Ekkehard Ehlers' seminal plays series was originally released on three 12inches (Staubgold) and two 7inches (Bottrop-Boy) in very limited runs. The entire series was previously only available as a CD compilation or digitally. Keplar finally presents it on double vinyl for the first time, featuring a new cover artwork. Play is a word in English with many meanings attached. Each one sends you down a different cognitive pathway. When I think of playing, in the sense of a game, I think of an activity involving more than one person. When Ekkehard Ehlers plays, he is very much on his own. Or, at least, alone but at the same time keeping intimate company with the artistic innovators named in his titles. Robert Johnson. John Cassavetes. Albert Ayler. Cornelius Cardew. Hubert Fichte. Is he playing with them, against them, about them, for them, to them? This can never be known.
It is certainly a mistake to try to hear the work of these originals in the sounds played by Ekkehard. Theyre not cover versions. Theyre hardly tributes in the conventional sense. Cassavetes and Fichte are not even musicians, although music played an important part in both their careers. Sure, there are little nods and flashes of recognition tiny guitar licks among the minimal beats of Robert Johnson 2; rich bowed instruments in Albert Ayler, recalling the violin, cello and double bass arrangements on Aylers 1967 Live in Greenwich Village LP; the elongated organ lines of Cornelius Cardew 1 gesturing towards passages in Paragraph 1 of the British composers 1971 Marxist monolith, The Great Learning. Ekkehard is not so much playing these figures as allowing himself to be played by them.