December 2, 2009
Resolutely non-hierarchal as isolated basic tones abut cramped industrial grit, the unique textures spun out by Phosphor nearly hypnotize, but leave plenty of breathing room to shake up the six tracks with unanticipated timbral pirouettes.
Each of band’s seven Berlin-based members is an acknowledged originator striving for unexpected sounds from his or her chosen instrument. Trumpeter Axel Dörner has done so in the company of others such as reedist John Butcher; tubaist Robin Hayward has evolved a personal method of twisting and muting valves; working alone or in tandem with partners such as clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski or Hayward, Annette Krebs and Michael Renkel mostly recalibrate expected guitar sounds; Andrea Neumann’s mastery lies in exploiting prepared piano impulses; Burkhard Beins creates unusual percussion patterns solo or in groups with Neumann, Renkel and others; and Ignaz Schick’s turntable evolutions attain resonance which allows him to regularly collaborate with mystic composer Charlemagne Palestine. Most importantly each of the players fastens onto the transformative abilities of computers and electronics as expertly as18th Century dualists knew the capabilities of rapiers.
Nothing on Phosphor II is designed to be razor-sharp, although the cumulative interaction may be finely honed. Instead at points all sonic textures appear to be uncovered simultaneously, with raucous, spinning crackles, fluttering whooshes, swelling and diffusing air and jackhammer-like drilling, rubbing with fortissimo abrasions against one another. Other times engorged signal-processed drones subsume all else. Elsewhere individual node vibrations are heard and aurally defined as split-second guitar strumming, splayed percussion strokes, tongue stops or low-pitched breaths from the brass players.
Expanding connectively there are also sections where oscillated textures which sound like an accelerating cycle motors blur into computer-triggered clouds of drones and rebounds. Just as abruptly these sounds are replaced by trumpet spetrofluctuation as well as stops, slides and scrubs from piano, guitars and zither strings until an echoing tuba line appears then splinters into mercurial resonance and a final dislocated breath. Elsewhere flanged and backwards-running tapes share space with the launching of ramping signals until a finale of miniature percussion rattles and strokes plus atonal acoustic nylon-guitar runs.
Phosphor II’s climax arrived earlier however on “P11”. As lowing brass timbres and sul ponticello strings are patched together, they also blend seamlessly with separate layers of signal-processed currents. After dissolving into silence, a subsequent variant stacks the sounds of cavernous bass drum resonation, twisted valve constriction and tremolo brass puffs atop vibrating string sets. A retching growl disrupts the concordance with further spinning as sonic sequences ebb southwards to surface rubs.
While concentration may be required to fully appreciate Phosphor II, the participants validate the premise that first-class electro-acoustic improvisation isn’t limited to small combos.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1. P7 2. P8 3. P9 4. P10 5.P11 6. P12
Personnel: Axel Dörner (trumpet and electronics); Robin Hayward (tuba); Andrea Neumann (inside-piano and mixing board); Annette Krebs (guitar, objects, electronics and tape); Michael Renkel (prepared acoustic nylon string guitar via computer); Burkhard Beins (percussion, objects, zither and small electrics) and Ignaz Schick (turntable, objects and bows)