JOHN JASNOCH/HELMUT LEMKE

The long & the short of it
editions el C. elc 12017

The casual listener looking at the list of instruments that John Jasnoch brings to this session might wonder if he's in for an Old Timey music recreation like the soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou". On this CD though, nothing could be farther from the minds of British string bender Jasnoch and German sound artist Helmut Lemke Recorded live at four different venues in the United Kingdom, it's part of that sub genre of improvisation whose ties to the African American heritage of jazz are tenuous at best. Initially interested in bluegrass and country music, Jasnoch only began playing so-called free jazz-rock in 1979 when he moved to Sheffield. Since then his most common duo partner has been Martin Archer, a free jazz saxophonist turned electroacoustic composer and sound sampler. Jasnoch plays solo, gives workshops, and has participated in Derek Bailey's Company Week.

An academic who has lectured at many post secondary institutions, Lemke's installations — which mostly deal with found sounds and the creation of new resonance and timbres — have been presented throughout Asia, Continental Europe and the U.K.

There's also no worry about truth in packaging for this disc — one track is about six minutes long, the other two over 20 — hence the title.

Like improv godfathers AMM, both men seem to believe that the music exists before they commence playing and continues after they finish. At least there's no definite beginning and end to the tracks here. Aimlessness and ennui are the dangers implicit in following the endless music edict and this session is sometimes guilty of both.

"Rosedale/Flamborough" suffers less than the other tunes since the endproduct, melded together from improvisations recorded nearly a year apart, merely appears to be an aural record of what would happen if a lone banjo picker was recorded while caught in a raging rainstorm.

The other tracks are more problematic. "Sheffield", for instance, begins with what appears to be a reverberating doorstopper, which is slowly succeeded by background saxophone cries, taped Teutonic voices and what could be grasshopper chirps. The whole time Jasnoch is quietly lobbing one simple guitar riff after another. When he and Lemke finally connect and start what is probably a saxophone-guitar duet, the picking tempo increases exponentially. With the background oscillating between what's probably the tape of a moon launching and the squeaks and reverberations of a taunt string, the performance grows in intensity, only to end with what appears to be the slow detuning of a lap steel guitar.

If tapes, processing and found sounds are to be accepted parts of equations like this, than editing out the musical excesses, either in real time or afterwards will create a more absorbing commodity.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Leeds 2. Rosedale/Flamborough 3. Sheffield

Personnel: John Jasnoch (electric guitar, acoustic 12 string guitar, lap steel guitar, mandolin, tenor banjo); Helmut Lemke (strings, tapes, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, voice)