December 30, 2002
Boogie (dedicated to John Lee Hooker)
When it comes to electro-acoustic improvisations the scene in Vienna is starting to resemble New York for modern jazz in the 1950s and 1960s.
Just as exceptional hard boppers from all across the country clustered in Manhattan during that period, jamming and feeding off one another's ideas and combining and recombining into different groups, so the Austrian capital is providing the same forum in the more frantic 21st century. The difference is that experimenters are showing up in Vienna from around the world, not just a single country or continent, and the chief focus is mixing so-called conventional instruments with computer laptops and effects. But a similar cross-fertilization is taking place.
Consider Efzeg and SSSD for instance. Efzeg, a working group led by saxophonist and electronic expert Boris Hauf, who also has strong links with the new Chicago scene, not only features video artist Billy Roisz, who makes her own unique contributions to the program, but three other musicians who seem to have the same relation to this scene that folks like hard boppers trumpeter Donald Byrd, pianist Red Garland and guitarist Kenny Burrell did to theirs.
Martin Siewert who plays guitar, lapsteel guitar and electronics in Efzeg is not only a member of SSSD, but has recorded with other SSSD members in different formations, as well as in a group featuring computer maven Christian Fennesz, and SSSDers guitarist Burkhard Stangl bass guitarist Werner Dafeldecker. Stangl, another member of Efzeg and Dafeldecker are also in the Polwechsel group, filled out by cellist Michael Moser and saxophonist John Butcher and he has recorded a duo CD with guitarist Taku Sugimoto, who is also part of SSSD. Meanwhile the fifth Efzeger, turntabalist Dieb13 has also recorded with as a trio with Dafeldecker, who very well may be the Paul Chambers of the Viennese scene and bassist Uli Fussenegger.
Despite the musical and social cross fertilization, careful listeners wouldn't confuse the two Austrian bands any more than hard boppers of the 1950s could mix up Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Byrd and Gigi Gryce's Jazz Lab Quintet. Efzeg is deeply committed to mechanized and electronic sounds, while SSSD with three guitarists and a bassist has more of a softer folk-orientation, though there's nothing here that relates to the pop-folk of CSN&Y, another guitar-heavy band know by its members' initials.
SSSD did spend a standard rock-music-like two years on postproduction following the initial recording, but there's no pop overproduction audible either. Instead what you hear is a warm sound of intermittent guitar strums and beneath-the-bridge work, floating unhurried as if taking place underwater. As well as portentous silences, there are protracted, varied, machine-like reverberations. One buzz sounds as if an amplifier had been rewired; another drone combines with static and what appears to be the sound of sea lions to produce as ascending cathedral organ tone. Another suggests what could be the sound of a railway grade crossing, but it soon dissolves into the crackle of static.
Truncated flat-picking tones continue to suggest country and folk themes — could fiddle players and cowboy laments reach to Austria? By the final track though, when the sliding pressure of fingers on the guitar neck is discernible among the electronic drone and chords arising from each of the players, it seems as if the set could be a modernistic expansion of guitarist Bill Frisell's roots work.
What appear to be the sounds of tapes running backwards and rocket ship leaving earth's atmosphere is what first assaults you on Efzeg's BOOGIE. If HOME is folksy, then this disc is futuristic, but not a glimpse of bucolic destiny. There are buzzes and crackles and static, plus dog whistles, what could be the sound of fire bells ringing, and the whooshes and whizzes of a fighter pilot video game that gets louder and raspier as time goes on.
Sure there are guitar asides, but most of the acoustic sounds are submerged by turntables, devices and electronics. You hear intermittent white noise; what could be surf striking the seashore; the characteristic whir and clunk of an assembly line belt; short- wave static; and the frantic whoosh of bombs and gunfire. Plus could that aural creak arise (sic) from coffin lids opening?
Motorized drones, road construction drills and augmented radio waves characterize the last part of the session, which is given added emphasis by "Pram", a Roisz-directed QuickTime movie included with the disc and playable on PCs or Macs. A petri dish of wiggling black, white, gray and green colors that combine and recombine in different horizontal and vertical shapes as the music unrolls, it's the perfect complement to Efzeg's sounds.
BOOGIE is dedicated to bluesman John Lee Hooker who died around the time these tracks were recorded. A proud, tough man, Hooker probably would have dug the beat and understood the references to violence and mss production that seem to suffuse the disc. He probably would have even applauded the group's "screw you" attitude. But as good as this disc is, he would have insisted that a Hooker-created, Mississippi guitar boogie is nothing like a 21st century Austrian electronica boogie.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Home: 1. Home 2. Is 3.Where 4.My 5.Hard 6. Disc 7. Was
Personnel: Home: Martin Siewert (acoustic and electric guitars, electronics); Burkhard Stangl (acoustic and electric guitars); Taku Sugimoto (electric guitar, six-string bass guitar); Werner Dafeldecker (electric bass, double bass)
Track Listing: Boogie: 1. !numa 2. Ishki 3. Tor 4. Kapulanta 6. Pram [QuickTime movie for Macs and PCs]
Personnel: Boogie: Boris Hauf (soprano and alto saxophones, electronics); Martin Siewert (guitar, lapsteel guitar, electronics); Burkhard Stangl (guitars, devices); Dieb13 (turntables); Billy Roisz (video mixer, feedback-cam)