With his Arjunamusic label and a growing catalog of category-defying releases, Samuel Rohrer continues to quietly, yet confidently, make a name for himself as a genuinely unique figure within the European electronic music realm. Over the past decade he has assembled a repertoire of music that fills a sadly neglected gap in the modern musical landscape. That is to say, he has made a number of “electronically”-aided works that never seem to make “electronic-ism” the main selling point or raison d'être. Rohrer understands that we inhabit a networked media landscape that no longer sees a novelty value in every synthetic or technological sound, and by realizing this, he makes a music that fully engages with the present without completely disregarding the exciting speculative sensibility that has allowed electronic music to solidify into a tradition. His latest solo album, Hungry Ghosts, again shows the high quality of sonic design that can be achieved by conceptualizing musical passages as living, breathing entities rather than as signposts to some still distant reality.
Maybe more so than any of Rohrer’s solo records to date, Hungry Ghosts is the one that most unambiguously displays the artist as a kind of inspired sound “cultivator” or landscaper rather than just a straightforward “producer”. The emphasis here seems to be biological growth processes rendered in musical form, and in fact some track titles namechecking the biodiversity of the external world (“Slow Fox”, “Ctenophora”) and neurochemistry (“Serotonin”) lend some additional credence to this interpretation.
As with previous outings, Rohrer starts with his skills as a genre-resistant percussionist and builds from there, with dense clusters of drum hits and icy cymbal exclamations leading the way into a wide-open atmosphere full of fragmented phrases, marked with strange reversals or compressions of time. The percussive portions and other ambiences merge together in such a way that the latter seems like a kind of shifting, holographic camouflage for the former; an effect which makes for a greater than usual number of shifts in mood. Rohrer’s already established ambiguity and mystery are the moods that permeate throughout, to be sure, but there are also surprising moments of humorous whimsy (the flourishes of cartoon mischief and teasing silences on the tracks “Human Regression” and “Bodylanguage”), reverence (the optimistic organ swells and steady sequencer guiding “Ceremonism”), and meditative focus (the slow-motion spectral waltz of “Treehouse”). Also notable here are very brief etudes, such as “Window Pain,” whose dark, lush ebb and flow actually seem tailored to repeated or looped listening.
It’s particularly remarkable that almost all of this material is recorded solo and in a “live / no overdubs” mode, given how much it feels like well-rehearsed ensemble playing, and given the impeccable timing involved in continually exchanging the sounds at the very forefront of the mix. And here we come full circle to the idea of “electronic music” mentioned at the beginning here: instead of making us feel that we are in the presence of some fully-realized form brought back from “the future,” Rohrer invites us instead to witness fascinating processes of transition and mutation, and to value them for what they are now as much as for where they are headed.
released September 23, 2022
Samuel Rohrer HUNGRY GHOSTS
Samuel Rohrer - Drums, Cymbals, Percussion, Keys, Modular Synths, Electronics
All music performed live, no overdubs or post production, except on tracks 1/7/11
Composed, recorded and preformed by Samuel Rohrer at Funkhaus Berlin
Final mix by Tobias Freund, Non Standard Studios Berlin
Mastering and vinyl cut by Mike Grinser, Manmade Mastering Berlin
Supported by Senatsverwaltung Berlin für Kultur und Europa