Hans Tammen/Christoph Irmer

Creative Sources CS 060 CD

Ricardo Arias/Günter Müller/Hans Tammen
Intersecting A Cone With A Plane
Creative Sources CS 069 CD

Reconstituted and extended guitar pulses, unusual violin techniques, processed percussion and implements plus a balloon kit [!] figure in these two exercises in advanced improvisation. Connective thread is the singular styling of German-born, New York-based Ham Tammen, with his collection of mechanical devices attached to a so-called “endangered guitar” using interactive software of his own design to rework sounds in real time.

Distinctive examples of the electro-acoustic genre where free-form improvisation and the clatter of so-called noise intersect, these CDs confirm that arresting sonics can easily be heard slightly outside of mainstream sources.

Distinctively recorded at Manhattan’s Digital Media Arts Center – the guitarist’s home base – two years apart, Oxide is a duo session and Intersecting A Cone With A Plane, a trio outing.

Tammen’s partner on the first is German violinist Christoph Irmer, a member of the Canaries on the Pole string group, who has recorded with, among others, Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández. On the second, the guitarist’s associates are Münich-born Swiss-resident Günter Müller, a percussionist, electronic pioneer and member of Poire_Z, plus Bogotà, Colombia native Ricardo Arias. Intriguingly, Aria’s instrument of choice is actually a number of rubber balloons attached with a suitable structure, played by hand and with a set of accessories, including various kinds of sponges, pieces of Styrofoam and rubber bands.

Cone’s three tracks are of a piece, with Müller’s buzzing electronics providing the base upon which intermittent flanges, squeaks, ruffs and creaks predominate. With balloon scraping and friction a secondary leitmotif, chirpy rubs and timbral smacks announce themselves as distinctive tones, polyphonically intersecting with Tammen’s knob-twisting distortion and blasts of cylindrical flanges, as well as Müller’s motorized thumps and ratchets.

Intermittent electronic drones, inflating latex hisses and focused string slaps distinguish the tinctures of “The Congruence of Triangles”, the more-than-22 minute final track. Slipping in-and-out of aural focus, the fluttering individual piezo pick-up vibrations partially define the landscape. So do squeaking and dipping rubber resonation and triggered percussive whooshes. As the mechanized sound becomes more opaque, these thick tones reach a climax of looped thunder-like explosions. With the cylindrical motorized pulses lessening, foot falls, scraped glass-like pings, triggered crackles and static stutter and warble until the pitches vanish.

More instrumentally improvisational, the six tracks on the duo CD pinpoint unique techniques from Tammen and Irmer. These take many forms from spectacular agitato showcases that include quadruple fiddle stops and flying staccato lines, to stop-and-start guitar string reverb and yowling slurred fingering at near-warp speed. Many times Irmer’s extended sul ponticello timbres play hide and seek with descending and ascending metallic string snaps from Tammen.

The guitarist contributes simple strums that could come from a ukulele, Jimi Hendrix-like string flaying plus tones that sound as if they’re rending the instrument’s wood. Meanwhile dog-whistle shrieks, smooth glissandi and multiphonics demonstrating the fundamentals of Irmer’s four strings plus their extensions and constitute the violinist’s interludes. Unlike Cone, no ring modulator is present, but acoustically both men replicate electronic signals.

The defining track is the oddly-named “Hiatus”, where among contrapuntal interaction it seems as if one or both players is utilizing an additional “mouth instrument”. Irmer’s sul ponticello string buzzes and rasps alternate with zart theme variations as Tammen’s sequenced pulses and palm hammering eventually give way to sporadic string strums spiced with wiggling electronic pulses.

With the stimulation accessible from these CDs as much in the journeys as the destinations, either provides a profound look into the inner working of advanced and textural electro-acoustic improvisations.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Oxide: 1. Desultory 2. Breach 3. Hiatus 4. Fracture 5. Disobey 6. Rare Metal

Personnel: Oxide: Christoph Irmer (violin) and Hans Tammen (endangered guitar)

Track Listing: Intersecting: 1. A Spherical Triangle 2. A Lune 3. The Congruence of Triangles

Personnel: Intersecting: Hans Tammen (endangered guitar); Günter Müller (selected percussion, mini-discs, ipods, electronics and processing) and Ricardo Arias (bass balloon kit)