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Sounding out technology.
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Early (ca. 1992) Monolake MP3

Before he helped foment minimal techno, Monolake (aka Robert Henke) was, by his own recent admission, working on what he called “’emo’ synthesizer tracks.” As part of his ongoing “free download of the month series at monolake.de,” he’s been uploading some of these way early works, under the heading “Sonic Archaeology.”

The second such effort in autobiographical spelunking is a seven-and-a-half-minute track, “Der 517. Tag de Mission,” which he dates to roughly 1992 — which is to say, a good three years prior to “Cyan,” the first 12″ he released under the name Monolake, back when Monolake was a duo that also included Gerhard Behles, who went on to found the software company that produces the audio-production software suite Ableton Live.

“Der 517” is a mini-suite of sorts itself, in the compositional sense, including periods of monastic ambience, chirpy computer percussion (reminiscent at times of Tangerine Dream), melodic play worthy of a period video game, and an extended denouement of suggestive noise. He explains the narrative arc as follows: “I imagined this rusty spaceship, somehow lost far out, and things started to become a bit odd after 517 days in space. A little Major Tom moment…”

Still there are moments that foretell the techno yet to come: dubby bass figures as “Der 15” approaches the two-minute mark, and that decaying-tech vibe at the tail end of the piece.

Henke posts these free tracks with certain rules, including an admonition against linking directly to the MP3 file, so just proceed to monolake.de/downloads. It should be up at least through the end of the month.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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