William Basinski / Andreas Martin / Christoph Heemann

Saturday, January 25, 2003, Austin, TX
There was a cozy church sanctuary, a fully stocked merchandise table, three premier experimental artists, and an audience of about 75 people. It was a familial vibe all around, and quite unlike any other show I've ever been to.

William Basinski, sharply dressed in black suit, was introduced (by a guy I'm assuming is the head of Robot Records) and his set began about 8:15. On stage were two folding tables, the center one with six or so components and his Apple laptop on top, and one off to the right with a mixer and a large reel to reel tape machine. The set began with three or so shorter, continuous pieces then settled into one epic piece, probably 40 minutes, obviously one of Basinski's "Disintegration Loops." He occasionally looked at the laptop screen and reel to reel but spent the bulk of the time with the mixer faders, headphones on, very subtly and very patiently layering sources. The tape loop was literally disintegrating, ending up just a small strip by the end of the set. The whole piece sounded like an old orchestral recording. The repetition of the loop was relentless, but elements within the loop were very gradually transformed. I could sense the "percussion" falling out of time and later it seemed smeared, possibly reversed, in the mix. This was very soothing, engaging stuff. The crowd remained perfectly silent until the end and politely clapped. It was a very good start.

After a 10 minute intermission, Andreas Martin, more casual in blue windbreaker and blue jeans, was introduced. Martin is very unassuming and quiet but spoke some in German-inflected English. He told us the first song was written a few days ago while thinking about how nice it was to have the opportunity to come there (from Hamburg) to play for people. He gave us the German title and an English translation as "Lucky Mushroom." I had assumed that he would use the guitar and effects to produce drone-y stuff like the Mirror records I have, but it was nothing at all like that. These songs were very physical and intricate, melodic and rhythmic, with all the notes rapidly finger picked or hammered on by both hands. Harmonics and different tunings were frequently used and some songs included percussive bits where he either slapped the top of the guitar or the side (with his ring) underneath the fretboard. Between songs he would catch his breath and sweep back his curly black hair. One song was a cover of an American composer who died in 1997, the name I didn't quite catch. Martin finished his last song and shyly said "that's all," but we clapped crazily so he did another one, it being the most aggressive of them all.

After another brief intermission, Heemann took the stage, sat in a folding chair behind the center table, and was introduced. Most the of the time was spent looking at CD players and fiddling with knobs on the mixer. There were roughly three parts to his set. It began pretty abrasively, mostly with noise waves and some ambient sound that included a buried (Euro) emergency vehicle. The sound concentrated into a powerful, harsh drone for about half the set, suddenly stopped, and began again with a softer drone. It was this last drone that really, really sucked me in. Heemann made it ebb and flow some but it also maintained a constant frequency for its 20-minute duration. Everything suddenly stopped around 11:00 and Heemann departed stage rather quickly.

Soon after, my friend and I realized that Heemann's set had physiologically altered us (my equilibrium in particular - so much that I was afraid to drive for awhile). It was to remain that way for the rest of the night. Never before had we been so affected by live music. Did Heemann intentionally use frequencies that would have that effect on the audience? Did others feel like we did? Would we ever be the same again?