Asmus Tietchens - Ornamenta (zwischen Null und Eins)

LINE_073 | CD + Digital | limited edition of 400 | September 2015

(….) Wenn alles dich anwidert, wird das Mittagessen zum Fest. Die Lebensmittel ersetzen die Ideen. Vom letzten Bauern bis zum verfeinertsten Intellektuellen ist die Essenszeit die tägliche Liturgie der seelischen Leere. Die Umwandlung eines unmittelbaren Bedürfnisses in ein Zivilisationsphänomen ist ein gefährliches Fortschreiten und ein schwerwiegendes Symptom. (….)
— E.M. Cioran „Über Frankreich“

Track listing:

Ornament 1 (05:18)
Ornament 2 (11:11)
Ornament 3 (08:44)
Ornament 4 (11:14)
Ornament 5 (11:14)

Aufgenommen und von Okko Bekker produziert im Audiplex Studio E, Hamburg Druckvorlage: Karajew.

Asmus Tietchens (b. 1947, Hamburg, Germany)

1965: First experiments with tape recorders and electronic sound devices (sine wave generator, rhythm machines) and concrete sound material.

1971: Minimoog and 8-track tape recorders

1980: First LP release Nachtstück in France, produced by Peter Baumann of Tangerine Dream

1982: begins Industrial music stage

1984: LP Formen letzter Hausmusik released by the Nurse with Wound’s label United Dairies.

1984-1989: several LPs on international industrial music labels including Esplendor Geometrico, Hamster Records, A-Mission, Multimood and others.

1985: Experiments with computerized keyboard Fairlight CMI

1986: First journey commissioned by the Goethe-Institut with concerts in Brazil

1989 – 2010: Teaching Sound Design and Sound Research at the University for Applied Sciences in Hamburg

1991: Second journey commissioned by the Goethe-Institut with concerts in the Argentine, Chile and Uruguay

Since 1991: numerous CD releases on international labels (LINE, Staalplaat, Soleilmoon, Selektion, Mille Plateaux, and more)

2003: Karl Sczuka Award for Acoustic Art

2006: Karl Sczuka Award for Acoustic Art

2010-2013: Teaching Sound Design at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg


Ornamente (zwischen Null und Eins) is one of the more recondite works in venerable experimental electronic music maven Asmus Tietchens‘ long Line-age. Far from the sampling experiments and erratic mechanics of early years, it’s a liminal lull of forms quietly stormed by viscid noise fragments, riven with glitch irruptions. Building from a synth-y swell “Ornamente 1? is bent and stretched into atonal passages redolent of deleted data drifting in the void. More liminal, “Ornamente 2? has sonic particles plink, clink, and kerplunk in a shrunken noise-fest of microtone quirks teased out to traverse space in eerie ellipses. In a similar vein, though more spectral, “Ornamente 3? releases aether sounds to wisp out into miasmata of light-infused dust. “Ornamente 4? stays near silent, glitch-click ghosts flitting across the sound stage, strange resonances tweaked into a weird world of ambiguous tone float and liquid metal tints. Last and most expansive, “Ornamente 5? finds a melodic arc traced through the stillness attended by a more pronounced low-end pressure. Overall, an affair of alien tones and lowlight dynamics played out in a hermetic micro-cosmos with a sense of aperture to new musical dimensions. Cover image—stylized mathematical notation, text—a German excerpt by misanthrope philosopher Emil Cioran from a withering critique of French culture and high gastronomy—is equally cryptic. Underlying concept or deeper themes are otherwise errant, though the imaginative listener may find much between [0] and [1] to fuel transport and intrigue.


Asmus Tietchens, one of the most lucid researchers around. And also a difficult proposition, when it comes to rendering in words – without transcending to commonplace – the fruits of an output that over several decades has never, ever failed to stimulate.

Ornamente caused additional rumination on the inevitability of corporeal decay, at the same time eliciting a sort of instantaneous illumination concerning the ability of overcoming sufferance in different ways through the use of sound. At any rate, Tietchens does not offer actual solutions. He just presents juxtapositions of altered elements to an audience, masterfully exploiting the merging of stretched harmonic halos and incisive frequencies with the listener’s internal receptors. As always, we’re not given clues as far as the sources are concerned. But the man has been known to turn the voice of water into a myriad of glimmering reverberations; that’s all you need to know. In the final “Ornament 5? the German composer’s trademark scepticism appears momentarily jeopardized by an anomalously “celestial? soundscape, as one can almost see singing spirits underlying the constant shifting of light and shadow. After such a closure, I had to go back and listen again to the other sections in order to recapture the sensation of imminent brutality – predicted by a sinister tranquillity – defining some of them, in particular the second and fourth.

By stripping everything of the non-essential, Tietchens produces an advanced type of reductionism where silence is the end, not the means to achieve it. A big difference, compared to the overweight silhouettes of innumerable fake zen masters. This music modernizes the theories about human unfulfillment, in the meantime improving our deluded category via spellbinding sonic radiations.
(Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes)


Ornamente – released on LINE – once again proves what a giant Tonmeister he is! The electronics aren’t clustered into one immersive cloud of sound, they are extremely detailed – as if magnified using an audio equivalent of a microscope. Some parts feel as if you’re listening to the extremely amplified sounds of a colony of (previously undiscovered) insects. Or a soundtrack to the microcosm of protozoans… Or, if you prefer a less organic association – the sound of slowed down data streams made audible. You can simply hear what you want to hear: Ornamente does not come with a pre-defined concept. The association is up to the listener. But clearly there’s more between [0] and [1] than we imagined.


The latest release from Tietchens continues the ambiguity that has been prevalent through his recent works. Far from the early experiments with sampling and erratic, mechanical rhythms that characterized much of his early work; Ornamente (zwischen Null und Eins) is an opaque disc of hushed electronics and tiny bits of glistening noise. Moments of near silence are followed by digital glitches and massive, intense vibrations to result in another piece of conceptually challenging, yet extremely satisfying piece of complex sound art from one of the masters.

Recent works from Tiechens have embraced obscurity, and this one is no different: A stylized mathematical notation in place of cover artwork, and the only text being a German passage from Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran (someone Tietchens alludes to in past works) does not elucidate much. There are no other elements to grab hold of as far as underlying conceptualism or deeper themes being presented on Ornamente, requiring that the sound itself stand fully on its own.

Which, being Tietchens, is of course what happens. The opening piece, "Ornamente 1," is built from passages of electronics, first as a slightly FM tinged synth-like swell that he expands upon and tears apart. Additional layers of bent electronics are blended as they are slowly stretched out by Tietchens into more pained, nasal passages of noise. What finally remains at its conclusion is what best resembles long forgotten computer data recordings, drifting into the emptiness of space.

Comparably, "Ornamente 2" is a much more restrained work. Never silent, but the electronics are kept lower in the mix, with tiny bits of more forceful sound bubbling to the surface. At times the sounds resemble clinking glasses, or dripping water, or perhaps even a treated xylophone, though in all likelihood they are none of these things. This transitions right into "Ornamente 3", which retains many of the same facets but goes into a more ghostly place. A sense of emptiness and hollowness pervades through the drip-like bits and haunting electronics. While not overly bleak, the ambiguous nature of the piece is a definite asset.

The fourth segment remains near silence, with almost a glitch-like click resonating through the wide open sonic space, at times the whole piece sounding like the artifacts from a poorly compressed mp3 file that are isolated from their source. The final piece, "Ornamente 5" is the stand-out piece, and the appropriate dramatic conclusion for the record. Beginning with a bassier, more heavy sound, Tietchens builds from massive vibrations that are far more forceful than anything else on the album. This shift to more forceful dynamics is why it acts as such a strong conclusion to the album.

While I may be at a loss to understand the conceptual undercurrent to Ornamente, that has never been a prerequisite to enjoying Asmus Tietchens' work. It may be thematically impenetrable, but the reward has always been in the sound. Like most of his ever-expanding catalog, the actual sound that comprises this album shines through fully detached from any and all sort of specific concept that may or may not have been intended.


A new album by Asmus Tietchens can be quite an intimidating prospect. The Hamburg-based acoustics professor has been investigating the inner and outer realms of electronic sound production since the mid-sixties. He makes no concessions to mass marketing: the ‘press release’ for this disc simply features a quote, in German, from everyone’s favourite Romanian misanthropist philosopher, Emile Cioran, taken from a withering critique of French culture and high gastronomy. But you can forget about all that once you put the disc on and immerse yourself in the delicate, ethereal sounds that unfurl like wisps of light-reflecting dust.

The otherworldy tones and subtle dynamics here are rich in detail and complexity, but the drama is on a microscopic scale, giving that sense of being opened up to a new dimension of musical experience. Some of the weird tonal characteristics Tietchens favours remind me of Alvin Lucier’s ‘I Am Sitting In A Room’­– where a narration is gradually blotted out by the resonant feedback of the room through a process of replaying and re-recording. Tietchens manipulates and arranges his strange resonances to open up a haunting sound world of tones that float eerily amidst watery, metallic glints. The disc’s final track builds into the most expansive composition with a melodic arc surging through the deceptive stillness, suggesting more cosmic dimensions that I can imagine gracing an intense, introspective sci-fi film that’s probably impossible to make. 8/10


Venerable German composer and synthesist, Asmus Tietchens coaxes curious microtonal figures from his Hamburg studio for Richard Chartier's Line imprint.

A regular fixture for the label since 2004, this is one of his weirdest contributions, unfolding eerily smooth and elliptical contours across the stereo field with a stoic patience and attention to detail that's riveting to immerse in, especially if you're into this sort of thing.


The latest album from legendary German experimental artist Asmus Tietchens consists of glacial, minimalist drones, as do many of his albums (particularly ones released on Richard Chartier’s Line label), but the first track features subtly shifting textures which at least faintly bring to mind some of his older, more industrial-ish works. Other tracks feel like icicles melting into strange noxious gases and dissipating. “Ornament 4? consists of a cluster of fluttery sounds mingling and whistling eerily, occasionally settling on an ominous hiss. “Ornament 5? is the album’s most serene moment, but there’s still a strange, haunted feeling to it, it’s hard to tell if that’s a voice buried underneath the rumbling bass drone. Transportive and otherwordly, as always.


En Ficción de la razón presentamos el álbum Ornamente (zwischen Null und Eins[entre cero y uno]) del legendario compositor alemán Asmus Tietchens (1947). Un bello juego de sonidos que atrapan en una extraña frialdad, a partir de drones minimalistas. Lo que está en juego aquí es siempre el ser transportado hacia lugares diferentes.


Sur ce nouveau CD d’Asmus Tietchens, on cite Cioran (ce n’est pas que ce soit original, mais bon…). Il ne faut pas s’étonner que la musique soit joyeuse en conséquence et que ses Ornament (il y en a cinq en tout) ne « respirent » pas la joie de vivre.

Mais, il n’empêche, ils respirent quand même, et c’est d’ailleurs en ayant l’air de jouer les réanimateurs sonores que Tietchens parvient à capter notre attention. Auditeurs-badauds que nous sommes, tendons l’oreille à cette respiration ou ce pouls maintenus de tamagochi – même artificiellement, par des machines (les bips ne trompent pas). On en est à compter les gouttelettes dans un écho clinique quand, soudain, elles prennent formes chantantes et dansantes. La salle d’attente changée en salle des fêtes ? Diantre, est-ce un mirage ? Niantre, c’est la méthode Tietchens ! Opération réussie, et tant pis pour la gaudriole.
(lesondugrisli, France)


Quiet, but also rugged & coarse-fibred, in some moments even poetic abstract electronics.

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Asmus Tietchens - Ornamenta (zwischen Null und Eins)

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