Planet X (with Ulrich Mertin)

Planet X (with Ulrich Mertin)

Paradise or menace?
Erdem Helvacioglu
Ulrich Mertin
Erdem Helvacioglu
Ulrich Mertin
Catalog Number: 

Berlin, Germany

Release Date: 
Oct 30, 2012
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
One Sheet: 

As any filmmaker knows, one of the most powerful aspects of music is its ability to construct emotional arcs and guide narrative by purely sonic means. Simultaneously ethereal and concrete, both spectral and textural, Planet X—the debut collaboration between guitarist Erdem Helvacioglu and violist Ulrich Mertin—tells the story of the appearance in the sky of a new heavenly body and follows one hapless explorer’s quest to discover what lies at its heart. Over the course of two years, Helvacioglu and Mertin composed and crafted this project, building up layers of jagged scratching sounds, plaintive melodies, percussive hits, and dark drones. The two artists grounded the sound of the album in strings but also employed unorthodox recording techniques, sophisticated processing algorithms, and multi-tracking to achieve a rich, complex, resonant texture. Throughout, the sound is unmistakably forward-looking, evocative of the project’s science fiction themes and redolent of the eerie, sometimes dark feel of sci-fi films like “Alien,” “Moon,” and “2001.”

Erdem Helvacioglu is one of the most renowned contemporary composers of his generation in Turkey. His music has been called “revolutionary,” “groundbreaking,” “luscious and unique,” and “completely arresting and disarmingly beautiful.” He has received awards from the Luigi Russolo, MUSICA NOVA, Insulae Electronicae Electroacoustic Music Competitions and has been commissioned by numerous organizations, from the 2006 World Soccer Championship to the Bang on a Can-All Stars. Helvacioglu is also actively involved in composing for films, multimedia productions, contemporary dance and theatre. He won the “Best Original Soundtrack” award in the 2006 Mostramundo Film Festival, and his film scores have been heard at Cannes, Sarajevo, Locarno, Seoul, Sao Paulo, and Sydney film festivals.

Ulrich Mertin’s musical activities cover a wide swath, from classical and contemporary to electronic and club music. He graduated from the esteemed “Hanns Eisler Academy for Music“ in Berlin, Germany, and has worked with composers like Pierre Boulez, György Kurtag, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Brian Ferneyhough and with groups like Ensemble Modern and musikFabrik. With his award-winning Hezarfen Ensemble (the leading contemporary music ensemble of Turkey) he has been influencing and enlarging the Turkish contemporary scene for several years.


"The opening track depicts the emergence of the planet itself: nudged into view by frictional string scrapes on both sides, propelled gently into view by the phased whoosh of electronic noise and walls of viola that melt into downward glissando. … [T]hus begins its gradual unhinging of familiar and 'earthly' textures – the typically graceful tones of guitar and viola are contorted and upturned. … The climax is colossal in scale – an obliteration of everything, swirling reverb, viola and static into a psychotic state of frenzy that moves eternally upward, upward … It’s a teasing record in some respects: shedding harsh light on cavernous open space and promptly blotting it out with thick waves of sound, and tracing viola/guitarviol melodies that hover on the fringes of the melodic while ultimately remaining in ungraspable, contorted shapes. That said, the album never toys with the protagonist’s chance of survival – collapsing into the chaotic void feels inevitable right from the off, foreshadowed by the glimmers of unrest in Planet X’s early moments that unfurl into the fiercely dissonant objects populating the soundscape later in the work." [FULL ARTICLE]
Jack Chuter

"Planet X comes into view slowly as the mission approaches. The sonic landscape is bleak at first, with rumblings and undercurrents of dissonance that become more overt as the ship lands and the crew become The Hunted. Low string sounds are manipulated to sound more like hunting trombones, and there is a distinct feeling of a chase with moments of repose amidst a landscape during the piece. What is so surprising about the program is how effective the sounds Helvacioglu and Mertin have chosen are. The approach, chase, torture, self reflection, and transformation are all captured wonderfully with the electronics, guitar, distortions, and drum processing."
Kraig Lamper

"Mertin's violin and viola scrape, tinkle and screech demonically like small, hungry creatures clawing their way through your walls. Helvacioglu's guitar sputters like malfunctioning machinery, murmuring and flickering like a mirage. … Planet X is a world where melody--and comfort--in any conventional sense is beside the point, but rhythm and vivid atmospheric textures dominate. Get the 'soundtrack' and hope someone makes a properly good movie to go with it."
Mark Keresman

"Planet X is an extraordinarily inventive and fascinating album of essentially electronic music, and I can recommend it highly on its musical content alone."
Lynne Rene Bayley

"I doubt you will hear anything quite like this anytime soon. ... Maybe destined to become an avant-garde classic." [FULL ARTICLE]
Steve Mecca