The wind cries “Mary” and Köhn kreis Plön. On the double album “Koen” there are songs called “Niplöhn” and “Ausfahrt: Olbahrt”. Word games, language games; that’s what it is about. References. Words are pointers. They point to ideas, objects, places, feelings, and memories of events, summarizing and reducing reality.
I came up with the name “Köhn” about twenty years ago, because I needed a new name to release my first album on KRAAK. I had no idea the name actually referred to reality. My only intentions were funny and punny. I wanted a German name because for me electronic music was a very German thing. I also wanted something rural and Flemish, maybe even West-Flemish. I wanted West-Flemish words spelled out in a German way — to get German speakers to produce West-Flemish sounds. I wanted a short word that had ambiguous meaning. Rabbit, hot girl or boy, ‘can do’: all this can be expressed by the dialect-word “keun” (or “Köhn” if you spell it out in German). It all made perfect sense.
It wasn’t until years later that I found out that “Köhn” is actually a surname and that many people go by this name. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that “Köhn” is actually a rural village in the north of Germany. It wasn’t until years later that I found out that my Chinese zodiac sign is the rabbit.
Kreis Plön is an album about the fusion of the past and the future, of separation and reconfiguration, of mourning and rejoicing, of noise and peace.
Kreis Plön is an album about geolocation. About probable fiction and looking for bits of different puzzles that fit together. An exercise in linear and perpendicular coherence devoid of any objective logic. In the middle of the album an artist is envisioning his place in the now, questioning how or when he got there, as he links memories to imaginary places, and real places to imaginary histories.
Kreis Plön is an area in the North of Germany that contains the village of Köhn. The names of the pieces refer to sites and places in the area. To date, I have never been there, but it feels like I’ve been travelling to it through this album.
THIS IS HOW SERIOUS BELGIANS ARE ABOUT BEER!
In 1979, the Ghent-Based Institute for Psycho-Acoustics and Electronic music (IPEM) bought one of the 40 ever made EMS Synthi 100s. It’s a famous machine, a synthesizer altar, and I always considered it as the winner of the “Starship-Enterprise-control-desk-lookalike-award”. Apparently, the complex machine was mainly used to generate tones. The likes of Karel Goeyvaerts and Lucien Goethals recorded those onto tape and spliced and pasted them into electro-acoustic compositions and jingles for the national radio. Strangely, nobody used the double clavier that was delivered with the instrument. I’ve been told that, a little later, IPEM bought a simple Moog for the same purpose and let the EMS be for what it was, locked away in the attic.
In March 2014 I was invited to do a live performance with the EMS Synthi 100. I was excited, it felt to be a great honour. Out of respect I decided to play a set using only the EMS. I didn’t want to use pre-recorded material, pre-programmed sequencers, nor other instruments. I wanted to play it, and I wanted that the EMS played me.
The night of the performance, the EMS Synthi was set up in the local castle, “Gravensteen”. Shortly before performing I was having a beer, which I was still drinking when I had to get on stage. In true rock ’n’ roll fashion, I put the bottle on top of the wooden case that holds this modular dinosaur together and started performing.
A couple of days later, someone forwarded me this tweet: a picture of the bottle of beer on the Synthi with the comment “this is how serious Belgians are about beer”. Apparently I had caused a small scandal, an act of heresy even.
I was a little confused. Placing a beer on top of its firmly build wooden case didn’t feel like a disgrace of the instrument and its history. I put it there in the moment of maximum concentration, as I was about to challenge a highly complex instrument, ready to jump into its inner logic and soundworld.
If I think about it now, this thoughtless act can be seen as a true, lively homage to the EMS. Instead of approaching it as an old senile (wo)man, I listened to it, I embraced it as a friend, I shared rock ‘n’ roll with it! The experience and wisdom of old women and men shouldn’t be locked away in a elder’s house. Likewise, I wanted the EMS out there, instead of let it die of loneliness and poor maintenance. It should be amongst us, not in a museum, dust-free where no-one can touch it. It’s pretty absurd that we can only marvel at the possibilities we imagine it was once capable of. By the act of placing a beer on top of it and playing it live, it feels like treating the instrument as an equal in the world of electronic music. Did anyone say “disrespect”?)
released July 6, 2017
MFB Synth ii
Kaoss Pad 1
Doepfer Dark Energy
(as no-input feedback &
Sequential Circuit Pro One
M-Audio Fast Track Ultra Ableton Live 8
Martinic’s VOX & Farfisa combo
Variety Of Sound’s EpicVerb
Tagged Audio Line DubII
EMS Synthi 100