on wolf vostell’s dé-coll/age musik


Wolf Vostell – Dé-Coll/age Musik (1982 / 2017)
Note: This is a slightly modified and expanded review, originally published by SoundOhm

More than half a century since it first emerged, Fluxus remains a punch in the gut – an angry, restless, contentious creature who refuses to behave and play by the rules. With works by its many members increasingly familiar on museum walls, despite relentless efforts to tame, contain, and define, it has managed to accomplish what Punk never did – unmediated and lasting rebellion and creative force – stubbornly waiting it out. It will not bow – an ever present fuck you in the establishment’s face.

Fluxus was revolutionary, unmanageable, and elusive as a point of conception. Founded in New York during the late 1950’s by George Maciunas, the movement quickly drew many of his generation’s most radical minds, stretching in a tangled web across the globe. Its primary purpose was to democratize art – to destroy the lines of categorization and exclusivity which were endemic within the creative realms – incorporating music, sound, performance, the multiple, and all other forms visual media into the fold. It embraced the spirit of the moment, collaboration, and access – inviting audiences and viewers to combine art and experience – to participate and fold them into their lives. History was one of its many enemies, a fact which, though admirable, has yielded unfortunate results. It’s nearly impossible to capture an accurate image of what it was – its truths lost in the moment – opening its narrative to alteration, personal agenda, and loss. Much of its legacy has been sculpted in retrospect – often favoring it’s more famous members and associates, while important contributors have been cloaked in the shadows of time – the bearers of inconvenient truths. Such is the fate of Wolf Vostell.

Vostell was a founding member of George Maciunas’ rowdy collective, and among the first to reside in Europe – planting its seed in what arguably became its most fruitful soil. That alone should have assured his place. He is a seminal figure in the history of 20th century avant-garde, yet remains sinfully overlooked. An early instigator of Happenings, an innovator of video art, Vostell was equally one of the most radical and irreverent practitioners in sound that the world has ever known. He unleashed ideas – those running wild through his debut LP Dé-coll/age Musik, which remain shocking, surprising, and revolutionary, nearly 60 years after they were set into play.

First released in 1982 on the seminal sound art imprint Multhipla, Dé-coll/age Musik draws from material dating from the late 1950’s to the early 80’s. Through audio sourced from Happening, dialogues, and appropriated sound – Vostell’s creations are a product of his application of décollage, the near perfect inversion of collage. Rather than gathered and assembled sounds – as with Musique Concrète, they are the result of subtractions from a former whole – the death of one, giving life to the next.

As Vostell’s efforts reenter the light, we are offered a rare glimpse into the sonic radicalism of another age, joined within the unmediated spirit of the movement from which they sprang. They are a gift from the shadows of time – pulling the rug from beneath the common history of structured sound. A singular body with no loyalty, producing shocking results. A grinding confrontation – an intoxicating immersion in sound – as brutal as it is ecstatic – an exercise in joy. Dé-coll/age Musik assembles the essence of a creative spirit which is rarely known. Each work as radical and fresh today as the moment it was made.

Emerging on the new imprint Soave, which recently gifted us Giusto Pio’s masterpiece Motore Immobile, for the first time on vinyl since its original release, its presence can’t help but produce shock and awe. Like Motore Immobile, I was lucky enough to play a small role in the release – contributing some of its liner notes. It’s an honor I can not thank the label for enough. You can check out some samples below, and pick it up via SoundOhm. I highly recommend that you do.
-Bradford Bailey




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