“Alphabet 1968” by Black To Comm
A sprawling epic of a record from Hamburg's omnipresent Marc Richter
Marc Richter (aka Black to Comm) is no newcomer to the experimental music scene. As the figurehead of the Hamburg-based Dekorder label, the musician and designer has brought countless oddities to the attention of rabid music fans in the last few years, but it is with his own compositions that he has made the biggest splash. Releasing for a plethora of labels including Digitalis, Trensmat and of course his own imprint, he has pioneered a new, organic drone sub-genre using tape loops, vintage organs and an inexhaustible swamp of found sounds. With this latest album however, it was Richter’s intention to move away from the epic drones he had made his own and into something more ‘classic’.
The mission statement for ‘Alphabet 1968’ was to write an album of ‘songs’ for want of a better word. Short tracks which represented genre points, the milestones which stuck in Richter’s mind when he thought back to his favourite records. What we arrive at is an breathtaking ten track album which, over the course of forty-five minutes, explores world music, techno, noise, avant-garde, ambient music and even exotica. Each track is linked with a loose thread of radio static or environmental sound, dragging you through the album as if tuning in to a stray broadcast or a particularly adventurous mix.
Richter has pieced the album together from hours of recordings made at his studio with home made gamelan, small instruments and loops gathered from a collection of ancient vinyl and 78 records. The scope of the album is admirable but ignoring this it is simply a shockingly arresting collection of experimental oddities, with references ranging from Moondog to Basic Channel by way of Bernard Herrmann. It’s not hard to fall in love with ‘Alphabet 1968’, far harder would be to place exactly where the record should fit into your collection.