Sonia Güttler has turned heartbreak into a striking new collection of gritty, textured electronic tracks. The music isn’t so much sad as it is severe. There is a lot going on over the course of this 44-minute recording, much of it bleakly emotional.
Hence her decision to start wearing black. Güttler writes in the album’s notes that as a result of “… an individual situation (lovesickness), I started to wear black (gaining weight and feeling ugly).”
But this is about so much more than lost love and self-image. The album opens with thick surface noise and a soft beat. Noise is the album’s most pervasive element, and its most expressive. As “Majority Vote” progresses, the beat turns martial and grows more prominent in the mix. It dominates the piece before dissolving into a mess of echo and distortion, and then a machine-gun ending. The mood has been set.
For all its sharp edges, I Started Wearing Black is an unexpectedly soothing listen. There is a gentleness to Güttler’s compositions. She has a way of making beautiful music with sounds that – in other artists’ hands – would be overwhelming and difficult.
“Dream Sequence” is a fine example. Featuring a gorgeous contribution from multi-instrumentalist and composer Gregor Schwellenbach, the piece is a darkly romantic heart-stopper.
Güttler writes about two other highlights. “The piece ‘System Immanent Value Defect’ should actually be called ‘I See Turkey.’ I wrote it for my fellow student Elif – she is a pianist and Gezi Park activist from Istanbul.
“Through her I witnessed the inner conflict and agitation that political circumstances can create: her feelings of guilt when there was an attack, with her safe in Germany as a student, watching the events from afar. It was horrible. When her mother begged her not to come home because she feared for her safety, I felt a cold shiver run down my spine.”
Güttler isn’t simply a gifted producer, she is capable of producing powerful, even intimidating music. And she’s got something to say.
“I realized that I know of no political system that is actually about the people and what would do them good. It’s always about positions, power, money. I thought that was a lot more frightening on a global scale than merely viewing Turkey in isolation. That’s why the piece is called ‘System Immanent Value Defect,’ because our world suffers from precisely that. Everywhere, it’s all about the wrong things.”
On another subject, “We Are Here” is aimed at women. “Female artists have long been saying loud and clear that ‘we are here’ and ‘electronic music is not a boys club!’ But this pop-feminist moment should only be seen as one part of the dedication of the piece. It is for minorities, for the oppressed, who didn’t belong enough.”
This is Güttler’s second album.