The triumphant return of the tape machine! Delicate pop by Christian Gabel


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Christian Gabel is well know on the Swedish music scene and a devoted fan of electronic music. He’s been working with many celebrated artists like Thåström and is the drummer in the major Swedish band Bob Hund. Now, it isn’t really because of his potential love of synth based music or he’s relations with Scandinavian pop artists that make us post an article on him here, but rather he’s new project/band called ‘1900’. It is also Christian’s first appearance as a solo-composer and what a treat it is.

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What directions 1900 will have for the future is not really clear but the recently released album called Tekno points in some intriguing directions. Tekno is special as it is conceived using only vintage tape machine with old classic magnetic tapes. The use of magnetic tape for sound recording originated around 1930. Magnetizable tape revolutionized both the radio broadcast and music recording industries. It gave artists and producers the power to record and re-record audio with minimal loss in quality as well as edit and rearrange recordings with ease. The alternative recording technologies of the era, transcription discs and wire recorders, could not provide anywhere near this level of quality and functionality. Since some early refinements improved the fidelity of the reproduced sound, magnetic tape has been the highest quality analog sound recording medium available. As of the first decade of the 21st century, analog magnetic tape has been completely replaced by digital recording technologies for consumer purposes, although some still record audio by analog. And here we are in the 21st century with Christian back in a studio not just using these machines for recording, but actually also using them as a key ingredient in the music production process.

When recording with the old Tandberg machines (the ones always found in all class-rooms in the 70’s and 80’s) Christian realized that the output was not always what he expected – the magnetic tapes were re-writing without erasing the old, created parallel recordings and added its own noise and soundscapes to the finalized output. Tandberg was an electronics manufacturer located in Oslo, Norway. The company began in the radio field, but became more widely known for their reel-to-reel tape recorders and televisions. The original company went bankrupt in 1978 after a sharp financial downturn. The company re-formed by selling off their tape recording side asTandberg Data, who moved into the computer storage field.

Official video for the song “Vi” by 1900.
Video by Videomaskinen & Jonas Börjesson.

The interesting part of the music is that it is an interesting blend of experimental music but in a classic pop context. The oddity in the sound scapes emanating from the tape machines gives a warm analog feel to the music and hints of Krautrock can be found here 1900_Tekno_Hires_220x220and there, like vintage tracks from Can or early Kraftwerk. In an interview Christian says that the use of these tape machines allowed him to come outside his traditional musical universe, not so attached at listening to individual details (analyzing bass drums etc), but rather focus on the music as such. He says that he enjoys the feeling when you don’t know how a particular sound or track has been made. Although it is a very cumbersome and time consuming process Christian believes it was well worth it. The ability to just let the machines surprise you, we can understand is a great reward in itself.

In the video above it is quite interesting to hear how the piano in the beginning of the track almost appears to be swaying, something we guess is a result of the use of tape recorders. And in the track “Vi” featuring Thåström as the humming singer in the background the analog sounds are really vibrant and exciting.

But Christian has more gems up his sleeve. Looking through his back catalog and also explores his activities in his Cobra studio we can see that he’s also been active in making music that are more arty and flirting with film score type music. Below is a track recorded in this context “Krafter” and a background on how it all came to be.

In the early nineties Christian Gabel found a set of illustrations that seemed to be concept art for a film production. The artwork was dated 1982 and depicted scenes from his hometown Karlstad in post-apocalyptic ruins. In spite of research, no further information about the artwork, the artist or the (possible) film has been found.

Many years later Christian started toying around with the idea of writing a film score for the concept art and the film that was never made. Krater is the result. Krater is also a computer game produced by independent Swedish studio Fatshark. Christian Gabel has written the main themes for the game which also drew inspiration from the found art.

About Christian Gabel and Spotify playlist:

Christian Gabel is a musician, producer and composer. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden. He plays drums in the band bob hund and runs the studio Cobra together with a colleague.

http://christiangabel.com/