I guess, from her explosive introduction to this album on “Agnes Revenge”, that Agnes is an angry woman – I can't help but imagine a stroppy little frenchwoman with her heart set on repeatedly punching someone against whom she holds a vicious vendetta, but maybe that says more about my tastes for angry women? She certainly makes an abrupt entrance, kicking open the door with a sonic boom with which TJ Hertz starts his masterpiece of hallucinogenic soundscape, Flatland, produced under the name Objekt.
Flatland is not like a lot of electronic music – it isn't composed to dance to, although there are times when you cannot help but move around your kitchen, compelled by the tightness of some of the passages to some kind of jerky body-memory from the dark world of the clubs. There are other times, however, when you are tempted to look back over your shoulder in trepidation, if you let your mind sink too deeply into the black world of electronic torture that Hertz's music can evoke, leaving you always a little bit jumpy; always straying off the expected path, because he does not structure tracks in the same way that techno fans have come to recognise. This means that there are times when Flatland is difficult to listen to, with its extremely challenging sounds and its bent, but inspirational processing (which is a hallmark of the album), but don't give up. It is truly worth the effort to immerse yourself completely in the complex music of Flatland, many times. There is real genius in some of the composition.
If you can you stop yourself being freaked out, there is much to admire on this album. There are little hooks here and there to help, like the relentless groove on the bleak track, “Dogma”, or the rather more interesting beat on “Interlude (Whodunnit?)”. It is not just a driving rhythm that makes these minimal tracks (unlike on, say, “One Stitch Follows Another”, although it too has many strange twists); there are the copious little buzzes and squeaks and droning tones that Hertz has layered throughout the album to make for a dense listening experience that keeps you wondering what will happen next.
And the tracks, happily to my ears, are vaguely arranged to make for a kind of stylistic progression, although not mixed together – There is some kind of sonic journey in there, but do not expect anything resembling a neat set that has been lifted from club-land. What we have before us is more of a of a soundtrack from a twisted futuristic film – not perversely noir like Parker Ellerman's short to Marcel Dettmann's “Seduction” (Dettmann II, Ostgut Ton, 2013), but rather a deconstructed scene-by-scene rendering of a toxic world of terrible dreams and livid nightmares – that is how intense the music can be.
I wanted to review this album by imagining what such a film might look like – what kind of images these tracks evoke. I soon realised that this was not a good ploy, as the more I listened, the darker my visions became – the things I ended up imagining on the third listening of “First Witness” will need to remain between myself and my analyst. Extreme scenes of excess, of boundaries broken and taboos ignored, fill my mind when I try to put words to the scenes that flooded my brain.
What this says, however, is that the tracks on Flatland are so pregnant with possibility that their adaptability to any kind of imagination is possible. The right DJ will even make you move to them. This album is so evocative that there is little else to say except to urge you to hear it.