review by brian olewnick
Tomas Korber
Mass Production

As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer dealing with a recording “blind”, not
particularly aware of how this or that sound was achieved or even, for the
moment, is there is an overarching, extra-musical purpose behind the
project. As I discover (or don’t) these things, it’s interesting to see how,
if at all, my impressions shift. Korber calls his fine, new disc “Mass
Production” and includes images and schematics of some old factory equipment
so there’s already some possible attached meaning, a meaning that would
appear to be enhanced by what you first hear, a gradual fade-in of some
irregularly rhythmic, mechanical seeming sounds, giving one a sonic image of
a large rotor or fan, old and dirty enough to have acquired detritus that
clips its enclosure as it rotates. It’s slowly superceded by a more
generalized hum, a rich though non-tonal drone that contains more strands
than immediately apparent. Both of these elements are the sort of thing one
might, if lucky, discover for oneself while wondering through an industrial
area. Whether you’d be aurally aware enough to stop and listen is another
matter, hence the great value of a disc such as this. These episodes ebb and
flow, again giving the impression of walking through a large space, turning
a corner that blocks out the previous drone only to open upon some machines
emitting a banshee wail.
In any event, this is the impression I get over the first 20 or so minutes.
Perhaps I’m being overly imagistic and Tomas may have different ideas!
Suddenly, however, “Mass Production” makes a sharp right turn, leaves the
factory entirely and enters, well, maybe an adjacent laboratory where
specialized experiments involving high frequency modulations are being
undertaken. Something goes awry and the technicians get the opposite of what
they sought as the apparatus does an abrupt flip-flop into chasmic throbs
that threaten the integrity of the surrounding walls. More to the point,
this disjuncture is an attractive strategy, a way of not getting too caught
up in the relative luxury of the drones and rhythms, forcing one to step in
a different direction at the risk of losing some overall coherence. I
suppose the critical thing is that you feel that the step was a natural (if
entirely unanticipated) one, not taken because of a dearth of ideas but more
so as not to allow one to get into any kind of rut, however enticing. This
second section evolves and mutates until we arrive at a luscious pairing of
high, rustling swizzles and a simple, basso hum that begins to ooze out into
the space, losing solid shape and sublimating into the “room” in a lengthy,
relaxed coda (I’m trying not to make my usual referent but at this point in
the disc, it’s tough!). The pacing is wonderful; Korber knows when to linger
and when to move on. He actually ends on a rather dramatic note, a swift
upswing in volume and sudden silence.
“Mass Production”—it’s a good thing.



Vital Weekly (The Netherlands),

number 425. Review by Frans de Waard

Swiss guitarist Tomas Korber is one of the upcoming names in improvised, electronic music. He has done several collaborative works, such as with Steinbruchel and Gunter Muller, but slowly has more and more solo recordings. On this new CDR he plays, according to the cover, guitar and electronic devices. As far I'm concerned it could have listed 'anything + electronic devices', as this material sounds unlike a guitar and could be just any sound source being fed through electronic devices. I don't mean this as an critique, but as a compliment. Not that I hate the guitar but it's always nice to hear the guitar being used in a totally alienated way. And that's exactely what Korber does. In this single piece of three-quarters of an hour he shifts through a whole bunch of electronic textures, ranging from static hiss to the processed hum of motors on the guitar. Korber plays here a minimal card, that only occassionally leaps into noisy patterns, but for the bigger part is about ambient textures, although not necessarily appealling to the real ambient crowd. In his approach he sounds like a very early Jim O'Rourke and that's surely not the worst thing to be compared with



Stylus Magazine

Reviewed by: Ed Howard
Reviewed on: 2004-06-16


This is shaping up to be a fertile year for guitarist Tomas Korber. His clear melodic strumming and judicious blending of electronics on the sublime recent disc Brackwater—a quartet with improv “superstars” Otomo Yoshihide, Toshimaru Nakamura, and ErikM—was among that album’s greatest assets. Now, with a 3” on the way from Jason Talbot’s Kissy label, Korber has unleashed his first full-length solo on Mattin’s W.M.O. Mass Production won’t be much of a surprise to those who have already heard Korber in a group context, though there’s none of the un-augmented guitar that he used sporadically on Brackwater. Instead, this disc features some of Korber’s most eerily beautiful electronics work.
The album opens with some scrabbling electronic noises like marbles rolling over a bumpy surface; sounding similar to Tetuzi Akiyama’s guitar deconstruction epic Resophonie. The music slowly builds tension as a low drone hangs in the background, and as the solidness of the drone begins to take hold, it sounds like the pointillist rattles and croaks in the foreground are scratching holes in the surface of the drone. It’s clear which is going to win out in the end, though, and over the course of the next few minutes the drone slowly gains prominence, with the ratcheting electronics not so much fading out as being swallowed up by the overflowing abundance of thick droning sound, an “OM” tone that swells briefly into all-encompassing prominence, and then itself fades away to lull in the background.
As this drone fades away, Korber’s electronics unexpectedly take on a more sinister cast, the sharp blasts of distortion and cranking static riffs veering far closer to straight-up noise than the electro-acoustic scene he’s usually been associated with. But deep within the chaos, there are hints (imagined?) of ghostly guitar, a subliminal echo so subdued and hidden by the noise that’s it easy to dismiss it as a mere spectral figment, summoned by the knowledge that this is an album by a guitarist, and so somewhere in there must be guitar. Imagined or not, this haunting element gives some indication of the depth of Korber’s electronic constructions. Within each gritty soundscape, and there are a whole succession of them as this single 45-minute piece moves seamlessly from one section to the next—there lurks a whole universe of detail, long sustained tones interacting with earthier scrapes and buzzes that sound like heavily processed guitar accidents.
Mass Production is a self-assured and fascinating new work from this very promising musician. The serial nature of the piece precludes linear development, as each new segment seems to emerge spontaneously just as the last part is dying out, but this method of development allows the album to retain a continual air of wonder and surprise, as each new shift inevitably veers into totally new territory. Whether he’s working at bludgeoning noise, or a hazy gauze of high-pitched electronics, or a thick soup of sizzling raw circuits, Korber proves again and again on this album that he has a wide musical vocabulary, and he’s equally adept all over this tremendous range.



Touching Extremes (Italy)

reviewed by Massimo Ricci. June 2004

TOMAS KORBER - Mass production (w.m.o/r)
The way Korber gets unusual sounds from his electronically modified guitar is probably the next step to the impossibility of recognizing a source, which seems to be an interesting challenge for most adventurous experimentalists in these days. Going from motorized mechanisms soliciting the strings up to feedback modulations and ear-pinching, almost inaudible frequencies slowly conducting the listener in a splendid finale with a low-droning time capsule, Tomas throws the coordinates for a post-Keith Rowe new direction of elemental guitar dismemberment, all the way to a new definition of listening without being surcharged - instead riding on the basic properties of the chosen matter