Somnambule - Writing About Music

Thomas Köner ~ Nuuk

Nuuk is rich with undertones, tidal washes, deep swathes of velvet mezzotint, patient soundings, submarinal echoes. Unlike the snow and icebound imagery of Nuuk’s cover and the accompanying dvd, there is a rich, dark warmth to this sound, although it may be less the sense of familiar human cosiness occasioned by central heating or a roaring fire than the buoyant flow a blue whale experiences as it navigates the rim of continental shelves and ice fronts in deepest darkness.

Polynya I is flume-like, rich with sediment, its breath simultaneously chilling and destructive, warm and enriching. Polynya II is expelled in slowtime from deep recesses. Swim against its currents and discover an uncharted space whose vastness is emphasised by foreground textures reminiscent of terracotta tiles scraped against each other.
Behind the almost unearthly breath of fourth track Amras, can be detected something that might be a trumpet played by a squid or manta ray. The gulfstream flow on Nuuk (End) is propelled by a black angel’s chorus that remains blissfully untroubled by a concurrent chugging sound reminiscent of an outboard motor heard distantly from leagues below the ocean’s surface.

Thomas Köner bills himself online as a ‘media artist’, which is as fine a term as any to describe someone whose work moves between installation, soundart, ambient music and – as one half of Porter Ricks – dub techno. Much of Köner’s output has appeared in very limited edition runs, causing those unfortunate enough to discover his work late, to pay high prices to secure cds that only rarely come to light. Nuuk was originally released on the defunct Big Cat label in 1997 and is now reissued on the recently reformed Mille Plateaux Media. In its present form it’s gained a multi-region dvd with the same sound as the audio cd. The visual element intercuts two webcam views, one of a snowbound street seen from an adjacent towerblock while the other is a similarly snowbound coastal view. Both scenes are frozen and anonymous, the only change is one of failing light and visibility which occurs too gradually to be easily registered by the eye. In contrast, the seven audio pieces seem to pass almost too quickly.

Heard carelessly, this sound/music may not impress, its apparent minimalism striking the listener as overly reductive. However, Nuuk repays deep listening in kind, offering up its magisterial riches to the attentive, to those willing or able to concentrate without distraction. Best to gradually allow yourself to descend like a wide-eyed diver slowly acclimatising to changes in pressure, light and sound.
Colin Buttimer
March 2005
Published by the BBC