HANS TAMMEN

Endangered Guitar
NurNichtNur 198 07 15

Hans Tammen could assay the lead role if there was ever a guitar version of Silence of the Lambs or American Psycho. He doesn't devour his stringed instruments, but he certainly tortures them in every way possible, attaching a wide variety of electronic items to their bodies and "preparing" his "victims" with all sort of additional implements.

The end product, as this 47 minute CD proves, is alternately mesmerizing and repelling, sort of like watching open-heart surgery. You want to see what happens, but you're really not that comfortable reveling in others suffering.

A former rocker, German-born, New York-based Tammen turned into a string tormenter sometime in the 1980s in order to pull — sometimes literally — new sounds from the world's most popular instrument. Since that time he's collaborated with many other European and American sound scientists, including bassists Dominic Duval and Ulrich Phillipp, "hyperpianist" Denman Maroney and multi-reedist Joachim Zoepf, as well as creating site-specific performances and collaborative efforts involving dance and lights.

As an aside, on four tracks on the BOWED+POPPED anthology (NurNichtNur 199 02 23), the guitarist spends more than 22 minutes investigating what sounds can be produced from bowed Styrofoam. It's an exercise that in volume and intensity truthfully doesn't sound that much different from some of his guitar work here.

Five major sections make up ENDANGERED GUITAR, with the further subdivisions within creating a total of 20 tracks. Ranging from 17 seconds to more than four and one-half minutes, the titles generally describe what happens on each one.

Thus "The art of the Ebow" uses an e-bow on the guitar strings, and ends up sounding like a tape recorder run at too accelerated a speed, while "Taking measures" highlights what tones can be produced when a tape measure is run along the guitar's strings. "Propeller" produces what appear to be piano chords or the resonance of a mallet on a vibraharp key by using a miniature plastic, elastic fan, "Vier Freunde" is an exercise in feedback, while "Schwere last" resembles what would happen if an electric guitar mated with a ray gun. To complete the improvisational circle, the first and final track mirror one another, having captured what sounds like a ticking clock followed by brief screeching guitar feedback.

There's no disputing the unique sounds Tammen can bring to his imperiled instrument. But like presence in an operating theatre, ENDANGERED GUITAR is best experienced in small doses.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Mit Uhr und Bogen... Siebentonmusik: 2. Das Becken schaukeln 3.Mit Blech und Schwefel 4. The art of the Ebow Zwölftonmusik: 5. Kratzbürstig 6. Stone age 7. Störe meine Ebows nicht Vier Flächen : 8. Propeller 9. Taking measures 10. Set the balls rolling 11. Go with the tide 12. Mit uhr und... Machine code: 13. Störungen 14. Give him the Gate 15. Stuttering Backwards Ohrenbetäubend: 16.Vier Freunde 17. Das Tor zur Höhe 18. Zwei Reaktionen 19. Schwere last 20. Mit uhr...

Personnel: Hans Tammen (electric/acoustic 7-string guitar, headless guitar, 12-string guitar all prepared with small stones, cymbals, tin plates, brushes, metal bars, drumsticks, chopsticks, metal balls, a watch, electric fans, cigarette lighters, measuring tape, E bows, violin bow, bass bow)