- If you've been following the slow and steady tread backwards of the last few Jan Jelinek albums, then it might not come as the biggest surprise that the first release on his new boutique label, Faitiche, is a reissue. And after reading the liner notes and inspecting the elaborate space-obsessed linocuts that decorate this limited edition release, you may wonder if it's not just Jan Jelinek himself behind it all. Recordings 1969 – 1988, by Ursula Bogner, sounds at once like a long-lost treasure pulled from a still-mysterious period of electronic music history, and like Jelinek's next logical step.
Ursula Bogner, as Jelinek explains in the compelling backstory that accompanies this record, was born in 1946 and died in 1994 and spent twenty of those years creating synthesizer music as a hobby. She never released any of her music, preferring to keep it to herself—a sort of Sunday producer who otherwise lived the normal life of a pharmacist and family woman. Nevertheless, she was at the very least a deep appreciator of early electronic composition; she built her own home studio and followed the theories and activities of early electronic music collectives such as Studio Für Elektronische Musik.
The story of how Jelinek came across these personal home recordings is no less intricate. Jelinek first heard about the recordings from Ursula Bogner's son, Sebastian, who happened to be sitting next to him on a flight. From there, the two began corresponding and eventually the son sent Jelinek his mother's tapes. The large collection of recordings Jelinek received betrayed a dabbler who spent over twenty years experimenting with different styles and possibilities, from exercises in oscillation and modulation, to the layering of rhythmic patterns, to simple electronic pop melodies.
Recordings 1968 – 1988 collects 16 of these early electronic collages, many of which clock under two minutes, and presents them as a crate-digging, proto-techno discovery along the lines of BBC Radiophonic Workshop alumni such as Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire. Raymond Scott comes to mind as well. Bogner's work exhibits that same kind of curiosity with what those machines could do: it's simple and short and imperfect.
But, most of all, it is convincingly private music. Whether it's for real or "merely" Jelinek, the charm of someone just trying this stuff out, with little precedence and no real ambition to make it known, is what makes it sound sincere. Bogner is carefully placed in a musical trajectory that is still being excavated through a steady stream of reissues, but she's not positioned as a pioneer, an innovator or even a significant participant—she's just one of the first bedroom producers testing out this music on her own.
Her early recordings are more concerned with the sound theories coming from Herbert Eimert's Studio, but gradually Bogner's work takes on a more pronounced rhythmic underbelly that ultimately pushes it closer to Dr. Who territory. It all sounds appropriately vintage, with old synthesizers looping out according to mathematical patterns that weave together basic melodies and cold, eerie soundscapes eking and echoing out evocations of outer space.
Of course, there is the distinct possibility that Recordings 1969 – 1988 may just be an extension of Jelinek's compulsion to create the perfect concept album. Ever since 2005's Kosmischer Pitch, Jelinek has looked increasingly backwards to the early roots of electronic music for inspiration. And it's a direction that suits him, as he has turned out some of the most compelling music of his career from these flashbacks. He knows how to get under the skin of an era.
Any way you look at it, Recordings 1969 – 1988 is pleasantly nostalgic. As a bona fide discovery, Ursula Bogner is a throwback curiosity to the innocence and discovery of electronic music's early days. And as an elaborate disguise, these recordings, packaging and back story are all the more impressive for the lengths that Jelinek has taken for the sake of emulating authenticity.
01. Begleitung für Tuba (1982)
02. Inversion (1978)
03. Proto (1980)
04. Metazoon (1979)
05. Momentaufnahme (1977)
06. 2 Ton (1984)
07. Speichen (1979)
08. Modes (1985)
09. Atmosphäre 1 (1977)
10. Punkte (1984)
11. Expansion (1979)
12. Für Ulrich (1980)
13. Pulsation (1969)
14. Testlauf (1975)
15. Soloresonanzen (1988)