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A Life Without Fear

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Album Review

Ekkehard Ehlers is an artist who refuses to be pinned down by genre constrictions or fan expectations. Over the course of seven full-length albums and compilations he has paid tribute to Albert Ayler, produced an album of folk-tinged glitch music, reinterpreted Schoenberg, and written lullabies for newborns. So it makes perfect sense for Ehlers to reinvent himself yet again with A Life Without Fear. This time around he digs deep into the darkness and records a nine-song session of Delta blues soaked with nihilistic lyrics and fuzzed-out computer crackles and pops. His instrumentation of choice this time around varies from his other works, as he collaborates with a small-group using viola, trumpet, mouth harp, and guitar to create drones that sound like they're processed through a rusted beer can. Covering the traditional "Ain't No Grave" and Ralph Stanley's haunting "O Death," Ehlers paints a stark portrait that would be a fitting soundtrack to traveling the destroyed Deep South countryside and viewing the wreckage of Hurricane Katrina. It is this disturbing tone that Ehlers serves as a reminder of just how beautifully fragile the human condition is under the strains of adversity and despair.

Customer Reviews

An album to admire--

as well as enjoy. A good portion of this record sounds like what I wanted to hear and was hoping existed when I read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." Simple but beastly, this is a challenging statement with deep, deep troves of feeling and rich with hard-won beauty. Think of kudzu-choked shacks and neon-soaked honkytonks at closing time; think of a rusted Edsel and a flea market with velvet Mona Lisas laid out as the sun sets behind water. Haunting, rugged, gorgeous.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '90s, '00s

A purveyor of digital manipulations of existing music, Ekkehard Ehlers released his debut, Betrieb, in 2000. The record drastically manipulates samples from such early 20th century composers as Arnold Schoenberg and Charles Ives, Ehlers seeing each piece as a closed system with which to experiment. He has worked on a trilogy of mini-albums on which he assumes the spirit of great artists from the past and applies it to electronics. The first in this series was Ekkehard Ehlers Plays Robert Johnson...
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A Life Without Fear, Ekkehard Ehlers
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