“Earth”, a soundtrack for Taiwanese filmmaker Ho Tzu Nyen’s mid-length film by the same name, may become a turning point in the expressive future of Black To Comm, Marc Richter’s fascinating project. Basically, because the German drone musician has made some changes in his discourse that oxygenate, expand, and feed his songs. The most significant is including a voice in his work; not as a momentary, exotic supplement or a random experiment - but rather as a part the plot line of his compositions, the absolute focal point of this recording. The presence of his voice - stretched and ghostly, almost operatic - manages to quickly remind us of Scott Walker on “Tilt”, a work that this album has many connections to. He manages to integrate vocal play, sounding as if from another time, into a radical avant-garde context.
It’s true that the addition of the voice, which appears in the five pieces that make up the album, lends something of a pop concept to the proposal. Far from an aseptic, gliding drone, this resource transmits more life and personality to it—but you shouldn’t let your guard down. It also makes Black To Comm sound more mysterious, fearsome, and gloomy than ever - giving it greater depth of field. Its hauntology feel is accentuated without resorting to tricks that are already hackneyed and familiar. This is a good choice from any point of view, which in turn has an influence on the genesis and development of the songs themselves. In this balance between a formally more accessible accent and a darker, more emotionally desperate feel, the album finds its raison d’être - making the recording the German’s bravest to date.
Of the five compositions that make up “Earth”, three last no longer than five minutes; this is new. Richter condenses and specifies his ideas much more thoroughly. This is how, for example, “Thrones” appeals with great emotional depth to nostalgia and faded memory, as Leyland Kirby could do, without the need to drag it out. If you’ve already given them goose-bumps in four minutes, why keep at it? It’s not necessary. Something similar happens on “Mirror”, the farewell song, crepuscular ambient that packs a surprising emotional punch. There is also room for lengthy experimentation, like in “Stickstoff II”, the song that most reminds one of Scott Walker or the more cryptic David Sylvian. Similarly, the nearly fifteen minutes of “The Children”, is perhaps the clearest connection to his previous recordings. An expansive album, showing artistic development, “Earth” is a challenge that has been met successfully. We hope it will continue on in Black To Comm’s immediate future.