Expanded Botanics

Refugium
Ninth World Music NWM 039 CD

By Ken Waxman

Layered timbres flutter through the seven selections of this fine trio CD, a sophisticated chamber session that suggests delicacy without flimsiness.

That’s because the polyphony created by the violin and electronic of Philipp Wachsmann, Peter Ole Jørgensen’s drums, percussion and home-built instruments and Jakob Riis’ laptop replicate the earthy tones of the savannah as clearly as battery-triggered wave forms. As a matter of fact, some of the minimalist primitivist reverberations may have reminded the British fiddler of sounds from his Ugandan boyhood or have aurally transported the band’s two Danish members to the intermittent silences associates with the less populated part of their country.

With each track named for different parts of house, Refugium’s landscape is most verdant when tracks like “Dormitory” reflect both side of the primeval/future dichotomy. While Wachsmann’s pizzicato plucks take on the properties of an African ngoni, Riis’s laptop triggers sidebands of harsh clicks and splutters. Undulating underneath this stop-time collaboration of strumming and crackling are the drum pops and paradiddles and gong-like resonation of Jørgensen’s many implements.

Stretching the instant compositions through every area of this CD, the three rely most frequently on broken chords, outputting staccato lines that illuminate one area of the edifice at a time. In one section, for instance, the fiddler seems to be wrenching apart the wood of his violin as the drummer sounds blunt rumbles and pops underneath him. On another, Wachsmann’s recurrent tremolo timbres and string snaps move linearly as the laptop creates blurry clouds of telegraph-like coding and razzing oscillations.

Careful to subtly suggest – if only momentarily – the traditional textures of the acoustic instruments, Expanded Botanics’ strength lies in adopting only those primitive, contemporary or future textures it feels would properly complement the structure it’s musically erecting. This CD has an identity as inimitable as the band’s name.

In MusicWorks Issue #99