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Turntable + Sewing Needles + Rubber Bands = MP3

Christoph Hess is a Bern, Switzerland-based turntablist who treats his instrument of choice the way John Cage treated pianos.

Under the name Strotter Inst., he sticks everything from string to sewing needles into his wheels of steel in an effort to expand the tool’s sonic capabilities. The result is a deeply textured approach to performance. More than perhaps any other active turntablist, Hess reminds the listener that the hallowed turntable — engine of hip-hop, nostalgia item, staple of thrift stores and high-end audio outlets alike — is in fact a machine, an oversize gear-like apparatus that turns endlessly.

The great Rare Frequency podcast earlier this month featured a live Strotter show (“recorded [on] a pair of old Lenco turntables, prepared with rubber bands and all manner of devices”). It moves from dry rotations through gravitas-heavy thundering to lovely moments of what sound like skipping jazz (MP3). Think of Kid Koala at his most austere, or of Pierre Bastien at his peak of rhythmic minimalism.

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More on the recording at rarefrequency.com. More on Hess/Strotter at strotter.org.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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