland), this is the
kind of record that would still be finding new listeners as a relevant and
inspiring signpost if anyone had the ability to find copies.
I still haven't e-mailed mute to back up any of these assumptions
concerning the record's fate, so it's premature to flat out call it an
unknown casualty of the sampling legality front, which is something I very
much would like to do. It does the dense-collage thing at a much higher
standard than 96% of what's out there and it did it several years ahead of
It's also a crucial, overlooked example of an artistically successful work
that was completely killed for legal reasons. Also, it's a lot of fun to
listen to. So, certainly, favorite sampling record of 96-98.