Julian Cowley, The Wire

February 2003
Formed in 1986, electronics duo FURT are Richard Barrett and Paul Obermayer. defekt’s cover art quotations from Bertrand Russell and Edward Bond (there’s an unlikely coupling) convey a paradoxical mood of desperate hope, clutching at straws to survive intact. The music too is remote from frivolity. Electronics are used neither as diversion nor effect but to soberly treat and transform sound materials, to voice solidarity with ghosts of the restless and disappointed. FURT’s music is itself tense with unrest. Marking the 60th birthday of German composer Konrad Boehmer, Plint takes brittle matter from an improvised piano duet and compiles and extends it into agitated skeins of scurry and quest. Gute Nacht hurls echoes of Schubert’s doomladen Winterreise into a scramble of frenzied sound fragments, gloriously gloomy yearning for transcendence weighted with inarticulate scree. Volksmusik, on the other hand, is an eloquent flaying of Austrian right-winger Jörg Haider and his fascist FPÖ. Its chilling tell-tale assemblage discloses and demolishes its target’s rhetoric and aspirations as effectively as a John Heartfield photomontage. This music was initially presented in Vienna in 2000. The bulk of the CD is given over to ULTIMATUM, a 45-minute essay in electronic phraseology dedicated to Karlheinz Stockhausen. Barrett admires Stockhausen for his persistent mid-20th century reinvention of music’s terms and tropes. There’s irony, if not equivocation, in FURT’s re-sounding within their own extended and uniquely evolved form of that post-war inventiveness, with its accumulated freight of historical signification. Then again, a cosy homage would not be true to FURT.