December 23, 2007
U ĈudnojZemlji im KomikerLand
Nurnichtnur 107 04 29
Musica Genera mg 011
Serendipity can often work as efficiently as scheduling when putting together improvised ensembles, as these two top-quality Eastern European-focused CDs prove.
Lighton, which matches the talents of Polish alto saxophonist Anna Zaradny with those of Dutch keyboardist Cor Fuhler and Berlin-resident, Australian percussionist Tony Buck, was formally organized for a performance at the 2006 Musica Genera festival in Szcezin, Poland. On the other hand, U ĈudnojZemlji im KomikerLand, which was recorded in the equally exotic location of Zrenjanin, Serbia, came about because veteran German reedist Georg Wissel, whose wife is Serbian, was looking around for sympathetic playing partners during one of his frequent trips to that country. Introduced to the sounds of guitarist Srdan Muc and Róbert Rózsa, who manipulates no-input mixing and electronics, he felt that a collaboration would be fruitful.
Wissel, whose playing experience encompasses everything from rock-punk, brass bands, large ensembles that include turntables and electronics and the string-oriented Canaries on the Pole quartet, can meet any challenge. So the Serbs’ noise-oriented electronica is easily absorbed by the alto saxophonist. Don’t forget that his hometown of Köln is also where composer Karlheinz Stockhausen’s electronic and spatial experiments evolved over a protracted period and where this electronic ethos is still prominent.
On the other disc, although classically trained and with a background in noise rock and computer music, Zaradny’s reed improvisations hew close to minimalism. This trait is probably appreciated by Buck, whose day job is as the drummer of Australian reductionist band The Necks. Fuhler works both sides of the stave himself, with his own large Corkestra as well as micro-improvisations with the likes of British saxophonist John Butcher.
During one uninterrupted, more-than-30-minute performance, Buck, Fuhler and Zaradny appear to have designed a superlative division of duties. With all sounds unrolling pianissimo, the flattement and irregularly vibrated intensity of the horn sluices easily among the similarly lubricated timbres of the other two instruments. Buck prefers uncomplicated cymbal taps or having a drum stick abrasively skate across the cymbal’s surface. Meanwhile Fuhler’s strategy includes unveiling a version of new century comping that unites key clipping with equivalent sound board echoes, plus what sounds at first like random keyboard bangs and jumps.
Ultimately the trio so firmly solders the sound of dispassionate, side-slipping tones from the horn, pan-tonal, bell-pealing clusters from the percussionist and vibrating internal strings from the pianist that a mood is established. Jumbled tremolo slurs and vibrations dissolve into silence for the piece’s finale, with a concluding piano thump providing the compositional postlude.
If the other trio’s improvisation are all-of-a-piece than the BlankDisc trio’s output is divided into two purported suites, with each subdivided into many more short pieces. Awkwardly, the initial eight “pieces + shortcuts” appear to be framed mostly so that layered electronic sound exposes a series of inchoate timbral expressions. Triggered output signals produce either blurry flutters or audibly spiraling video game-like chirps, while Muc flanges and scrapes his guitar strings and Wissel confines himself to tongue slapping or blowing colored air through his horn.
Relief from the dial-twisting and harsh shrills arrives with “Tropic 4”, as the reedist uses what’s probably an obone [sic] to simulate bagpipe chanter-like split tones, providing a context for the crackle, sputter and slurps from the others’ electronics. Finally “ĉupav” showcases interactive cooperation, as the saxophonist’s reed biting jumps and growls are mirrored by bubbling short-wave radio-like oscillations from Rózsa’s electronic interface and Hard Rock-like descending chords and flanging buzzes from Muc.
The maturing feints and interpolations suggested by the eight inventions that begin the CD reach fruition in the seven-part “Zrenjanin Suite” that makes up the remainder of this recital. Ascending and descending from “Zvonĉići”, the 10½-minute track that serves as the suite’s climax, it locks each player into a harmonizing role. Muc’s guitar licks become more melodic at points and more abrasively chromatic elsewhere literally accompanying the other players’ windy flutters, as Rózsa’s knob-twisting and crackling buzzes animate Wissel’s understated hollow tube intonation and near flat-lined split tones. Meantime the reedist’s bagpipe hints from “pieces + shortcuts” redefine themselves as minor key overblowing, adding sparkle and shape to the tracks.
“Zvonĉići” provides enough of a canvas to display the sonic bravado the three previously developed: Mercurial friction and abrasions synthesized from Rózsa’s drones and pulsating signals underscore the contrapuntal interaction between Muc and Wissel. Amp distortion, cranked up runs and singular strums provide enough aural friction to lubricate the throat-tightening altissimo squeak, tongue slaps and reed-biting trills from the saxophonist. The end result is unsettling but affecting at the same time.
Two ways of approaching interlocking trio improvisation are showcased on these discs. The choice between them depends on a preference for a minimalist or maximal approach.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: KomikerLand: Pieces + Shortcuts: 1. Tropic 3 2. Trop 1 3. ĉu 4. ĉeš 5. Tropic 2 6. Ĉudo 7. Tropic 4 8. ĉupav Zrenjanin Suite: 9. Intro 10. Fata Morgana 11. Zvonĉići 12. Magla 13. Wolfsmagen 14. ZahnArt 15. Epilog
Personnel: KomikerLand: Georg Wissel (prepared alto saxophone, obone and other reeds); Srdan Muc (electric guitars) and Róbert Rózsa (no-input mixing and electronics)
Track Listing: Lighton: 1. Lighton
Personnel: Lighton: Anna Zaradny (alto saxophone); Cor Fuhler (piano and preparations) and Tony Buck (percussion)