AMN Reviews: Field Rotation – Fatalist: The Repetition of History (Denovali)

Last I heard from Christoph Berg he was bidding adieu to the place he grew up and was leaving for good, the port city of Kiel, which he called a cold, oppressive place where the Baltic Sea and sky were always grey. His contribution to the “Rivers Home” set of ten, 3″ CDRs (Flaming Pines) was the most emotionally wrenching of the entire series. He may have left for Berlin, but he certainly has taken a heavy heart with him. “Fatalist: The Repetition of History” is drizzly, subtly textured, etched into a dark, foliated slate of drone.

Violinist, pianist and composer Berg trades under the name Field Rotation, blending acoustic instruments, natural and synthesized sounds into gentle undulations. Fatalism means eternal and inevitable iteration, and while each of these six pieces are cyclical, a slight variation can be heard in each new revolution. Critics seem to lean toward categorizing him as one of the so-called “indie classical” composers, but the album bears more of a family resemblance to The Caretaker´s “Persistent Repetition of Phrases” and his “Sadly, The Future is Not What it Was” released as Leyland Kirby , in spirit if not matching-fingerprint style. The disc is matte black stuck onto a matte black tray and the cover  art is Caspar David Friedrich romantic, an abandoned meadow over which the full moon cannot cast enough light, and the music unapoligetically spooky. But like Kirby´s work, it recreates memories that warm as they chill, which, like the title track, is “The Uncanny” thing about his work.

The worldless soprano of Mari Solaris dances slightly macabre with Aaron Martin´s cello on “Valse Fatale”, while Berg´s violin hearkens closest to Kirby´s haunted ballroom layered in cobwebs of vinyl crackle on the hesistant “Fatalist”. Characteristic for Field Rotation is the small gesture on a wide, otherwise empty stage, the effect all the more powerful for the space around it. “History (Fragment)” is a perfect example of his economy, just a few notes eddying ambiently until joined by piano, a melody that seems so familiar. “The Repetition of History” brings us back to the ashen shores of the Baltic and to Martin´s rasping cello in poised and restrained but dramatic elegy. Finally, “The History of Repetition” stretches twice the length of most of its predecessors, sublime contemplation of the drear landscape before him lifted into the realm of spirituality, underneath a huge sky, both near and very far away.

Stephen Fruitman