thomas koner – nuuk

thomas koner - nuuk

i first heard thomas köner on a 1994 darkwave ambient compilation called ambient isolationism. he contributed ‘kanon (brohuk),’ and while i enjoyed it, it didn’t captivate my attention as much as the tracks by :zoviet*france and Lull. a few years later, i was at a local favorite indie record shop (Aquarius Records on Valencia), and i spotted a special köner post–vinyl–only CD-release of an album called ‘unerforschtes gebiet’ (which translates roughly as ‘uncharted territory’). based on their recommendation, i picked it up.

i couldn’t stop listening to it. in fact, i still can’t stop listening to it. although now, i probably listen to Nuuk a lot more.

the country that inspired Nuuk

[to get to the bottom line without having to read all this drivel, click here.]

köner is held up as one of the pre-eminent soundscape minimalists. his particular brand of dronology would probably put most people to sleep. for others, it might inspire nightmares. for me, it’s near perfection in sound, the minimalist ambient analog to bohren & der club of gore (possibly the lamest band name ever for a group that does dreamy, lush jazz–inspired soundscapes à la angelo badalamenti).

my fascination with this kind of music is intense, but i’d be hard–pressed to explain it. i fall into these expansive soundscapes that are more atmosphere than rhythm, context that generates imagined experience. for me, they fit eno’s definition of ambient music perfectly: music that can either be actively listened to, or ignored.

Nuuk is my latest köner acquisition. his CDs are hard to come by; it’s a niche market. this latest cost a pretty penny (actually, 2700 of them); it’s a re-release of something he did back in 1997. his inspiration was a series of webcam recordings from Nuuk, Greenland. of course, at the time i bought this CD+DVD release, i didn’t know Nuuk was the capital of Greenland. i only found out when i got curious – why did he call this CD ‘Nuuk’?

this is the kind of thing the Web is perfect for – look up an obscure, specific term and find out instantly what it is: the capital of Greenland – its largest city, in fact, with a population of roughly 14,000.

why was he so interested in Greenland? isn’t it just a big frozen rock out there in the Atlantic ocean somewhere? i suppose under some limited world views, that might be true. under others, Greenland might be seen as an other–worldy landscape of fierce, cold beauty. check out the pictures below for a few slices of this other world (taken from carl obling’s photo site). you might also read some analysis on köner’s web site (apologies if this feels like mental masturbation).


after reading a bit about its history, and seeing these breathtaking photos, i can’t wait to go. it looks like it might be a very, very cold version of New Zealand (without the tourists and the Hollywood jerks). i mean, think about it – a country whose capital has a population of 14,000? doesn’t that seem a little odd?

the bottom line
local record shop leads to obscure music purchase leads to interest in Greenland leads to [unknown futures]. who can say where my interest in Greenland will go? imagine, though, a pre–Internet release of this record (actually, its original release might qualify as just that). how many people know what (or where) Nuuk is? how many people would even bother to look, if they didn’t have the Internet a few clicks away?

ok. maybe not that many.

my point is that things are connected. everything is connected. we don’t see the connections, but they are there. and sometimes, now, we can follow them, and they will lead us to uncharted territories…

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2 thoughts on “thomas koner – nuuk

  1. Mark

    Thomas Köner’s work is indeed a bit difficult to find.

    However, Nuuk has recently been reissued in a CD/DVD combination. So this one should be easier to locate. AB-CD Sounds and Cinema ( have the Nuuk CD/DVD in stock, as of this writing. I’m sure there are plenty of other sources.

    (Originally, Nuuk was one of a 4-CD set, Driftworks: the other three discs were by Japanese noise artist Nijiumu, modern-classical legend Pauline Oliveros collaborating with Randy Raine-Reusch, and ambient-industrial icon Paul Schütze. An odd collection, with no musical or thematic consistency whatsoever.)

    Two classic earlier works of Köner’s, Permafrost and Teimo, are almost impossible to find in the original editions released by the Barooni label, but there’s a two-CD set of Permafrost/Teimo–from Mille Plateaux–which is probably still in stock somewhere, and which shows up on eBay occasionally. Well worth seeking.

    Don’t put too much effort into trying to get the other Barooni releases: Aubrite and Nunatak Gongamur. Long gone. Aubrite is similar to Permafrost, only better…but you’d be well advised not to be overly hopeful of locating a copy. Nunatak Gongamur is Köner’s first release, and (presumably because of its rarity, and Köner’s small but obsessive fan-base) has sold on eBay for $50 or more. Not worth it, unless you’re a collector…he hadn’t fully developed his style yet, and it shows.

    Kaamos and Daikan came out after Aubrite, and though they were released by less-marginal labels, enough time has passed that these, also, have become scarce.

    Köner’s most-recent works are Unerforschtes Gebiet, and the 2-CD Zyklop. The former is excellent, and probably still available.

    On Unerforschtes Gebeit, Köner departs from his usual sound source (close-miked gongs, heavily treated electronically), and instead uses a blank strip of film in a dusty projector, the image somehow translated into the aural realm. Yet the style is still distinctly Köner’s, immediately recognizable. Its third track, however, departs from this style in its incorporation of spoken vocals, which leads us to…

    Zyklop, an experimental effort: with musique concrète elements, and which incorporates significant spoken-word content. The voice seems to be treated as just another source of timbre, although this impression may be due to the vocals being in a language I don’t understand. Despite my eclectic tastes, it sounds like a confused, aimless hodgepodge. But I suppose there must be someone out there who would enjoy this.


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