Frank Bretschneider - Biography
Frank Bretschneider is one of electronic music’s most respected composers. His music, as well as his work as a visual artist, explores an austere and very carefully measured sound through process and systems experiments. For all its cerebral origins, Bretschneider’s work is surprisingly funky. Boasting an intricate sense of rhythm the composer weaves subtle sonic webs of interlocking patterns that distill dub, techno and ambient music to its very essence. The results rank as some of the most hypnotic electronic music being made today.
Born in Chemnitz, East Germany in 1956, Bretschneider went on to develop a fascination with science fiction radio plays and films. Inspired by the sound effects in these movies, he started to experiment with synthesizers, tape machines and modified guitars. In the mid 1980s he founded the experimental band AG.GEIGE. The group was influence by The Residents and Dada art. After the group split in ’92, Bretschneider concentrated on solo electronic music. In ’95 he and fellow AG.GEIGE member Olaf Bender (aka Byetone) formed the Rastermusik label. In ’99 Raster merged with Carsten Nicolai’s Noton label to become Raster-Noton. Most of Bretschneider’s current work is released on Raster-Noton and the label has defined an aesthetic of ultra-minimal and highly progressive electronic music.
When Bender and Bretschneider started the Raster label, Bretschneider released his first work under the name Komet. The first release came in ’96. Saat laid bare the Komet aesthetic immediately; crisp, clean patterns of clipped beats augmented by dubwise delay and round bass. The tracks here are obviously coming from minimal techno, but you can hear Bretschneider reaching for something else. That same year brought two collaborative releases for Bretschneider; Tol, a duo with Tilo Seidel, released the reduced industrial dub of Trap and Produkt, the trio of Bretschneider, Seidel and Bender, released the similar Float. Both records are mixed and edited by Bretschneider and bear the marks of his aesthetic and style. All three releases remain abstract techno minimalism of the highest order.
The following year brought Komet’s Flex, still an out and out classic of abstract dub techno minimalism. Tracks like “Stop,” “Dots” and the title track work a blend of shimmering ambient textures, whirring blips and chirps and clipped funky rhythm patterns into an utterly hypnotic sound. Taken together, Saat and Flex illustrate Bretschneider’s obvious love of classic dance music and point to the extreme reductionism he would explore later. Flex stands as the crowing achievement of his early career. ’97 also brought Stretch, the second and final Produkt record.
After contributing music to one track on Stretch, Carsten Nicolai joined with Bretschneider and Bender as Signal for ‘98’s Waves + Lines full-length. Recorded live, the album finds all three core Raster-Noton members defining the label’s aesthetic with some extremely minimal pulse and throb.
1999 brought Raster-Noton’s now legendary 20 to 2000 series. For every month the label counted down the time to the new millennium with a twenty-minute release from a new artist. January’s was Komet’s Manhatten, a hypnotic set of undulating drift and throbbing rhythms. ’99 also saw Bretschneider’s first release under his given name for the Mille Plateaux label. Rand isn’t stylistically different than the sound of the Komet records. These tracks refine the clipped pulses, chirping sine waves, rhythmic white noise and throbbing bass that have become Bretschneider’s signature tools. The album is more extreme in its minimalism than previous records as Bretschneider continues to whittle his sonic palette down to the barest minimum.
The next year brought what many consider to be Bretschneider’s high-water mark. 2000’s Rausch, recorded for the 12k label, is a hypnotic set comprised of eleven tracks perfectly blended together to form an organic, severely reduced take on techno. The sound palette is strict, but the record never seems to repeat itself as patterns weave through and around one another to constantly create new shapes. The attention to detail here is peerless. It’s impossible to pick any one track out as the standout; this is an album that deserves to be taken as a whole. The same year brought Signal’s second album, Centrum.
2001 saw the release of Curve, the producer’s second release under his own name again for Mille Plateaux as well as a collaboration with Bovine Life called Reciprocess +/ vs. 01 and three exclusive tracks on a compilation titled Personal Settings for the Quatermass label. In ’02 Staalplaat’s Mort Aux Vaches series of live recordings showcased Raster-Noton with an album featuring all three members’ solo music as well as tracks by Signal. Always busy, the same year brought a Bretschneider solo record titled Aerial Riverseries and a stunningly good collaboration with Taylor Deupree called Balance.
Bretschneider’s last release as Komet came with ‘03’s stellar Gold full-length. Boasting his signature subtly funky rhythms augmented with a glowing warmth and relative inclusion of a greater melodic sensibility, Gold is a great introduction to Bretschneider’s overall body of work. ’03 also saw the last Tol release, Shang.
The following years find Bretschneider refining his aesthetic with a dedicated focus. Looping I-VI and a collaboration with Steinbruchel titled Status were both released on 12k. 2006 brought a collaboration with Peter Duimelinks titled Brombron 10: Fflux. In ’07 he released a major solo work with Rhythm, followed by his most recent album in 2010. Exp is arguably his best and most focused record since Rausch. The music on Exp is accompanied by Bretschneider’s live video work, a first for the artist.