Perlonex & Charlemagne Palestine

It Ain’t Necessarily So
Zarek 11/12

Experimental electro-acoustic trio Perlonex’s leap of faith to wed its already distinctive interface with the highly idiosyncratic vision of American composer Charlemagne Palestine since 2004 is paying musical dividends – as this two-CD set aptly demonstrates. For while there are points during this live program at Vienna’s Porgy & Bess club when it’s palpably obvious that the trio members don’t know in which direction Palestine’s minimalist creations and ritualistic imagination are leading – he may not know himself – the speed at which they finesse a response to, and extrapolation of, his ideas leads to the highest form of improvisational cooperation.

Together for more than a decade in Berlin, turntable and electronics manipulator Ignaz Schick from Bavaria, guitarist and field researcher Jörg Maria Zeger and percussionist and sound installation artist Burhard Beins from Lower Saxony had, pre- Palestine, already forged a personal response to the challenge of lower-case, electro-acoustic music. A generation their senior, Palestine, whose recitals mix a unique variant of notated sounds on the piano with personalized ticks including cognac-drinking and vocalizing in an adenoidal shrill voice, benefits from the partnership as well. Perlonex’s looped static, burbling oscillations and sturdy, unchanging drones provide a framework for his more fantastic musical flights.

As is probably obvious from the title, Palestine’s chance meeting with a relative of George and Ira Gershwin while the four were gigging at a club named for George Gershwin’s opera reoriented the pianist’s synapses. Suddenly at certain points in the band’s sets when the quivering and resonating, highly abstract pulses head for a climax, Palestine, who trained as a cantor, decides to vocalize. In Part One he sings the lyrics of the title tune more-or-less straight; in Part Two he re-orients them not only with sardonic comments, but also scats and mumbles a series of nonsense syllables to the familiar melody.

Instantaneously reacting to the vocals and Palestine’s thicker note clusters on piano, the trio members shift course from what had accelerated into a staccato and fortissimo block of contrapuntal signal processing to airier broken octave accompaniment. Beins resonates bass drum thumps, Schick spaces the throbs from his sine-wave generator while squeezing out ring modulator-like signal and – in the second instance – Zeger unleashes a series of searing flanges from his guitar. As Palestine kinetically vibrates his keys, the distinctive electronic undercurrent lessens than fades.

Earlier on “Part One” the triple-created loops and hums expand from moderato to fortissimo until the quivering drones envelope the entire aural setting. With reverb signals, chromatic guitar strokes and abrasive turntable static more prominent than the pianist’s clipped key voicing, the musical narrative appears set until it veers into theme variations. Likewise on “Part Two” when Palestine’s octave-jumping and dense chording gives way to sprinkled piano notes and otherworldly scatting and word play, the oscillated loops wiggle jaggedly in order to meet the primitivist key thumps Palestine develops.

Significantly bonding disparate musical visions into one which is more powerful than either on their own is the accomplishment of this two-CD session. It Ain’t Necessarily So is remarkable whether your preference is for improvised or noted music performed acoustically, electronically or even vocally.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: CD1: 1. It Ain’t Necessarily So Part One CD2: 1. It Ain’t Necessarily So Part Two 2. It Ain’t Necessarily So Part Three

Personnel: Ignaz Schick (tube sine wave generator, bows, looper, objects and turntable); Charlemagne Palestine (grand piano, vocals and cognac glass); Jörg Maria Zeger (stomp boxes and guitars) and Burkhard Beins (drums, percussion, objects, zither and small electronics)