September 1, 2003
OREN AMBARCHI/JOHAN BERTHLING
My Days are Darker than your nights
Hapna H 10
Perhaps the key to really satisfying improvised electro-acoustic performances is related to the number of players present. At least the group grope that populates the final track on the Charhizma CD here provides more than enough tones and textures to differentiate — and elevate — it above the other selections.
Self-aggrandizement plays very little part of this music, which thrives on nicknames — dieb13 and eRikm here — and a conception of the program as undivided tonality. For instance the six tracks were recorded in Berlin, Granz, Austria and Vienna, but run together as if they were one performance.
Yet, with everyone on board — Austrians Christof Kurzmann on clarinet and G3 and Werner Dafeldecker on bass and electronics plus American Kevin Drumm on guitar and synthesizer and Frenchman Jerome Noetinger on electroacoustic devices, not to mention eRikm on electronics and Dieb13 on turntables — the soundfield suddenly becomes that much more expansive. Rather than the intermittent pulses and drones that characterize much of the disc, there are drum beat intimations, the sound of a jet taking off, the ricochet of a door stopper, something that could be triggered feedback, a fire drill siren, scraping noises, static rustle and an approximation of what seems to be a robot executing trampoline jumps.
Trying to ascribe individual sounds to individual instruments would be pointless. And it helps to note that the gang is made up of tricksters too. Although the final piece is timed at 5:10, after seven minutes of silence when it supposedly finishes, sounds suddenly radiate again for another four minutes or so, featuring bass chord echoes, pulsating sine waves, pedal coloration, whistles, horse whinnies and signals from outer space.
Also absorbing is the penultimate track, which features Noetingers only other appearance on the CD. An old hand in trio situations like this — he also recorded an exceptional disc with pianist Sophie Agnel and Lionel Marchetti on tapes and electronics — he, Kurzmann and Dafeldecker manage to create something that at times suggests that all the technology, keyboards and mechanics are underwater, as bubbling squeaks and whistles percolate to the surface. Other sonic adventures include intermittent squeals, what could be a real, live motor running and bird-like electronic chirps that resemble the sounds of a flock of wild fowl attacking the interface. Underneath all this is the minute aural suspicion that diminutive ants are somehow manipulating microscopic sidewalk drills.
Centrepiece of the disc, though less satisfying than some other pieces, is the abrasive Berlin1 — almost 21 minutes of an assembly line of scraping metal — courtesy of the entire crew minus Noetinger. Although EuroImprov followers may be hard pressed to connect these sounds to Dafeldeckers work with Polwechsel, which makes a virtue of near silence, he had a history of playing drone-based improv with others. Perhaps too its his bass — or Drumms guitar — which delineates the occasional chord heard. Among the wavering and repetitious drones and buzzes are pulses that, probably arising from the G3 or synthesizer could emanate from vibes, percussion, bells, maracas, or even a primates throat. Where the clarinet tones are supposed to appear is anyones guess, though.
Before the high-pitched track dissolves from a variegated, wavering drone that seem to take up all available audio space into static, another dynamic can be heard. Its a recurrent chord pattern that, like a similar motif in the work of British experimental band AMM, creates a base on which other tones are displayed.
AMM seems to figure into the concept of the other CD, which features one slightly more than 30-minute improvisation by Australian guitarist Oren Ambarchi and Swede Johan Berthling playing harmonium. Ambarchi, who has interacted with AMMs guitarist Keith Rowe, would seem to be perfectly at home in this setting. But the setting is a bit unusual for Berthling, an exceptional Swedish bassist, who usually works in jazz/improv with countrymen like pianist Sten Sandell and drummer Raymond Strid. In fact much of this CD can be tough sledding for many listeners. Its definite that the piece would wear out its welcome if it went on any longer.
Most of the time it seems as if the two performers are extending variations on a single, dense, droning tone, which swells like a mammoth cathedral organ ejaculation. Pulsations billow up from elsewhere after a while, but the closest approximation to the sound would be bagpipe timbres. The idea — as with some of AMMs discs — is to so overload the organ of Corti that you begin to hear variations within the viscous noise. Somehow, in fact, here a third timbre appears, though you cant really be sure to which instrument it can be ascribed. Finally, in the last few minutes, the hint of guitar fuzztone surfaces and the solid aural mass seems to break up slightly, with the harmonium defining the bottom and static whirring on top. Just before the fade as well, the guitar line parses itself down to slightly resemble Pete Townshends intro to Baba ORiley.
Improvisation always includes the danger of unevenness, and both these CDs exhibit that, as well as portions of great creativity. Those interested in change should probe these discs, but be prepared to take the less-than-stellar with the stimulating.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: DKDMDN: 1. Berlin* 1 2. Graz 2# 3. Wien# 1 4. Berlin 2+ 5. Berlin 3+#
Personnel: DKDMDN: Christof Kurzmann (clarinet and G3); Kevin Drumm (guitar and synthesizer [except track 4]); Werner Dafeldecker (bass and electronics); eRikm (electronics*); Dieb13 (turntables#); Jerome Noetinger (electroacoustic devices+)
Track listing: Days: 1. My days are darker than your nights
Personnel: Days: Oren Ambarchi (guitar); Johan Berthling (harmonium)