Holger Hiller

  • Holger Hiller
  • A Bunch of Foulness in the Pit (UK Cherry Red) 1984 
  • Hyperprism (Japan. Wave) 1985 
  • Oben in Eck (UK Mute) 1986 

Virtually the only English on Hiller’s first album (released originally by the German Ata Tak label) is the translated title; otherwise, you’re on your linguistic own. Hardly the horrorshow the billing might have you imagine, the former Palais Schaumburg member conveys bemusement and tension rather than squalor or desperation, using overlaid (and not always musically related) instrumental lines (mostly keyboards and, if my dictionary guessed correctly, percussion), detached vocals, plus found sounds and assorted blips and squeaks. While the effect is not exactly pleasant — although a few songs, notably “Jonny (du Lump),” are — it is riveting, and Hiller is masterly at aurally painting a scene in living color.

Hiller’s collaborators on Oben im Eck, a revised version of Hyperprism (retitled for a track which appears on it in two versions), include keyboardist Izumi Kobayashi and vocalist Kaori Kano, as well as Billy Mackenzie (Associates). Sampling keyboards have opened new creative worlds for sonic experimentalists like Hiller, allowing him to electronically manipulate sounds that were not so long ago uncontrollable and available only on tape. Although parts of the LP have an offbeat Japanese flavor, sections that are noisy or childlike take a much more neo-European approach, suggesting such sonic adventurers as Foetus or Renaldo and the Loaf. Ostensibly a set of songs, the album’s rambling and colorful collections of sounds have little cohesion; even the multilingual lyrics (one song’s written by Tom Verlaine) add scant structure to this dadaist picnic.

[Ira Robbins]