efzeg

grain
Durian 012-2 CD

Remove any musical preconceptions from your mind when you see that efzeg is made up of two guitarists, a saxophonist and a turntablist. For the Vienna-based quartet's music might be dubbed post Homo sapiens. It creates in that sonic gray areas where electronic impulses meet miniscule tone flow.

More challenging than the most outlandish Free Jazz explosion, it's essentially a very frosty sound, seemingly as dependent on the properties of machines and New music theories as acoustic improvisations. The band even asserts that "efzeg does not guarantee that its music will be a source of 'intense pleasure' to listeners. That is not what we are here for ­ and neither is the audience. For intensity can only be experienced by the subject him/herself: nothing can be gained without dedicating oneself to a possible source of irritation."

Pretty strong stuff. To be truthful, often during the almost 74 minutes of this disc the four musicians get their collective wish: the outcome is pretty irritating. Efzeg appears to have a Kraftwerkian fascination with machine made sounds to the extent that the few saxophone peeps or guitar strums which appears in this bleak aural landscape sound as out of place as a blooming flower on the desert floor. Moreover, the main point of demarcation between tracks seems merely to be length. Even when recognizable string sounds arrive, they appear to last no longer than a few seconds, while the reedist merely spews out little saliva drools of notes.

More prominent are the non-acoustic overtones. On the quiet side, these can range from what seems to be the flutter and buzz of electric motors, reed tongue kissing, sine wave approximations, chain clanks and nutcrackers being manipulated. Mixed among these are passages that depend on repeated buzzes and speaker static, feedback hums, plus sounds that resemble accelerating freight trains, ICBM rockers being launched and menacing, accelerating metal scrapes and variegated noise.

Close concentration does has its rewards, especially, when like someone peering at the stars with the Hubbell telescope, you can note when one motif appears and then reappears again later on.

Efzeg members have elaborated historical and philosophical considerations behind their sound. Dieb13, for instance, is really Dieter Kovacic, a self-described "conscientious copyright-objector" who has spent more than a decade turning cassette players, vinyl, CDs and hard drives into instruments. Saxophonist Boris Hauf studied at conservatories in London and Vienna and plays with other elctroacoustic bands.

As for the guitarists, German-born Martin Siewert has worked with other electric oriented musicians such as Wayne Horvitz, Werner Dafeldecker and Taku Sugimoto, and besides remixes and sound installations, concentrates on deconstructing the electric guitar and expanding its sonic possibilities.

Probably the best-known of the four, guitarist Burkhard Stangl, not only has an associated with minimalist jazz/New Music ensembles Polwechsel and TonArt, but also worked with other sound seekers like John Butcher, Jim O'Rourke, Sugimoto and Dafeldecker.

That said GRAIN might offer more theory than practice. Fifty years on, electroacoustic experiments are nothing unusual, in jazz, New music or what seminal improvisers like AMM produce. But many other sessions seem to have more of a focus, blueprint and flow. Maybe the band will produce sessions better suited to ear concentration next time out. But despite efzeg's manifesto, on this one there's more irritation than intensity on show.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. 30:46 2. 08:55 3. 23:27

Personnel: Boris Hauf (saxophones); Martin Siewert (guitar, lap steel guitar, electronics); Burkhard Stangl (guitar, devices); Dieb13 (turntables)