Black Truffle is pleased to announce Uri Katzenstein’s Audio Works, produced in collaboration with Holon’s Centre for Digital Art. Spanning sculptural installation, performance, video art, and many other media, Katzenstein’s absurdist, poetic, and often hilarious work made extensive use of sound and music. This, however, is the first release dedicated to the artist’s audio work, collecting 28 tracks produced between the early 1980s and 2017. Compiled from dozens of hours of recordings left uncatalogued (and in some instances unheard) at the artist’s death in 2018, these four sides are a treasure trove, offering a captivating glimpse into a uniquely uninhibited creative practice.
Predominantly recorded alone, with some contributions from regular collaborators such as Ohad Fishof on the later pieces, many of these tracks stem from Katzenstein’s time living in New York in the 1980s. Feeding on the cross-pollination of post-punk energy, radical art practice, and new media possibilities that characterised the New York scene at this time, many of Katzenstein’s recordings squeeze multilayered vocal experimentation into synth-based miniatures with a distinctively pop twist, their forms ruptured with anarchic bursts of free-form electronics, sounds from self-built instruments, and field-recorded snatches of the outside world.
Katzenstein’s electronic production calls up touchstones of skewed 80s art pop like Laurie Anderson, Ambitious Lovers, and Scritti Politti, but imbued with DIY directness and economy of means. The arrangements of synths, percussion, and noise elements are invigoratingly raw and, at times, almost austerely minimal. On ‘Intermission’, thick distorted chords accompany a wandering portamento melody, inhabiting the wayward carnival space of Roedelius’ most unhinged efforts. Many of the tracks centre on Katzenstein’s multi-tracked vocal performances, often moving between multiple languages, (most commonly English, German, French, and Hebrew). A bewildering range of vocal approaches are present on these pieces, from sweet wordless harmonies to hammed-up growls and monastic recitations. On ‘Skin O. Daayba – Complex Habits no. 3’, improvised resonance singing against a backdrop of echoing electronics and radio snatches. ‘Half Monk Half Herring’ layers multi-lingual syllabic fragments, crossing sound poetry techniques with melodic invention in a way rarely heard outside of Caetano Veloso’s Araçá Azul. On ‘Attempt to Raise Hell’, Katzenstein’s distorted voice spits out streams of alliterative nonsense (‘the hemlock of Henry, he was a hermit…purple pumpkin pulsates to pops’), while on the hilarious ‘Eric’, Katzenstein appears to instruct a small boy simultaneously in basic French and German conversation. On ‘Chicken’, vocal harmonies accompany the pecking and clucking of the titular fowl.
Moving from bent, outsider synth pop to snatches of Jo Jones-esque automated instrumental clang and absurdist linguistic experiments, these are far more than footnotes to an artist’s gallery works. Accompanied by extensive, beautifully written liner notes by Roee Rosen and the little information that exists on the individual tracks, Katzenstein’s Audio Works inhabits an outer fringe of DIY pop and sonic experiment reminiscent of Pascal Comelade or Die Welttraumforscher, where accessible forms convey radical interrogations of song, word, and sound.