A crowd-funded collection of career-spanning soundscapes from the mercurial Swiss electronic pioneer
Boris Blank has observed that his working methods have more in common with a painter than a musician. Eschewing any formal musical training, he describes himself as a sonic artist and a sound sculptor. Here, then, is a fascinating collection of audio sketches, doodles and canvases for your perusal.
‘Electrified’ is a limited edition box set of unreleased and previously unheard soundtracks. It features works from 1977 through to the present day and is available in a variety of formats, spanning vinyl, CD, DVD, download and even cassette. The care and attention given to the packaging of this material reflects the meticulous approach apparent in the music.
Blank’s obsession with sound creation, with its roots stretching back to his childhood, pre-dated his access to electronic instruments and saw him forming sonic collages from tape loops and electronically-treated acoustic equipment. Indeed, the only slight criticism of ‘Electrified’ might be that the sound quality and production is so flawless throughout that everything seems like it was created yesterday, despite the material covering a period of nearly 40 years.
Clocking in at over 60 tracks, there is a lot of ground covered here, perhaps surprisingly very little of which relates to his work with Dieter Meier in Yello. Blank and Meier have always married a strong visual identity with hyperkinetic music, but with just a few exceptions – ‘Big Beans’ and ‘She’s Got Balls’ – this is a far more distinctive set than your usual collection of rarities and B-side cast-offs masquerading as something special.
The highlights vary from the electro film noir of ‘A Touch Of Magic’, ‘Light Haus’ and ‘Big City Noir’, to ‘Blade Runner’-esque sci-fi drama on ‘Granada Kiss’ and high-tech thrillers in the form of ‘Bosphorus’ and ‘They’re Still Here’. Equally, however, tracks like ‘The Bridge’ are simply beautiful pieces of instrumental electronic music in their own right.
Blank is certainly capable of matching the lush romanticism of Vangelis on ‘Open Sky’, the dark techno throb of Daft Punk with ‘Night Train’ or, on ‘Ask The Stones’, the rattling percussive electronica of Hans Zimmer. At the same time, he possesses a musical wit that would also complement the more knowing animations of a Pixar or DreamWorks studio. Hollywood would be wise to offer Blank a commission on one of their big superhero epics (assuming he’d be interested), the best of which have had unusual and interesting choices of director, but often pedestrian scores.
Soundtracks often struggle to exist without their visuals, simply because the more original they are, the more likely they will detract from the action. This very electronic and snappy set, however, gives you enough to keep your mind engaged and let’s the movie projector inside your head supply all the imagery you need. Everything on ‘Electrified’ – with few tracks going above a couple of minutes in length – is so dense with ideas and sonic ticks that there is never a danger of it falling into the trap of being little more than pretty aural wallpaper.