Kai Fagaschinski & Bernhard Gál

Going Round in Serpentines
Charhizma Records 034

Los Glissandinos
Stand Clear
Creative Sources 029

Sound-shaper rather than clarinet player, Berlin-based Kai Fagaschinski is a self-directed musician whose improvisations take the solipsistic timbre layering developed by saxophone experimenters like Evan Parker and John Butcher and apply it to the more traditional textures of a clarinet.

Fagaschinski, whose microtonal clustering and breath control resembles electronic tones in his solo work and collaborations with players such as pianist Andrea Neumann and guitarist Michael Renkel, hooks up with actual electronic manipulators on these discs. Sound Clear is a duet between the reed man and Viennese laptopist Klaus Filip who organizes and manipulates sine waves. Created in Berlin about six months earlier, Going Round in Serpentines matches Fagaschinski’s clarinet with the computer of Bernhard Gál, who usually creates sound installations and composes for New music ensembles.

Familiar with horns’ capabilities, Filip has worked with Butcher, trombonist Radu Malfatti and saxophonist/electronicist Boris Hauf in the past. On this CD, he operates in a spectrum that modulates from near-inaudible pulses to timbres that sound like 1,000 mice squeaks amplified to the threshold of aural distress. Mostly though, though he burbles simple wave forms resembling tongue-panting or sandpaper rasps, simultaneously outputting intermittent mechanized drones.

Capable of creating harsh split tones that would result if his reed was forced through a blender, Fagaschinski negates the harmonic qualities of his instrument here. Instead, he concentrates on horizontal tones and hisses that suggest timbres are leaking from his bell. Triggered oscillations from the laptopist extend many individual reed pitches, although Fagaschinski also gets mileage from humming vibrations generated from internal pressure on clarinet wood.

Tongue flaps leading to fortissimo falsetto lines characterize his side of the improvisation created on “History of the Animals”, the CD’s extended – nearly 26 minutes – middle track. Meanwhile Filip’s sine waves bounce from scratching rumbles to altissimo sound loops. During the course of this broken octave duet, the keyboardist’s zart, moderato tones become more wispy and whispery, with the final minute given over to intensely vibrated modulations. The other tracks present variation on this theme.

On the other hand, while Gál and Fagaschinski’s meeting contains as many near-silent passages and overly loud drones as the other, but, especially on the nearly 32 minute “Going”, it’s characterized by samples added to the mix. As the clarinetist vibrates pure air through his body tube or distills microtonal tongue flutters to echoing clusters, an undercurrent of canned shopping centre music, infant whines or a loop of a youngish woman declaring “really so uh like it’s this thing” sequentially comment on Fagaschinski’s soloing.

Subsequently, as the crackling echoes multiply and coalesce into wave forms that suggest the plink of a piano or organ stops, the reedist’s reductionist tongue fluttering works up to shrills as if he’s producing the aural afterimage of a ringing bell. Finally, the almost-endless cadenza of squeaks from Fagaschinski is surmounted by the sampled chirps of real birds, as triggered band saw-like sequences from Gál make up the postlude, nearly severing the clarinet pulse.

Both of Going Round in Serpentines’ other tracks continue to feed sequences of other tones as backup and commentary on Fagaschinski’s singular, barely-there clarinet lines. Murky and fleeting, they can suggest a pool cue hitting the ball or water running in a brook. Often the reedist’s response is to widen and pitch-slide his obbligato to tongue slaps and puffed-out, tunnel-like echoes.

Interesting glimpses into European microtonal clustering, these sorts of improvisations are best appreciated without preconceptions about instrumental sounds.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Stand: 1. The Long Ride of Sancho Panza 2. History of the Animals 3. Four Seasons

Personnel: Stand: Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet); Klaus Filip (sine waves)

Track Listing: Going: 1. Going 2. Round 3.In Serpentines

Personnel: Going: Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet); Bernhard Gál (computer)