momentan def.
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Creating memorable improvisations without instruments is harder than it seems.

Just because a variety of sonics, timbres and textures are easily available to anyone with an Apple G3, mini-discs, other electronics and an ipod doesn’t means that everything can be fixed or remixed in the machine. The same sort of compositional forethought and concern with dynamics and techniques has to go into creation.

That’s why MOMENTAN DEF. is only partially satisfying. When the three Swiss-based reductionists interact on the live performances captured on the first track, some of the spaciousness and timelessness associated with microtonalists like AMM is apparent. But when the nearly 25-minute track is remixed by each individually, the experience and musical sophistication of one outshines the others.

“Momentan live” was recorded live at a Zürich concert in a room with 40-foot ceilings, located under an aqueduct and with trains passing overhead every 15 minutes. Despite this, the spacious resonance created by the three lower-case electroacoustians seems not to be affected by physical presence at all. In fact, except for what could be the intermitted drip of vapor, the output references tones that more resemble human snores and cricket chirps than anything wet or locomotive. Dense and almost impermeable, the crackling static is only sporadically pierced. These distortions could be from the effects pedal of Tomas Korber’s guitar or be shaped into percussive vibrations by the electronics and mini-discs, of Günter Müller, who did start his musical career as a drummer.

German born Müller, who has lived in Switzerland since 1966, was using a unique drum set with a mobile pick-up and microphone system as early as 1981 and working with electronics by the mid-1980s. Since then he has worked with experimenters as varied as the electronic duo Voice Crack and American microtonal duo nmperign.His experience with acoustic and electronic improv is what makes his remix stand above the others. Rife with the usual unattributed noises such aviary chirrups, insect rhythms and the unmistakable sound of footsteps, it ends with pulsating pressure points molding themselves into calliope-like repetitions.

Fifteen years younger, the Hamburg-born, Zürich-raised Steinbrüchel has won awards for electronic compositions and works on a variety of collaboration projects. Steinbrüchel, who uses only one name, creates a remix that involves a stentorian single tone gradually increasing in droning volume and taking over the aural space carved out by mechanized motor turns and dripping water.

Moment’s youngest participant, Korber, 24, studies psychology and computer science at the University of Zurich and was the founding member of a local experimental rock band. You can hear that in his remix. Except for a late arriving, pseudo dance beat, most of the sounds arise from mini-discs and electronics and are mixed with static oscillations and buzzes. There are some sprightly sections, but the overall effect is too diffuse to make a lasting impression.

With minimal instrumental imput the reductionist three have created a memorable title track. But when it comes to recasting the sounds, only sonic maturity adds anything more.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Momentan live - 17.11.02-bogen13, zürich 2. def. rmx - korber 3. def. rmx - steinbrüchel 4. def. rmx - müller

Personnel: Tomas Korber (guitar, mds, electronics); Günter Müller (mds, ipod, electronics); Steinbrüchel (G3)