Zwischenwelt ZwischenweltParanormale Aktivität
It feels like Gerald Donald, reclusive even by the standards of fellow musicians from Detroit, must be somewhat out of step with the everyday world. This may be a condition that allows his projects to be forged with such abnormal intensity. Among them there’s the endlessly reworked Black-Atlantean mythos of Drexciya, and more recently the acousmatic ingenuity of Dopplereffekt and Arpanet in imagining the mechanics of particle physics. It doesn’t make sense to everyone: at a Dopplereffekt show last year, the worst members of an uncomprehending audience aimed empty beer cans at him, while he remained still as a showroom dummy in front of his workstation.
Zwischenwelt (‘in-between world’) is a collaboration between Donald, Beta Evers, Susana Correia and Penélope Martín (based in Germany, New York and Spain respectively) conducted mostly through online exchanges. Rather than research in mainstream science, it’s conceived with parapsychology in mind, a field where empirical methods are applied to supposed phenomena of psychokinesis and extrasensory perception. Whereas Dopplereffekt’s last albums teem with fragile kinetic detail – as if to model experiments into subatomic matter and energy – “Paranormale Aktivität” is more robust, concerned more simply with evoking a set of moods. This figures, as perhaps unsurprisingly parapsychology has relatively little to say about the mechanisms of cause and effect.
The desired atmosphere is achieved by a nerve-wrackingly unheimlich tone throughout, as well as Beta Evers’ entranced vocalisations, which range from wordless sighs to creepily repeated phrases. One of her subjects is Nina Kulagina, a Soviet woman of whom silent, monochrome films were made during the cold war, which show her apparently moving objects without physical contact. On “Telekinesis” Evers warns more darkly of Kulagina’s ability to stop a beating heart, something she was also claimed to have done. (In the case of the tests performed, it belonged to a frog.)
Esoteric areas of interest have a certain currency in music at present – this is includes sinister pretensions abroad in the virtual micro-genre of “witch house”, but also the “hauntology” of Demdike Stare and the more occult side of the Ghost Box label’s output. In a way Zwischenwelt brings Donald as close to some form of a zeitgeist as he has been this side of the 1990s. If that helps sell more copies it would be no less than deserved.
It may be true that for all the effort put into the concept (dig around online and you can even find a “paper” by Evers on psychokinetic materialization) the science explored by Dopplereffekt and Arpanet is ultimately spookier and more wonderful. Like everything Donald touches, though, “Paranormale Aktivität” is original, accomplished and generously re-playable. Nobody slightly familiar with the multiverse through which he roams should need to be told that it’s good.