Canaries on the Pole

Creative Sources CS 135 CD

Carefully measuring every sound and gesture produced, the Canaries on the Pole (CotP) ensemble stays true to its microtonal roots. But on this provocative CD it finds time to expose the sonic spectrum available from close interaction, extended techniques, multi-instrumentation … and chance.

Reacting to the unexpected is most pronounced on “In/Out”. Here a microphone placed outside the studio captures the daily sounds of Mechelen, Belgium, as members of the four-piece German-Belgian group strategically respond to reverberations from a massive church bell, supplementary peals from smaller bells and snatches of a child’s conversation. With wide tessitura exposed by Christoph Irmer’s alternately squeaked and vibrated violin strings, as well as the quivering and sibilant textures of Jacques Foschia’s clarinets plus Georg Wissel’s saxophones, further abrasive concussions arise from Mike Goyvaerts’ percussion, objects and toys.

Weaving among the solipsistic timbres of the cup-shape and clapper-produced reverberations, the CotP produces a contrapuntal intermezzo, based on rubbed and smacked cymbals plus drum top whacks and thumps; scrubbed string positioning and curlicue extensions – as well as reed textures that result from lip burbles and high-pitched squawks. The end result is both an extension and commentary on the already existing, site-specific sounds.

The Canaries are as impressive left to their own devices and self-generated processing, but this isn’t surprising, considering each Canary is an experienced, non-idiomatic improviser. Irmer, for instance, has recorded with British saxophonist John Butcher and Catalan pianist Agustí Fernández. Belgian Goyvaerts works with dancers, poets and instrumentalists such as bassist Peter Jacquemyn. A member of the London Improvisers Orchestra, Foschia is also involved with sonic art. During more than two decades of playing, Wissel has developed so-called preparations on his saxophones which he uses to concertize with, among many others, British drummer Paul Lytton and American violinist Malcolm Goldstein.

Combining for this second CotP outing, interaction and meiosis are part of measuring or diverting the effects of cumulative creation. The drummer’s rolls and pops, for instance encounter chalumeau bass clarinet tones and saxophone tongue slaps; while widely-spaced string splashes convene in the same spectrum as reed pressures – leaving the clarinetist to develop an ostinato. Elsewhere, antipodal blowing from both horns complements Irmer’s spiccato scratches as well as hammered gong-like resonation from Goyvaerts. With the instruments’ node partials perceptible as well as the expected tones themselves, the resulting textures follow their own logic, as additional spetrofluctuation, key percussion and whistling is also apparent.

Never neglecting expressive impulses as well as instrumental prowess, this aviary flock doesn’t have to replicate bird songs. It has created something inimitable on its own.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. May I Help You? 2. In/Out 3. Decompression 4. Für Lotte 5. Compression 6. Once Upon 7. Fishing for Compliments 8. 5% 9. Schöne Müllerei 10. The Great Ippener

Personnel: Jacques Foschia (Eb and bass clarinets); Georg Wissel (“prepared” alto and tenor saxophones and objects); Christoph Irmer (violin) and Mike Goyvaerts (percussion, objects and toys)