Zeitkratzer & Carsten Nicolai

Zeitkratzer Records ZKR 004

With a repertoire encompassing composers as different as James Tenney and Lou Reed, the 10-piece Zeitkratzer group, led by pianist Reinhold Friedl, produces a unique CD with every outing. Electronics is no different. Hooking up with German composer Carsten Nicolai, who plays on one track himself, the ensemble subverts the boundaries between acoustic and electronic intonation.

While each performance is underscored by minimalist ostinatos, execution leads to distinct properties as in “5 min” which intermingles Frank Gratkowski’s bass clarinet growls, E-bow-intensified piano string strokes and beeps produced by television tubes. While a ticking clock creates a basic rhythm, as important to the track is the underlying drone, which gradually subsumes the acoustic instruments’ output, leaving the climax as a sharp, oscillated squeak.

“Synchron/bitwave” illustrates a similar melding, as Nicolai’s created wave forms overcome acoustic piano chords and crackling sul tasto pulses from violinist Burkhard Schlothauer, cellist Anton Lukoszevize and bassist Ulrich Phillipp. Amplifying the volume in micro measures, the track is all tension-no release, with percussive reverberations echoing following its conclusion.

Even more microtonal, the asymmetrical loops on “c1” consist of amplified acoustic instruments’ sounds. Peeking out from among the hypnotic patterning are reverberating percussion from Maurice de Martin and carefully shaped note clusters and cadences from Friedl. Outlining an almost-melody, the piece confirms its post-modernism by omitting the conclusive measure. Overall Electronics is a notable blend of romanticism and repetition.

— Ken Waxman

— For MusicWorks Issue #105