November 22, 2009
Lucio Capece & Mika Vainio
Editions eMEGO 098
Daniel Erdmann/Oliver Steidle
Jazz Werkstatt JW 050
Electronic-acoustic interface has become a familiar arrow to be frequently extracted from an improvising musician’s sonic quiver. Over the past few years in fact, sessions often depend as much on voltage and feedback as breath and finger movements. Yet to create a memorable performance, technical sophistication and compositional inspiration must be blended with dial-twisting – as these fine CDs demonstrate.
Both start from a different premise. Trahnie’s 11 tracks are the result of a couple of years of intuitive and detailed experimentation in Berlin between Argentinean reedist Lucio Capece, an all-out improviser, and Finnish sound processor Mika Vainio, one-half of the band Pansonic, which is rooted in electronica and industrial pop music. That the two players correlate so well here should be more of surprise where Vainio is involved, since his usual collaborators are noise icons such as guitarist Keiji Haino and the band Sunn O)))). On the other hand, besides his all-acoustic work, Capece has a history of partnering megawatt experimenters including electric harpist Rhodri Davies and no-input mixing board expert Toshimaru Nakamura.
Also created in Berlin – but in two days, not two years – is Lenina. Its 19 track are inspired by – not reflective of – the futuristic classic Brave New World, written in 1932 by British novelist Aldus Huxley (1894-1963). Using snippets of English dialogue from a radio play based on the novel plus the overtones and textures created by the quartet of instruments each musician plays, Nürnberg-born percussionist Oliver Steidle and Reims-based saxophonist Daniel Erdmann generate a truly original work. This CD is a suite of tunes that reflects the players’ idiosyncratic sonic more than Huxley’s cautionary futurism or any subsequent literary interpretation. Part of the shifting gestalt of young Berlin-based musicians, Erdmann and Steidle have worked with such players as bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall and guitarist Frank Möbus.
More jazz-like than the other CD, there are portions of Lenina where saxophone honking and trills plus bass drum thumps and snare shuffles define the interface. At those junctures, Erdmann double- and triple-tongues harsh cross tones and flattement, while Steidle exposes flams, bounces and strokes as well as prominent triplet rhythms, nerve beats and rim shots.
Scattered throughout the tracks, especially on “A Gramme in Time”, are snippets of the portentous actors pontificating on humanity’s free will and Soma – Huxley’s invented combination of amphetamines and anti-depressants. But true to the duo’s POMO world view the dialogue is first heard unaltered, then reconstituted as reed pops and drum smacks overlay the verbal sound, which is subsequently mixed with signal-processed reverb and delay. Alternately, tape flanges and pitch impediments are used as background for acoustic improvisation, although the reed lines quickly become as abstract as the background.
“Whip, Whip, The Whip” is an anomaly in more than title, however, since the tune seems lifted from a Broadway love ballad. Furthermore “East”, the concluding track, is divided between Steidle pulsating czardas-like melodies on accordion and Erdmann exhaling a response in nursery-rhyme styling. Meanwhile “Free, Free!” matches fluttering and growling oscillations, near-vocal Walkman interjections and the saxophonist’s unexpected variations on the theme.
What also should be made of “Let’s Go on Soma Holiday” which balances a toy keyboard’s skating-ring-like plinks; a video game-like shuffling pulse, backwards-running tape flanges and a layer of Latin dance music? All this is additionally appended to harsh and hocketing saxophone vibrations.
If Lenina is a variant on a traditional story-telling though, then Trahnie is very much a nouveau roman in the existential French tradition. Not only is it not programmatic, but even when playing fully acoustically, Capece’s reed timbres never approximate those of Erdmann – which are far from mainstream anyhow – or most other saxophonist’s.
. Characteristic of the action is the variant expressed on “Ahuyenta Temores” and echoed elsewhere. Here the saxophone’s nephritic growling is linked to a legato electronic drone, quieting as ring-modulator-like quivers become more noticeable. As the intermittent, metallic buzz thickly move into overdrive, so does the echoing reed reverb – until the mix is nearly opaque.
Capece circular breathes at points and wheezes elsewhere, as if he was playing a bagpipe. Sometimes his watery tongue-slaps intensify only to be met with crackling oscillations that swell to room-filling timbres making acoustic and electronic pulses undifferentiated. Meanwhile Vanio’s strategies encompass on-and-off buzzing patches that rapidly mutate to band-saw-like clunks; clicking, clanking and scrubbing whines that partition into differentiated yet affiliated drones; and patched loops that waver, distend, distort and finally divide.
Delicate and detail-oriented plus disturbing and debilitating at the same time, “Escapes” may sum up the entire project. That is especially after Capace’s mixer-fed saxophone tones stabilize into absolute processing matched with cohesive and convoluted loops. However the finale strips the electronics back to expose unaltered acoustic breaths being pushed through the saxophone.
Approaching duo electro-acoustic improvising from different angles, both these sessions have much to offer.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Trahnie: 1. Ujellus 2. Juurake 3. Escapes 4. Hondonada 5. Valontuo 6. Hobojungle 7.Ahuyenta Temores 8. Sahalaitainen 9. Tolmavuo 10. Sigilo 11. Mañana
Personnel: Trahnie: Lucio Capece (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, preparations, mixer-sax feedback and Sruti box) and Mika Vainio (electronics and treatments, guitar and cymbal)
Track Listing: Lenina: 1. Theatre of the Mind 2. Community Identity Stability 3. Alpha Double Plus Semi-Morons 4. A Gramme in Time 5. Bokanovsky’s Progress 6. Foredey! 7. Linda 8. A Mild Electric Shock 9. Mr. Savage 10. Or Samoa? 11. Mustapha Mond 12. Let’s Go on Soma Holiday 13. A Man Who Dreams Fewer Things Than There Are in Heaven and Earth 14. Whip, Whip, The Whip 15. Free Free! 16. The Right to Be Unhappy 17. Linda’s Death 18. The Great Ford 19. East
Personnel: Lenina: Daniel Erdmann (tenor and soprano saxophones, electronics, Walkman and keyboard) and Oliver Steidle (drum, percussion, accordion and chaos pad)