Time Theory records (tmth020), 2008
Tanja Dovens’ netlabel project Die Minimalistin has become a favorite of mine recently. Her unique brand of stripped-down ambient carries a hypnotic sense of place within its delicate and haunting atmospheres. Surrealer Raum sees Dovens taking a step deeper into the experimentalism hinted at on EPs such as Lichttod and Isolator, shifting the tone of the experience without losing much of the minimal style that gives the project its trademark sound.
Like the rest of her netlabel releases, Surrealer Raum is an EP, containing only four tracks. For the first time, Dovens increases her experimentation with rhythmic elements (perhaps influenced by her colleague Hanna Adam, who records glitchy downtempo as adamned.age). The title track, for example, has a fully developed (but sparse, of course!) percussive element that changes the feel; this is no longer the pure dark ambient of Die Minimalistin’s prior work. “Himmel Unter Berlin” features glitchy pops and clicks, and “Wirklichkeitsinkektionen” contains more looped samples of noise than the project has typically used. It’s interesting to hear Dovens experiment with these elements, and it nudges her sound into a hybrid territory that doesn’t work quite as well on a purely immersive level, but her talent at arrangement is still quite apparent.
The jewel of Surrealer Raum is the final track, “Geist Hauch,” which is as chilling and vast a piece of work as Die Minimalistin has produced since the unnerving whispers and pulsing drone of the track “Schattengrab.” Dovens is inspired by abandoned buildings and urban ruins, and when listening to the spacious bleak drone and stirring bits of noise winding through the track like the coldest of winds, it’s easy to imagine oneself roaming in darkness, surrounded by crumbling walls and the lost spirits unable to detach themselves from the somber sense of decay. Rhythmic noise is still apparent, like bursts of approaching static, but the claustrophobia of the looming drone is the central focus.
It will be fascinating to see where Die Minimalistin goes from here. Surrealer Raum, which translates as “surreal room,” cannot be termed strictly as dark ambient, for the additional rhythmic content has moved the project into new realms. When Dovens’ output is considered as a whole, her sound has been gradually moving away from the specter-filled halls of Lichttod to a newer and altogether stranger place. One can only imagine where this journey may lead.