CD, Edgetone Records, 2007
In 1935, under the Nazi regime, the provision of the German penal code that criminalized homosexual acts between males (§175 StGB), which dated back to 1871, was amended with a broadening of its scope of application, paving the way for the deaths of thousands. A lesser-known part of twentieth-century history, but nevertheless a significant one, since of the over one hundred thousand imprisoned and sent to concentration camps under the application of this law between 1935 and 1945, barely four thousand survived. Directly inspired by the 2000 documentary “Paragraph 175,” in which five of the ten remaining survivors of this ordeal tell their stories, this new album by San Francisco sound artist Mark Wilson (aka Conure) functions as a reflection of the implications and consequences of §175 StGB and its application.
Conceptually ambitious, “The Generation Of Our Grandfathers” is not the easiest of albums to get into and, while rewarding, it demands the listener’s undivided attention to be fully experienced and appreciated – the use of headphones is almost mandatory. Drawing inspiration from first-person accounts of a grim historical reality, Wilson weaves an intricate tapestry of abrasive and oppressive allegoric sound texture manipulations and experimental lo-fi noise compositions. Though adequately daunting and claustrophobic, “The Generation Of Our Grandfathers” stops short at the edge of paranoia, and I can’t shake a feeling that, aesthetically, it would have benefited from being taken one step further.
Technically speaking, Mark Wilson is a man who knows what he is doing, and both his skill and inventiveness at sound manipulation and the construction of evocative soundscapes is aptly demonstrated with this release. An important aspect that isn’t immediately obvious with this release is that dealing with historical facts rather than with abstract concepts (as often is the case with experimental noise) poses a further challenge to the artist; that of integrating contextualizing factual information into the compositions, in addition to the artist’s own subjective interpretation of the subject matter. This is something with which Wilson deals with quite well: while subtle, the selection, placement and further manipulation of samples (possibly from historical sources as well as the movie documentary) is effective in cueing the listener to the reasons behind the sonic maelstrom that surrounds him, and also adds further depth and emotional meaning.
With the choice of theme for “The Generation Of Our Grandfathers,” Conure set the bar pretty high for himself and, ultimately, the decision of whether or not the artist succeeded in achieving his aim rests with the listener. Nevertheless, though it could benefit from some more intensity, “The Generation Of Our Grandfathers” is a solid and accomplished piece of work in the field of experimental lo-fi noise art, capable of standing on its own without any added symbolisms.
— Miguel de Sousa