Mikroton CD 8l

A billet doux – and re-configuration – of the music of one harpist by another, Hammeriver is Australian-in-Berlin Clare Cooper’s interpretation of some of the sounds created by American Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda. The result, as expressed on this CD’s five tracks, is alternatively agitato and moderato sounds. They are notably atmospheric as well as being true to Coltrane’s spiritual ideals, but without being remotely imitative. Generated during one day in a former-GDR radio station recording studio, the sounds encompass Cooper’s graphic scoring of the 1968 Coltrane composition plus the septet’s further alchemic transformation of affiliated sounds through novel improvisational blends.

Some members of this crew are – like former Melbourne-resident Cooper – Aussies who have set up shop for longer or shorter periods in the German capital. Drummer Tony Buck and pianist Chris Abrahams are two-thirds of The Necks band, while bassist Clayton Thomas is kept busy working with countless Euro-improvisers from French saxophonist Jean-Luc Guionnet to German trombonist Johannes Bauer. There are also two Austrians: bassist Werner Dafeldecker, who is also a member of Polwechsel, and lloopp manipulator Christof Kurzmann has worked with everyone from saxophonist John Butcher to turntablist Dieb13. Tenor saxophonist Tobias Delius’ background is partially related to another country from the beginning of the alphabet (Argentina), and he’s best-known as a member of Amsterdam’s ICP orchestra.

A multiphonic examination of the note E in many registers and textures, “E” finds Cooper applying a powerful tremolo to the harp with the wound strings vibrating in tandem with the dual bassists’ equally energetic power. Contrastingly Delius produces strident reed bites and pressurized wheezes as part of seemingly never-ending clarinet lines, eventually climaxing with diaphragm-vibrated split tones. As the massed textures reach a crescendo the contrapuntal tones become both rhythmically intense and opaque, with Kurzmann’s buzzing, pedal-point interface providing the backstop.

Layered inventions which are graphically expanded from Coltrane’s “Ohnedaruth”, characterize Cooper’s recasting of the tune as “Ohnedaruth (Second Stabbing)”. Built on faint electronic wiggles and drones, chain-shaking from the drummer and piano string-strumming, the reconfiguration also includes double-double bass slaps and altissimo reed trills. Defining this version in its final variant, Cooper’s distinct arpeggios and sharpened plucks help concentrate the echoing saxophone vibrations, blurry, segmented oscillations and piercing bass-string buzzes into a polyphonic peak.

Abrahams’ low-pitched soundboard undulations plus glissandi mate with the harp’s repetitious quivers and shimmies to define the appropriately titled “First Free”. It’s the CD’s most-realized pure improvisation. The exposition’s complete and curiously satisfying subsequent shape become apparent by the finale as software-created patches and pulses are propelled alongside more vocal side-slips, slurps and irregular vibrations from the others. With pointillist skill and patience, Cooper and company have in Hammeriver created a dramatic piece of music. It’s notable without question on its own and also as homage to another player’s conception.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Second Stabbing (Ohnedaruth) 2. First Free 3. E 4. DD 5. Heartbreaker

Personnel: Tobias Delius (clarinet and tenor saxophone); Chris Abrahams (piano); Clare Cooper (harp); Clayton Thomas and Werner Dafeldecker (bass); Tony Buck (drums) and Christof Kurzmann (lloopp)