May 24, 2001
Durian 099 CD
DAFELDECKER, FUSSENGER, KOVACIC
Durian 011-2 CD
Why have Teutonic musicians become so interested in tone and textures in recent years? Certainly recasting tiny sounds produced by acoustic instruments so that they resemble musique concrète is not confined to both parties of the Anschluss. Still, some of its most prominent practitioners now include Germans such as trumpeter Brigit Ulher and bassist Ulher Jürgen Morgenstern, as well as Austrians like alto saxophonist Boris Hauf and the three musicians represented on these contemplative CDs.
Is this a reaction against the clichés of Teutonic macho portrayed by saxophonists such as Peter Brötzmann and Hans Koller? Is it a rapprochement with so-called conservatory oriented "serious" music? Or is it a combination of the two coupled with a search for self-expression? There are no definite answers, but be prepared to turn up your stereo system's volume to catch all the nuances here.
Certainly the background of the men suggest some of the answers. Bassist Werner Dafeldecker is conservatory trained, and has written for ensembles that straddle both sides of the minimalist written/improv divide such as Klangforum Wien, Polwechsel, and TonArt Ensemble. He has also worked with electro-technicians like Wayne Horvitz and Jim O'Rourke. Bassist Uli Fussenegger was a specialist in baroque music before turning to more contemporary fare. He's also principal bass player and a project developer for Klangforum Wien. Dieter Kovacic, who describes himself as "a conscientious copyright-objector" has spent more than a decade transforming cassette players, LPs, CDs and computer hard dives into instruments.
While the sounds on these discs can sometimes be perceived as otherworldly and mesmerizing, often the listener finds himself in the position of a color commentator at a golf game, noting minute changes as they occur. On the first CD, for instance, you'll hear both bassists plucking in unison at one point, and then what is probably some quick finger manipulation. Other times you almost feel the bows being pulled across the strings, the strain of peg movements on elongated strings as well as repeated body blows on the wood. Creating the impression of a freight train passing with repeated arco slides, and tossing stratospheric high notes into the mix does confirm the bassists' desire to avoid New Age piety, though. Listen to this CD as a symphony of 1,000 tiny gestures.
Moving into the electronic realm, PRINTER completes the recital with remixes by each trio member of the almost 29 minute lead off title track. More eerie than the first outing, the sounds of fingers quickly coming in contact with glass and an intermittent turntable buzz add to string solos and electronic bleeps. The commentator role reasserts itself at one point when you muse that the small repeated melody must be coming from Fussenegger, since Dafeldecker is concentrating on glass. Another time what appears to be organ chords and later a deep bass drum tone are apparent. Are they turntable tricks or created by the congruence of different instruments?
Surprisingly, Dafeldecker's "Mokélé-mbembé" remix appears to be the most electronic, but it seems to end without resolution. Probably related to his turntablism, Kovacic's "Dun" has the brawniest rhythmic centre and even something club kids could hear as a beat. Meanwhile, Fussenegger's "Bastimentos' most resembles the sounds of cyclic tides drumming against the innards of a water purification plant.
Facing the onslaught of amplification that's often presented as important music, the Austrians have chosen to behave like pious, medieval hermits with these discs. They've isolated themselves from so many tones, rhythms and sounds, that at times you almost forget that instruments are involved.
This isn't easy listening and the nagging feeling exists that some changes in time and tempo may have produced a more entertaining product. But that's beside the point. This is how these men choose to present their music and it's up to us to take it —or leave it — on its own terms.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1.Vom stachel 2. Zur Schnecke 3. Ser klangkraft raum 4. Spannen 5. Für zwei ohren - zwischen 6. Der töne ränder 7. Dehnen 8. Zu unteren hör 9. Grenzen der leisigkeit ziehn 10. Wo das u düster ist 11. Wartend 12. Den bogen gehn
Personnel: Werner Dafeldecker (bass, C-board); Uli Fussenegger (bass)
Track Listing: 1. Printer 2. Mokélé-mbembé 3. Dun 4.Bastimentos
Personnel: Werner Dafeldecker (bass, glass); Uli Fussenegger (bass); Dieter Kovacic (turntables)