Thomas Koener – La Barca

Thomas Köner started his musical career in relative obscurity. His first four albums were release on the Barooni label (from Utrecht, Holland!) – you’ll have a hard time finding these and if you do, be prepared to pay for it. Even the Mille Plateaux re-release of two of them (Teimo/Permafrost), is very hard to find nowadays.

In his work, Köner explores the ‘soul of sound’, and he’s not afraid to use remarkable sources.
He treated cymbal sounds to the extreme and unrecognisable (Nungatak Gonggamur, 1990), or even the dusty crackling of an old 16mm film (Unerforschtes Gebiet, 2002). There will probably be no musical sounds as deep as his Daikan (2002).

But in using his sources, there’s always a delicate space left for silence and stillness, which gives his music a Zen-like feeling of eternity.
If you ever want to experience a feeling of floating in indefinite space, listen to Thomas Köner’s music!

(As an interesting aside, it may be noted that Köner produced considerable more down-to-earth music as Porter Ricks, a duo with Andy Mellwig. The electronic music he created with Asmus Tietchens, as Kontakt Der Jünglinge, is also very much worth tracking down!)

La Barca is Köner’s newest album, 6 years after Zyklop. (Nuuk shouldn’t be counted since that was a re-release of the 1997 album from the Driftworks box set).

My expectations for La Barca were high, especially after viewing the accompanying video.
And since it’s on repeated playing ever since I have received it, it lives up to those expectations quite easily!

La Barca Video Still

The album is released on the french Fario Records in a limited release – so again may be unobtainable even before you realise it exists!
There are twelve tracks  (called ‘hours’) on this album, each somewhere between five and seven minutes in length. The tracks are distinctly different (it’s not a divided ‘long-form’ composition) and on some points closely resemble those on Nuuk. But Köner manages to find a complete new perspective by mixing in location recordings from different parts of the world. The geographical location for each track is provided in the title – so you may start you Google Maps search now!

As expected, the location recordings are not just added to the background: they are sparsely manipulated, to alienating and hallucinogenic effect.
In his very own way, Thomas Köner completely redefines ‘world music’ in this trip around the world in twelve ‘hours’.
Even though La Barca may prove to be one of the more accessible Köner albums, it perfectly fits in his complete works.

In understanding the nature of sound and creating new worlds from different sources, Thomas Köner is far beyond competition.

A note of local interest, for those in Holland mid-october:
On October, 14 Thomas Köner will perform on the opening night of the Impakt Festival in Utrecht, Holland.
According to the festival notes, he will not be performing works from La Barca, but will present “The Futurist Manifest“, an “opera digitale”:
“(Thomas Köner) has composed a opera digitale for Impakt, which will be performed with a prepared piano, a digital “noise orchestra” and a singer. The sonic sediments of one hundred years of industrialisation and acceleration will be condensed in a multidimensional audiovisual space, where image and sound interact as if “time and space died yesterday”.”


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. PvC

    Hi Jeremy.
    I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to any of the questions you ask. Maybe it’s best to try and contact Thomas or his management via his website?
    Indeed there seems to be a lot of unreleased work. I managed to grab some of the videos from his website but would love to see a DVD release (pref. with surround sound of course).
    Personally I was not very impressed by the Futurist Manifest performance in Utrecht. It was a bit too ‘arty’ for my taste (if I may say so); I could not keep my interest for very long.

    Well – hope you’ll find answers to your question soon. If you do, please let me/us know.

  2. Jeremy

    I’ve loved Koner from the beginning and actually own copies of all his early releases with the exception of Nunatak Gongamur. I agree with you that La Barca is gorgeous (though my recent inattention has made it one of the only physical releases by Koner I don’t actually own! — I’m picking up the LP version at a local store today (their very last copy)).

    Something you said in passing has really piqued my interest.

    As a composer as well as a studio musician, I was quite intrigued by your mention of The Furturist Manifest. Has Koner mentioned any plans to release a recording of this piece for singer, prepared piano and digital sounds? How was the work received? Did anyone record the performance?

    Also: The list of his soundtracks for silent films is staggering. Have you heard anything about any of these being released as standalone recordings or as part of any DVD/Blu Ray release of these films?