Following ToiToiToi’s 2015 single for Ghost Box’s Other Voices series, Berlin conceptual artist Sebastian Counts returns with a debut album for the imprint and it truly is the wunderkammer the label claim. “Im Hag” — a common suffix for a place name in Germany explores German culture (including what is described tantalisingly as “a nostalgia for the vanishing concept of internationalism, once exemplified by town twinning”. How I miss twinning.) Whatever all that might mean, this is a proper heady brew, for sure. The future medievalisms of Der Duft Der Walder, begins with the explanation that it is “a dance song in praise of aromatic leaves worn as decoration”. Right you are. The whole thing is compellingly strange as is the way with the excellent Ghost Box. Samples from long lost broadcasts, nosies off, the squelchy teleprinter funk of A Travel Agent’s Dream, the rumbling skew-wiff dub of Mond In Den Ästen, the whole thing is a treat from the sleeve onwards.
Toi Toi Toi, aka Berlin artist Sebastian Counts produces delightfully off kilter electronic music, where odd unexpected sounds like a dot matrix printer can become a rhythmic component, tape is stretched, bongos hit, soupy synths sequence and everything just comes across a little playful and wrong, albeit quite poppy. With the kind of hauntological feel that much of the releases on Ghost Box seem to effortlessly possess, there’s also an abundance of humour and playfulness here, a certain idiosyncratic carefree genius. There are full songs alongside fragments of sound; it’s a collage of sorts. It’s the kind of fully contained world that you just surrender yourself to because anything can and will happen at any moment. It plays on so many memories, so many ideas, from kung fu films to court music, from dub to baroque, it all pops up at some point. There are links to the mischievous melancholy of Plaid or even Plone, yet there’s also this strange other element, feeling like the soundtrack to a black and white Eastern European children’s documentary made for state TV. There’s a monotone with the mischievous that is truly difficult to pin down.
This is Counts’ second full-length album. His first was a 2011 cdr. It’s both assured and absurd. The combinations of instruments are strange, the compositions odd, yet it’s also bold and his melodies just seep into your consciousness feeling like they have always been there. A truly strange and beautiful work.
Bob Baker Fish
The great Julian Cope said of Harmonia: “It’s like spying on gnomes from a hidden camera, knowing that the slightest interference would make them disappear.” The perfect definition for this debut on Ghost Box – anticipated in 2015 by a single for the Other Voices series. ToiToiToi is the moniker for Berlin-based Sebastian Counts. Im Hag has some of the genes of Rastakraut Pasta (Plank and Moebius, 1980) and at the same time evokes imaginary folklore, fictional ethnographic library music (see Kilon), The Radiophonic Workshop, Virginia Astley and Martin Denny. Selecting its rhizomes from far and wide to make everything work together: voices from the ether, synth lines, analogue keyboards and percussion built from indefinable sources. Brilliant.
Lo disse i l buon Julian Cope degl i Harmonia: “È come spiare degli gnomi da una telecamera nascosta sapendo che alla minima interferenza se la darebbero a gambe”. Definizione perfetta pure per il debutto su Ghost Box – anticipato nel 2015 da un singolo per la serie Other Voices– di ToiToiToi, moniker dietro cui si nasconde i l berlinese Sebastian Counts. lm Hag possiede i geni ludici dello spassoso Rastakraut Pasta (Plank e Moebius, 1980) e allo stesso tempo materializza folklore immaginario debitore di workshop radiofonici, finta etnografia library (la matrice residentsiana di Kilon), Virginia Astley e Martin Denny; muovendosi ad ampio raggio nel selezionare gli i ngredienti per far funzionare il tutto: voci dall’etere, giostre di synth e tastierame analogico, percussioni costruite a partire da fonti indefinibili. Brillante.
Alessandro Besselva Averame
Next, newcomer ToiToiToi returns to London label Ghost Box after his Other Voices single from 2015 with the esoteric sounds of his new LP. Berlin artist Sebastian Counts‚ music has a playfulness and strangeness, which helps Im Hag sit very nicely within the otherworldliness of the Ghost Box family. With a rich mixture of acoustic and electronic instrumentation the album sounds a little like Future Sound Of London jamming at a colourful pagan festival where flowery dresses and plaits in the hair are the look of the day. There is a distinct air of optimism present in Im Hag’s eighteen loose, instrumental tracks, which helps lend the record a welcoming air. Picks include the soft 70s cop show strut of A Travel Agent’s Dream, the dub heavy bass quake of Mond In Den Ästen, the tongue in cheek parping of Tanz Um Den Kopf, and the Kid Koala style jazz-tinged trip hop of Another Kind Of Reasoning. Sounding like nothing else around, if you play this to your friends you will probably be greeted with a few ‚What the hell?‘ stares. Yet, don’t let that put you off, as Im Hag showcases a singular talent who is more than willing to push boundaries, and, more importantly, is fully prepared to have a little fun.
Talking of Ghost Box, the label has a really cool new release out by a name completely unfamiliar to me – ToiToiToi. Who turns out to be a German fellow (a first for the label, I believe… Indeed I wonder if they’ve ever put out anything by someone who wasn’t British?). Appropriately they use the term “wunderkammer” – German for cabinet of curiosities – to describe Im Hag. Which seems bang-on, for the previous Ghost Box release it reminds me of a tiny bit is The Transactional Dharma of Roj – which itself very much felt like a cabinet of ungainly marvels… queer little audio-contraptions whose design and purpose was unclear but that nonetheless entranced the ear.
I also think sometimes of Mouse On Mars’s buoyant and airy dinkytronica.
Sebastian Counts has a really exciting project with ToiToiToi, whose debut LP was self released, so that “Im Hag” (Ghost Box) is the first regularly available LP. Here, on 19 more or less sketchy tracks, you will find a true hodge-podge of slanting tones between jazz, game-boy fiddles, voices and relaxed beats. What seems stressful reading is, in reality, very laid back and filigreed. You have to let it in, but it’s worthwhile.
Ein wirklich spannendes Projekt hat der Berliner Sebastian Counts mit ToiToiToi am Start, dessen Debüt es nur unter der Hand gab, sodass Im Hag (Ghost Box) die erste regulär erhältliche LP darstellt. Hier findet man auf 19 mehr oder weniger skizzenhaften Tracks ein wahres Sammelsurium aus schrägen Tönen zwischen Jazz, Game-Boy-Fiepsen, Sprachgewirr und entspannten Beats. Was sich sehr anstrengend liest, ist in Wirklichkeit überaus zurückgelehnt und filigran. Muss man sich drauf einlassen, lohnt sich dann aber.
Ghost Box can always be counted on to deliver something that’s both uniquely situated on the sonic spectrum and impeccably dressed from a design standpoint. Sebastian Counts’ debut for the label (following an interesting entry to their Other Voices singles series) is a doozy of an electronic playground. Toying with ideas of acoustic vs electronic, modernity vs folklore and wilderness vs civilization, the album posits field recorded samples into a buzzing, ramshackle wonderland of beats and bleeps. The album isn’t so much an echo of the souring vision of ‘folktronica’ as it is a Radiophonic studio gone to seed in the afternoon sun or perhaps an erector set left to trestle weeds and moss for all eternity.
Counts throws a ton of ideas into the pot, from clattering Raster Norton minimalism, to Scientist-styled dub and noise breaks that feel very akin to labelmate The Focus Group. That his Rube Goldberg triggered Speak n’ Spell rhythms end up lodged in your brain is a testament to the overarching complexity and talent of the author here. Its not just a hodgepodge of sound, but an electro-organic beast that’s constantly trying to win human approval – a Frankenstein’s Monster with a flower to share. Of course the whole set is dressed up in the unparalleled design of Julian House, echoing the record’s themes of city vs country. It’s seldom that the Ghost Box crew will steer ya wrong, and this is no exception. Come for the high-minded concepts, but stay for the oddly charming pop melodies bubbling long after the record clicks to a stop.
Raven Sings the Blues