Rare or Unreleased 7: Deathprod.

Jörg Mager Ensemble: «Siemens» [mp3]
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In 1996 and '97, producer and ambient noise composer Helge Sten's Deathprod. outfit (by now a trio, completed by Ole-Henrik Moe and Motorpsycho guitarist Hans Magnus Ryan) teamed up with the contemporary classical Cikada Ensemble to play some of Sten's compositions at various festivals, under the joint moniker of Jörg Mager Ensemble.

On 18 October 1996 one of these concerts was recorded at Oslo's Rockefeller venue as part of the Ultima Festival, but unfortunately nothing came of the recordings. (Although in 1997 it was rumoured that parts of this recording would be released as a split CD with Origami Arktika, on a Young God Records release that label boss Michael Gira announced in press announcements, but which never materialised.) The tracklist consists of songs from Deathprod.'s 1994
classic Treetop Drive («Treetop Drive 1», «Towboat») and two as-yet unreleased pieces, one of which («Dead People's Things») would later be released—in a different version—on Deathprod.'s final album before Sten's retirement from solo recording, 2004's Morals and Dogma. Only the above piece, «Siemens», remains unreleased.

And criminally so, which is why I'm taking the liberty of putting it out there. Oscillator, saw, electric violin and strings never before came together to sound so mesmerising. (They probably never came together at all!) This is a prime example of Sten's hypnotic, gradually ascending (and simultaneously ecstatic and horrific) brand of minimalism. It's a shame both that Sten hasn't received more recognition (as a composer; he is routinely praised for his work in jazz improv quartet Supersilent) and that he stopped performing and recording solo material. His noise ambient music avoids the pitfalls of both the noise and ambient genres, and combines an emotional intensity with a patience and will that amount to some of the most courageous and pure music I've ever heard—because he dares to keep it simple, dares to make no compromises, and dares to explore the headspace that he does. This is spiritual music for atheists, touching a space virtually untouched but for Arvo Pärt.

This recording is also one of the last wherein Sten indulges in the raw soundscapes of his early recordings. After expanding on his electronics-reliant compositions with forays into choirs and percussion (watch this space for another exclusive later on), Sten's next official releases offered up a sedate sonic universe that seemed fuzzily insular by comparison, as if heard underwater—contained within the embrace of valium (or the womb)…

Oh, and if you're wondering about the name under which this piece was performed, Jörg Mager was a German pioneer in sound who, from the 1920s up until WWII, invented exotic instruments such as the
Electrophon, the Kurbelsphäraphon, the Klaviatursphäraphon, the Partiturophon and the Kaleidophon—none of which survived the devastations of the Second World War (except in Helge Sten's imagination). These instruments were oscillators, supposedly similar in sound to the theremin. You know, that 1950s sci-fi sound as if a violin got confused with a voice in your slipping consciousness:

Now that's what I call a David Lynch moment!

But I digress. I recall coming out of the Jörg Mager Ensemble gig in Trondheim sometime in 1997, accompanied by a friend who, as we left, confided in me that his mother and he had come to this planet to «help the humans»—she'd always told him so. Naturally, I wasn't convinced, and in hindsight it's not surprising that only months later he would be incarcerated in a mental institution from which he's never been able to free himself, his mind lost now deep inside a body bloated by pharmaceuticals that shroud his brain in a fog full of half-mumbled fragments of sentences, spoken to no one in particular, not even himself. But when you're a teenager, eccentricity, unlike consensus reality, is cool, and I never set any limits.

Neither did Deathprod. that night, as the engulfingly deafening noise and resonance, rich with the scratch and scrape of strings, the hall ringing with razor sharp frequencies, «washed our souls away, where they never could be found.»


Helge Sten: theremin, various electronics
Ole Henrik Moe, jr.: violin, saw
Snah: electric violin, various electronics

Kjersti Walldén: flute
Terje B. Lerstad: clarinet
Bjørn Rabben: percussion
Kenneth Karlsson: ondes Martenot
Henrik Hannisdal: violin
Odd Hannisdal: violin
Marek Konstantynowiez: viola
Hjalmar Kvam: cello
Conducted by Christian Eggen)


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I have been looking for a recording of the Jörg Mager Ensemble with Cikada for years, and finally someone has it! I went to the same concert in Olavshallen in Trondheim. Could I please ask you to put out a mediafire-link with the whole concert?

  3. Since the full concert is still unavailable, why didn't you post the whole thing?
    By the way, I tried the MediaFire link, but it doesn't seem to work correctly: first it takes forever to access the MediaFire page, and then I couldn't see no download link...
    Can you please fix it? And post the full concert while you're at it?

  4. Dear bfg666,

    The MediaFire link worked when I gave it a whirl, so there's nothing to fix (except maybe your computer/Internet connection).

    I didn't post the entire concert, because the artist never chose to release it. Studio recordings of «Treetop Drive 1» and «Towboat» are available on Deathprod.'s album Treetop Drive; «Dead People's Things» on Morals and Dogma. Only «Siemens» never saw any kind of other release, in any kind of version. That's why I posted that, and not the other pieces.

  5. Yeah, I tried it again later and it finally worked. Thanks anyway.
    About posting the full concert, I have some objections to your point of view:
    1) Helge Sten didn't choose to release "Siemens" either but you put it here anyway, so the fact that you didn't post the full concert because the artist never released it is not a valid point. Furthermore, this is precisely why you should upload it: because it can't be bought anywhere!
    2) Though the other pieces are available on albums, you said yourself they were released in different versions: this should be reason enough to make them available. And judging by the quality of "Siemens", it must have been an excellent concert.
    3) M. Sten put an end to the Deathprod project in 2004, so we're not likely to see a Deathprod live show ever again. And even if he decides to revive Deathprod, the Jörg Mager Ensemble was a momentary collaboration. With that in mind, this recording is a priceless testimony of music history and it is a crime to shelve it.
    4) "Siemens" is in 192kbps mp3, which is listenable but not perfect. I suppose the rest of the concert is in the same quality. So even if you upload the whole thing and then one day M. Sten decides to release it, the true music lovers WILL nevertheless buy the album.
    5) Finally, it's quite selfish of you to let people know that you possess such a precious gem and then tell us "Nope! You won't hear it!"

    Please think about all that. I really hope you'll change your mind! By the way, how did you come across this recording?

  6. I came out of that same concert in Trondheim in 97 and my first though was; did anyone record this? I can just kindly ask you again to reconsider your decision to not put out the whole concert and I agree with bfg666 in at least one thing; fans of this kind of music will buy the release on Rune Grammofons 20 years celebration 180g double limited vinyl edition. No matter how unlikely that is.
    Anyway, I'll put out some recordings that I have in my vault, so keep a watch on my monthly updated blog. And thanks for a good blog, it's a very interesting piece of work.

  7. Thanks, tobotomizer. I'll probably post the entire concert at one point, in the not too distant future. You'll be the first to know.

    I like to spread music that I think deserves an audience, but without depriving the artist of otherwise due income. (Which is why I try to avoid posting music that is commercially available.) What I don't do is post music in order to use the artists' fame or talent to draw attention to my blog. Unless a blogger keeps a music blog about music they hate, they should show the musicians a certain amount of respect.

    I definitely think this concert deserves an audience. Still, I've been agonising about this one. I came upon these live recordings in confidence (though not that of Deathprod.), and have been made aware that Helge Sten considered, but decided upon not releasing them. (For whatever reason.) Whether or not this is a valid reason for not spreading the recording all over the internet, an artist's unhappiness with his own output (justified or not) is something I can understand. And take seriously.

    That said, I've received no complaints upon posting other Deathprod. rarities, so perhaps I'll go ahead and publish this one, too.

    I might already have done so, hadn't some random, querulous stranger had the temerity to accuse me, on my very own blog, of selfishness for *not* betraying an artist I deeply respect (by distributing what to all intents and purposes is a bootleg), when this stranger's very own reasons for trying to obtain the recording from me were no less selfish. Unsurprisingly, this hypocrisy and peevish, impolite tone did little to sway me. More importantly, I detest being told what to do. (What, upload this sublime work of art for an ingrate?!) You, on the other hand, have asked nicely, tobotomizer. And flattery gets you everywhere. Watch this space.

  8. Thanks for not letting a random grumpy guy ruin my chance to listen to some good music!
    I can appriciate your concern for the artists, it is hard times for many small indie bands these days. Nevertheless, internet has directed my attention to new bands and artists that I wouldn't have considered bying before hearing 6-7 times. And I buy vinyl, directly from the label if I can, if I like it. And I like a lot. But then again, maybe I'm not the average music buyer.
    My blog is created to share music with a few friends, it was the easiest way. Earlier mixtapesharingactivities was done with cdr, but with people moving around, sending snailmail with a cd is just not working out. I doubt more than 5 people reads my blog, 3 downloaded my last mixtape.
    Anyway, looking forward to the files!
    PS. Have shared a Deathprod+Snah live version of Treetop Drive 1-3 + Towboat from TMV in 1995, check it out.