David Grubbs and Jan St. Werner "Translation from Unspecified" LPDrag City
After years of exchanging ideas, Translation from Unspecified marks David Grubbs and Jan St. Werner's studio debut locking horns as a duo. Evolving from a microscopically disordered set of sounds and words into a reconstituted monolith of sound, it's clear this deck-clearing collaboration was long overdue.
David Grubbs and Jan St. Werner met in the mid-1990s when Grubbs was playing with Gastr del Sol and the Red Krayola and St. Werner in Mouse on Mars and Microstoria. After years of exchanging ideas, Translation from Unspecified marks their first time locking horns as a duo, and it’s clear this deck-clearing collaboration was long overdue. In January 2020 Grubbs arrived at Mouse on Mars’ Berlin studio Paraverse with a guitar and “Translation from Unspecified,” an open-ended, seemingly self-generating poem suggesting AI, one of the themes in St. Werner’s recent work. This became the side-length title track, a winding corridor of electronic fanfares and spontaneous musical miniatures urging Grubbs’s slow and steady recitation to grow wings and graduate into song. Who knows where this idiosyncratic mise-en-scène—day-glo, extrovert electronics and task-oriented human—came from? Reference points, distant ones, might include Robert Ashley and Paul De Marinis’s “In Sara, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven...” and the sound poetry of Anton Bruhin. Flip the record and you have “Soixante Ooze,” a live-in-the-studio duo for guitar and computer more recognizably St. Wernerian and Grubbs-like that reconfigures elements of the title track before finally morphing into needle-pinning monoliths of sound.