Suddenly, on the afternoon of Thursday 22nd July 2021, Peter Rehberg left us all.
Having spent the intervening days trying to comprehend his sudden departure at only 53, the scale of loss only seems to be expanding. We cannot imagine how his family and friends even begin to get their heads around this news.
As a visionary owner of both Mego and subsequently, Edition Mego record labels (encompassing Spectrum Spools, Ideologic Organ, Old News, Sensate Focus, Recollection GRM and Portraits GRM), Peter Rehberg’s impact on modern music is already seared in the history books. As a stunning musician in his own right, his wildly focussed series of biting electronic albums now tragically rendered completed.
For me, as someone lucky to have lived through that initial wave of Mego wildness that blossomed in the mid 90’s, the impact was staggering. Releases like the fractalized pop abstraction of Fennesz’s Plays, Farmers Manual’s code mangled No Back Up and the CD gymnastics and speaker wobbling of Hecker’s IT ISO161975 all still beam from the future, a full quarter century later. It would be fully acceptable to expect a dip in form since, but the truth is we’ve been treated to some of the best music, by some of the planets most interesting musical innovators ever since.
Back in the early days, I was at the beginning a career as a graphic designer, and Tina Frank’s visual aesthetic for the label perfectly helped frame this new frontier of strangeness. It felt rare at the time, but their website displayed each sleeve as huge, good quality jpegs, meaning all my desktop pictures for quite a few years were exclusively Mego derived eye candy.
A friend around this time asked me ‘how do you find all this stuff?’ and I replied that you find what you like, then look at what else the label is releasing, it’s as easy as that. It’s true, Editions Mego, as it’s called today, made it simple to plug in and be amazed, the list of releases growing into a vast fizzing barometer of sound and a shelf of oddly sized sleeves.
Rehberg, initially was brought to help, but quickly became the main architect of the label, and could easily have been some background figure, but the scale of his own musical output, under the name Pita, burns in tandem with his label. Whilst he worked collaboratively on jaw dropping projects like Fenn O’Berg (alongside Christian Fennesz and Jim O’Rourke), KTL (with Stephen O’Malley), R/S (with Markus Schmickler) and others, his solo work is also nothing short of astounding.
Central to his own discography are the series of albums of disorientating titled Get Out, Get Down, Get Off, Get In and Get On. Each of these albums feels like the most potent gatherings of diamonds accumulating on his hard drive at any given point.
We have mutated techno, vast ambient nebulas and often that wild, uniquely fertile space, somewhere between. Regularly the music seems to be heading in one direction only to be strangely consumed by searing pixilation, trapdoors, and sonic sandblasts, the next.
But the moment I heard the news Rehberg had gone, it was the third track on 2008’s Get Out that got played immediately. The almost sickly-sweet celestial loop of Ennio Morricone’s Come Maddalena suddenly splattered in corrosive waves of fizzing chaos. The music always feels like it’s being invaded by a violent untamed reflection of itself but never loses that underpinned sense of beauty and melody. The sound is a sublime contradiction of totally screwed up violence and achingly beautiful emotion compressed in the same moment.
During its majestic 11 minutes and 18 second arc, through teary eyes, I muttered to myself “fucking hell – we’ve lost a really good one today”.
Whilst is hard to see any form of positivity in his tragic and premature passing, it’s often the persons legacy that’s seen as something to position them in the bigger picture – the universe. In Rehberg’s case, he’s left a monolith that’s completely incrusted with gems. His art now stands separate from the artist, still bursting with life and ideas, and they will continue to sparkle for a very long time to come…
What a star.
Peter Rehberg (29 June 1968 – 22 July 2021)
Visit Editions Mego
(portrait of Pita from Editions Mego bandcamp)