Werner Dafeldecker/Christof Kurzmann/John Tilbury/Stevie Wishart

[The Violet CD]
Mikroton CD 4

Minimalist and understated in approach, but maximal and sophisticated in talent and presentation, this CD demonstrates how well profoundly committed improvisers, who don’t work together regularly, can find common ground.

During the course of five tracks recorded in Vienna and two from Wels, Austria, the quartet crafts a soundscape of stretched tones and opaque drones that at points masks the expected timbres of the instruments and at others clearly delineate them. All the participants are old hands at this sort of in-the-moment improvisation, British pianist John Tilbury is a long-time member of AMM; Austrian bassist Werner Dafeldecker is a member of Polwechsel; Stevie Wishart from the United Kingdom has played her hurdy gurdy in ensembles featuring pianist Chris Burn and saxophonist John Butcher; and Austrian Christof Kurzmann, who plays lloopp and clarinet here, has recorded with Butcher and clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski among others.

Overall the Wels selections appear to be harsher and more robust with nearly overpowering electronic growls and metal-upon-metal friction prominent. Textures from Wishart’s old-time instrument, which range from pawl-and-notch ratcheting to stretched pumps confirm the human impulses involved, as do Tilbury’s methodical licks and single key presses. After flat-line electronic smears double and triple in intensity, expansive flanged impulses bury, then expose the delicate wood scratches, distracted twangs and key clinks which help define the program.

Given more scope, the five-part “Wien” suite develops in a more tranquil fashion with low-frequency piano key clusters and Maghreb music-like flutters from the hurdy gurdy. Sometimes the loops and pulses accelerate to almost church-organ-like ostinatos; other times wave forms narrow so that circling whistles are heard, suggesting the sound of a hamster turning round and round on its wheel. Blurry, hissing granulations can be watery and repetitive or explode with signal-processed grating. Individual double-bass string pumps and heavily vibrated clarinet trills breech the unvarying audio environment at times – so do distracted piano cadences – adding a pastoral connection to the otherwise electronically defined interface. Finally after an extended polyphonic episode of augmented pitches and velocity, the final variant melds a ney-like reed whine, extended lloops loops and simple piano chords. The resulting calm defines the finale.

Unheralded but certainly potent, this CD demonstrates what results from the interaction of four first-class electro-acoustic musicians during a set of protracted improvisations.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Wien 1 2. Wien 2 3. Wien 3 4. Wien 4 5. Wien 5 6. Wels 1 7. Wels 2

Personnel: John Tilbury (piano); Werner Dafeldecker (bass and electronics); Stevie Wishart (hurdy gurdy) and Christof Kurzmann (lloopp and clarinet)