October 26, 2007
Ensemble 2 INQ
Nurnichtnur 106 02 07
ESP Disk 4031
A mid-Atlantic musician by definition, among his infrequent gigs, guitarist Han Tammen is involved with electro-acoustic experiments in his adopted hometown of New York, while keeping up with the improvised music scene in his native Germany.
Using extended playing techniques and electronic hook-ups attached to his table-top, so-called endangered guitar, variations of his style are highlighted on these CDs. Expedition is fiery combo Free Jazz, while Rhön leans more towards group Free Improv, with touches of contemporary notated sounds.
Recorded live, Expedition matches Tammen, with multi-reedist Alfred 23 Hatth, another expatriate German who now lives in Seoul Korea, and two Americans. Chris Dahlgren, now a Berlin resident who has worked with Anthony Braxton among others, is on bass and electronics, while Jay Rosen, an always-busy New York percussionist, is know for gigs with the bands of bassist Michael Bisio and multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee.
All 10 members of Ensemble 2 INQ, which has a long – if unrecorded history – are German. Several of the players – such as reedists Joachim Zoepf and Dirk Marwedel, bassists Ulrich Phillipp and Georg Wolf, plus percussionist Michael Vorfeld – have names with some overseas resonance. The others, flautist Margret Trescher, and percussionist Wolfgang Schliemann, electronics manipulator Ulrich Böttcher and vocalist Marianne Shuppe, are unknown qualities – at least outside of Germany.
Belying its numerical membership, INQ’s sound is minimalist and reductionist, somewhat like the Berlin-based King Übü Orchestrü. Containing burbles, whistles, slaps, mumbles, jiggles and quivers, there are no real featured soloists. Each of the numerical tracks reaches its descriptive zenith through a pointillist accumulation of electronically-triggered or acoustically expelled timbres.
That doesn’t mean however, that individual expression isn’t heard. It’s just that, unlike more aggressive music, not one exists in isolation from another. At points Tammen’s strummed reverb hangs in the air, as do hollow, wooden drum clip-clops and cymbal clangs, tough, broad puffs from Trescher’s quarter-tone flute, bowed double bass vibrations and rotating electronic drones. If either Zoepf’s or Marwedel’s wet reed tones, hisses or tongue slaps define some passages, then single word articulation in French and German, as a well as Bedlam style expostulations from Shuppe define others.
At nearly 17 minutes and almost 23 minutes respectively, tracks “II” and “V” give the tentet the broadest field on which to display extended swells and undulations. On the first piece contrapuntal percussion and wavering electronic pulses provide the shifting ostinato for the other players’ sound layering. Among the pitches exposed are irregular drum plops, flams and ruffs; double double bass sul tasto sweeps and spiccato motion; and connective tongue rolls and note swelling with body-tube vibrating from the reeds.
Even longer, and climatically the finale – followed by the nearly-six-minute coda of “VI”, “V” initially balances on reed split tones; tooting flute lines; continuous signals that could arise from Tammen’s, Böttcher’s or even Phillipp’s electronics; and most prominently the vocalist’s throat gargles and phrase-swallowed muttering.
Eventually this inchoate sequencing reaches a crescendo of sorts when Shuppe’s basso tongue rolls unite with Zoepf’s bass clarinet lines and sweeping double-stopping from Phillipp and Wolf. With the massed troops now galvanized for a purported, lower-pitched attack, string swells and echoing percussion thumps harden into battle-ready abrasions. Just when the point-of-no-return appears to have been reached, however, the track dissipates into growling electronic drones and reed gurgles plus double and tripe drum paradiddles. A conclusive reed squawk confirms the finale.
More-in-your-face than Rhön’s evolutionary reductionism, the 10 tracks on Expedition easily reference passionate 1960s Energy Music. If the 10-member Ensemble 2 INQ seems to be holding back, then the Expedition quartet charges forward, symbolically firing on all cylinders.
Especially notable is Harth, who in the years since the set was recorded (2001), has spent a lot of his time dabbling in electronics and sound collages. However, not only does he expose expected serpentine tenor saxophone multiphonics here, but on tunes such as “A Brief Pleasure Trip” and the connective “From One Place To Another” expresses himself with sluicing bass clarinet overblowing and flutter-tonguing, counterbalanced by Tammen’s guitar manipulation. The guitarist’s responses take the form of snapping string distortions and ascending, intensive rasgueado lines on the former and triggered, buzzing sound envelops and machine-gun-like harsh expansions on the later.
Moving from pseudo Free Bop, a near-Aylereian waltz “…Pleasure …” benefits from Dahlgren’s slap bass line and Rosen’s cymbal-clacking cross pulsation. Among the electronic drones on “… One Place…” are shape-shifting dissonant chomps from Tammen’s axe.
Distinctively, the miasmic sound-making serves as prelude to the final two tracks – “A Place That Has Emotional Significance” and the nine-minute “Returning To The Place Where It Began”. With Tammen’s bent notes erupting into sounds that could only come from the converse of a fretless guitar, his carnivorous patterns suggest miscegenation between one million frets and an equal number of passing tones. Meanwhile Harth’s Brötzmannian intensity translates into primitivist cries and altissimo shrieks as bell pealing – either from Rosen’s mallets or Tammen’s tabletop guitar manipulation – are heard. For a finale upward guitar frails accompany unidentified cries and calls, which are as likely to have arisen from samples as from the participants live work.
Suitably cosseted by sympathetic associates, Tammen’s endangered guitar displays its low-key and exuberant qualities on different discs. Either can be profitably investigated by seekers of out-of-the-ordinary sounds.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Rhön: 1. I 1. II 3. III 4. IV 5. V 6. VI
Personnel: Rhön: Joachim Zoepf (bass clarinet and tenor saxophone); Dirk Marwedel (extended saxophone); Margret Trescher (quarter-tone flute); Hans Tammen (guitar and electronics); Ulrich Phillipp (bass and electronics); Georg Wolf (bass); Michael Vorfeld and Wolfgang Schliemann (percussion); Ulrich Böttcher (electronics) and Marianne Shuppe (voice)
Track Listing: Expedition: 1. Setting Out with Aggressive Intent 2. Taken at a Leisurely Pace 3. Many Have Passed Rigorous Courses 4. A Considerable Amount of Time and Distance 5. Retained Notions Of Speed and Purpose 6. A Brief Pleasure Trip 7. From One Place To Another 8. A Long Trip By Water 9. A Place That Has Emotional Significance 10. Returning To The Place Where It Began
Personnel: Expedition: Alfred 23 Harth (bass clarinet and tenor saxophone); Hans Tammen (endangered guitar and electronics); Chris Dahlgren (bass and electronics) and Jay Rosen (drums)