Asmus Tietchens & Terry Burrows – “Watching the Burning Bride” (1986)

The other day Holly and I headed down to Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood to get lunch at one of our favorite spots, Brass Tacks. It just so happens that Georgetown Records is only a few blocks away, so I always make sure to pop in when were down there and at the very least check out the New Arrivals section. Sometimes you can pick up vibe off the New Arrivals – it becomes apparent that the store bought a specialized collection, perhaps because there are a lot of titles by a specific artist, or maybe it’s more a genre thing. This time it was the latter – someone had obviously brought in a interesting collection of older electronic/industrial/avant garde stuff, things I’d never heard of before but that looked to be interesting, so I picked up a few including this 1986 release Watching the Burning Bride.

The performers here are Asmus Tietchens, a German artist who began exploring the fringes of electronic music in the mid-1960s, and Englishman Terry Burrows, a man probably best known for his music “how to” books but also a very good musician in his own right. The pair teamed up to compose 17 tracks that eventually made it onto Watching the Burning Bride, many of them more like short snippets or ideas as opposed to fully formed compositions – nine of the tracks clock in at less than two minutes, and given their very vague structures it can be difficult to wrap your head around them as something with a start and a finish. But that’s likely the point. “Ambient Industrial” is probably the best description I can come up with – the songs tend to have a slower pace to them, and the industrial elements aren’t particularly harsh, giving it a less jarring feel than you generally get from industrial.

Track A4 (all the tracks are untitled) is the first time on the record that I feel a glimmer of recognition, and this is almost certainly due to the use of percussion in a more recognizable way. However, the song is done in just over two minutes, right when I was starting to get into a groove with it. There’s a little vocalization at the end of the A side (either track A8 or A9, I couldn’t quite tell), and some sampled sounds that sound like pieces of voices are on a few of the B side tracks as well, but overall Watching the Burning Bride is primarily instrumental.

Albums like Watching the Burning Bride are very interesting to me, as they force me to get outside the box in how I think about music. The downside is that there often isn’t enough appeal to go back to the more challenging albums, because frankly they’re a lot of mental work. But Watching the Burning Bride never got grating to me, never really wore me down, probably in part due to the brevity of the songs. There’s some very interesting material here, and I can only hope that my other recent Georgetown acquisitions are this good.

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