Last month we introduced readers to Urban Homes, a German dance outfit composed of four musicians from Cologne. One of the musicians, Benjamin Riedl, has another act that is garnering copious amounts of attention from Germany and abroad, called PTTRNS. Riedel must have been busy in the last year because as of April 12, both bands will have released a full-length record in 2013, one month apart from each other. Body Pressure (Altin Village & Mine) is PTTRNS’ latest release–a follow-up to 2010’s Science Piñata and the band’s 2011 12″-series, Love Quest. One can spot the differences between PTTRNS and Urban Homes; the most thrilling detail lies within the live elements of a PTTRNS show, something that stems from what the band refers to as “everyone plays everything”:
It means in the first place that we don’t conceive of each of us as merely performing on one instrument and thereby becoming ‘the bassist’ or ‘the drummer,’ but rather as performing a sound as a collective. It originated from jams in which we swapped instruments as a means to a change of perspective or a rearrangement of our positions. [W]e are far from being virtuous multi-instrumentalists, but in this sense ‘everyone plays everything.’ It is also an invitation to the audience and refers to an open conception of the concert situation. When PTTRNS plays live, we are not alone in this and every single time will be different.
The band is not only alluding to its “jam” mentality, but also its technique during live performances. Yes, PTTRNS indeed encourages audience participation at its shows. They have been practicing these performance methods since 2010, which eventually led to their fourth band member, percussionist, drummer, and dancer, Hendrik Frese, joining the band.
The German press outlet The Craze refers to a PTTRNS show as a “dance party frenzy,” and with good reason. The band is known to be positively interactive; when one listens to the energy sustained in PTTRNS’ music, it’s hard to imagine a live show without serious movement.
” ‘You can’t force a dance party,’ we recall from Dent May,” jokes the band. “But this is certainly something we love to be a part of.”
Aside from the album’s obvious energy, Body Pressure lyrically moves the band’s discography forward, bringing them to a new place and exploring the relationships between intimacy and sexual liberation, as well as their representations. The eight tracks pay direct homage to artist Bruce Nauman’s “Body Pressure,” which was a 1974 performance piece that instructed participants to “Press as much of the front surface of / [their] body (palms in or out, left or right cheek) / against the wall as possible.” Nauman stated at the end that “[t]his may become a very erotic exercise.”
PTTRNS Body Pressure pushes the listener aurally in ways that Nauman’s work pushed participants physically. Both works of art call attention to the tiny details that peak the senses, releasing a strong sense of self.
“What’s interesting to us about Nauman’s ‘Body Pressure’ is that it engages with a number of things that we were concerned with lyrically on the record–the relationship between virtual and physical body, ‘closeness,’ intimacy,” says PTTRNS. “But what we found striking is the conception of an artwork that is very clearly instructional and asks the spectator to become a part of itself, to complete itself without there being any criteria with which this participation or the functioning of the work could ever be verified.”
The band maintains that the results from this type of art “may” result in an erotic experience, but perhaps not. Venturing in another direction, they consider their work to be an exercise in humility and “a way of dealing–broadly speaking–with failure, or the possibility thereof as a reference for art.” They also contend that the record is not about Nauman’s piece, but that the title inspired other ideas that they found appealing.
For curious listeners, here is a full stream of PTTRNS’ Body Pressure, out April 12 on Altin Village & Mine:
As for party people and dance lovers in Europe, the musicians say the following about their chosen haunts:
As for Cologne, the recently closed Deutz Air is sorely missed. But there’s a good range of parties with good booking and a few places with nice soundsystems, too. As for venues elsewhere, there’s way too much good stuff to choose a number one. In Germany, apart from the obvious ones in Berlin and the crazy Leipzig scene, Robert Johnson in Offenbach and Villa Wuller in Trier stand out. And we all had a brillant time dancing under the trees and in the sands of Fusion Festival’s ‘Bachstelzen’ area.