Outside this Area
Intakt CD 136

Unconventional instrumentation is nothing new for Free Music, with classic formations left to the more tradition-minded so-called classical and jazz ensembles. But who else beside Berlin’s formidable Bauer Brothers would be able to create enough textures from just two guitars and their own twinned trombones to satisfy every sonic requirement?

That may be a moot question. But the truth is that since 1982 this East German quarter of made up of guitarists Uwe Kropinski and Joe Sachse plus Conrad Bauer and his younger brother Johannes Bauer on trombones has maintained a high standard of improvised music, despite – or perhaps because of – Doppelmoppel’s unique instrumentation. Over and over again the four have proved that cerebral ideas and advanced techniques are more necessary for the creation of memorable music than the combination of instruments upon which those sounds are played.

Simple division of labor – or is it layering of parts – demonstrates this situation on Outside this Area. During the 11 instant compositions that make up this CD, each Doppelmoppel member has a specific, polyphonic or contrapuntal role. One trombonist, for instance, will output aviary-style screeching that appears to owe more to reeds than valves, while the other busies himself with pedal-point excavations. At the same time one guitarist involves himself in intricate almost-flamenco-like strokes, or finger-style, folk-blues picking, while the other powerfully smacks and scrapes his strings and the guitar body so that the instrument becomes a percussion source.

Other instrumental arrangements are showcased as well. On “Walk 6”, for example, both trombones initially play straight-ahead and legato in sequence, pumping braying chromatic tones so that they become near-palindromes of one another. The guitarists’ licks on the other hand are completely individual. One plectrumist exposes tremolo treble tones and the other more linear lower pitches. Eventually, the continuous sound spray is distorted into single-string stopping from one guitarist as the other uses roughened strokes and heel-of-hand smacks to create a bongo-like effect. This division influences the brass men as well, so by the piece’s final variation, roaring trombone slurs make common cause with flat-picking strums.

Sharp, reverberating contrapuntal cries from one trombone-playing brother mix with plunger tones from the other on “Walk 10”, as one guitarist plays near-madrigals on acoustic guitar. Indisputably electrified, the other guitarist’s instrument permits him to try out ragged and buzzing vibrations. With dirge-like drones the Bauers unite at the same time as Kropinski and Sachse work their way to a crescendo of complementary, rasgueado rhythms.

Further interactions that include tail-gate slurs or rubato brays from the brass, and a solid mass of strummed chords or rhythmic comping from the strings enliven other tracks. Although each musician here is involved in other bands, the individualistic program fashioned by Doppelmoppel continues to impress.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Walk 1 2. Walk 2 3. Walk 3 4. Walk 4 5. Walk 5 6. Walk 6 7. Walk 7 8. Walk 8 9. Walk 9 10. Walk 10 11. Walk 11

Personnel: Conrad Bauer and Johannes Bauer (trombones) and Uwe Kropinski and Joe Sachse (guitars)