November 12, 2001
Pay it loud!
Apocryphal stories circulate about one or another famous avant garde musician of the 1960s who is purported to have gone out for dinner with a critic while another freedom musician was still performing in concert. He told his companion that "it's more interesting to play this music than to listen to it."
Attribution is hard to come by, of course, but you can easily see a similar yarn growing up around electro-acoustics, an even less listener-friendly genre. Coupled with shows that often end up resembling laboratory research at a computer peripherals factory, the musicians' immobility and sometimes ear-straining presentations make CD concentration a dicey proposition at best.
That's the challenge faced by listeners to the discs by this Berlin-based improvising trio, which was forced to change its name between its first and second disc when a record label turned out to already be named Perlon. Although PERIPERIQUE was recorded in a Paris club and PLAY IT LOUD in a Berlin studio, there's no discernable audio difference, except the former is about 15 minutes shorter than the later.
Another idiosyncrasy that seems to come with electro-acoustic territory is the need to play both of these sessions at a level about 25% louder than usual. That way the musicians' sonic creations won't vanish into an electronic sludge. This also provides an insight into how you can rank these discs: when the improvisations rise enough out of the sonic midst to command attention, lift off has been attained; if repetitive noodling characterizes the sound field, than distraction results.
In this way you can see that both discs are equally successful or unsuccessful. For because of the inordinate length of most of the tracks, frequent arid sections appear. Peculiarly "Peripherique II" at barely 13 minutes is no more or less immune to this flaw than the longer "Terlenka" on 01.
Thus some of the sounds literally appear to be what results when the connections in a tape recorder are reversed and a consistent buzz overcomes what else has been recorded there. Obviously — we hope — this didn't happen, but often the sound being created by drummer Burkhard Beins, best known for his collaboration with British guitarist John Bisset, and guitarist Jörg Maria Zeger, who mainly performs solo concerts, is masked by the electronics of group mainman and label head Ignaz Schick.
Even deep listening to "Peripherique I" would hear what sounds at various times like a conveyer belt moving, the crackles and screech of electricity, an electric band saw being operated and a freight train passing at a level crossing, before echoing guitar overtones assert themselves. Perhaps it's that sympathetic resonance that serves as the track's centrepiece, for shortly afterwards what appears to be a brace of pealing bells makes their appearance, reverberating in a similar fashion. Finally after a barren collection of silences, dense sonics get louder and more intense until a corrosive buzz
controls the foreground before fading.
Often sounding perversely as if the conceptions of AMM and Aerosmith were grafted together, "Terlenka", recorded a year earlier, operates in a similar soundscape. Beins' percussion and Zeger's guitars in their natural states are more prominent in the mix, but the low-fi electronics mean that comparable monotonous quietude drags down several sections.
Designed, intentionally or not, as homage to AMM, the framing of this massive piece finds a female voice from a radio appear near the beginning and almost at its completion. However, heavy metal is first suggested by the drumming, which appears to be taking place as much on the steel sides of the kit as on the cymbals. Later, a metallic pulse grinds down the cymbals seemingly getting heavier and harder until it's answered by bass drum rumbles and intense electronic static. Cycling around until it nearly becomes earsplitting thunderclaps, you begin to sense that instrumental samples are helping to build this high-pitched, coagulated wall of sound.
Nevertheless, repetition sets in at that point. Cooing, lyric cuckoo sounds followed by silences, punctuated by wah-wah electronic whirring and what could be a bathtub emptying, presage strokes that could be combed from guitar strings and matched with coins set loose on drum heads. Heartbeat-like electric pulses predominate until tiny beeps flatline the music to silence.
No one wants the return of the three minute 78, but perhaps Perlonex's creations would be better formed if more self-editing was done. There's much that's interesting here, especially if you live and breathe electro-acoustics. But some of the musically parched sections and sound duplication could send others out for dinner with that apocryphal avant gardist or at least in search of a cold drink.
— Ken Waxman
Loud: Track Listing: 1. Terlenka 2. Argon
Loud: Personnel: Ignaz Schick (electronics); Jörg Maria Zeger (guitars); Burkhard Beins (percussion)
Peripherique: Track Listing: 1. Peripherique I 2. Peripherique II
Peripherique: Personnel: Ignaz Schick (live electronics); Jörg Maria Zeger (guitars); Burkhard Beins (percussion)