August 13, 2001
WOLFGANG FUCHS/THOMAS LEHN/FABRIZIO SPERA
Wood, metal, skin and circuitry are the components that make up Lingua. Yet what this trio of two German and one Italian is able to produce with these simple elements is convincing because the veteran improvisers play the instruments rather than letting them play them.
That might seem like a truism. But despite all the wiring involved from drummer Fabrizio Spera's electronics and Thomas Lehn's analog synthesizer, and unlike many other so-called electronica combos, you're still conscious of the human conception that goes into creating the sound.
Perhaps it's because each man is a veteran of both acoustic and electronic-based improvisation. Cologne-based Thomas Lehn, for instance, began as a pianist and even now prefers to use the keyboard-based analog synthesizer because of its direct action and speedy reaction. Besides this trio, he's also a regular member of Konk-Pak with British percussionist Roger Turner, and often performs with American drummer Gerry Hemingway.
A sound purist in this context, Berlin-based saxophonist and clarinetist Wolfgang Fuchs has explored the utmost extremes of acoustic woodwind tones with his trio Holz für Europa, and interacts with electronics in the King Übü Orchestrü and other larger and smaller groups.
Discovery of the date is Spera, a Rome-based drummer and electronics manipulator, who has been working with Lehn and Fuchs since 1997 in larger groupings as well as this trio. Concentrating on music for theatre and radio productions as well as improvisational ensembles, he has also performed with the likes of trombonist Sebi Tramontana and violinist Jon Rose.
Whether by accident or design, the trio member's most accomplished work seems to come the more time they devote to the performance. On track 7, for instance, the longest at a little more than seven minutes, Fuchs' piercing sopranino slurs are mixmastered into the batter resulting from Spera's clattering cymbals and snare plus the pinball game that seems to be taking place in Lehn's machine.
What sound like short wave signals from Lehn encourage Fuchs to come out of the nether regions for a glissando on track 8. Then on track 9, a series of long legato notes from the reedist meets a staccato burst echoing from the synthesizer. All the while different parts of the drummer's kit come into play, building in intensity as he amplifies first one than other musician's lead. There's even a point on track 10 where protracted bird-like clarinet timbres get involved in an offside duet with what sound like mechanical trombone tones produced by the synth.
Outlandish sounds get burlesqued on track 13. Electronic noises that appear to be ray guns discharging and tsetse flies digging in the sand, are soon challenged by Fuchs breathing out repeated tones from the saxophone's tree top high aviary. Then the synth lets out a Bronx cheer, which speedily brings the proceedings to a halt.
Straining the organ of Corti shouldn't be part of the listening experience though. Missteps on the CD occur when the proceedings become complete inaudible. Recorded in concert where the audience could observe the performance, the musicians should have realized that that sort of silent interaction is lost in a completely aural experience.
Still those are merely minor irritants on a few tracks. The rest of LINGUA offers many pleasures to the open-eared listeners. You can get the disc by contacting www.oaksmus.de.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. 2:29 2. 5:47 3. 3:17 4. 2:47 5. 4:40 6. 2:06 7. 7:11 8. 3:55 9. 4:08 10. 3:37 11. 3:21 12. 4:52 13. 6:39 14. 1:36
Personnel: Wolfgang Fuchs (sopranino saxophone, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet); Thomas Lehn (analog synthesizer); Fabrizio Spera (drums, electronics)