April 28, 2011
Der Rote Bereich
Intakt CD 182
Penche Un Peu Vers L’Angle
Amor Fati FATUM 019
Guitar, drums and a reed instrument as a trio may suggest different sounds to different audiences. But the attraction of improvised music is that two trios can employ almost exactly the same instrumentation and not resemble by one iota one another’s conception. Case in point: Germany’s Der Rote Bereich and France’s X_Brame. Although some may explain the bands’ contradictory sonic qualities by geographic differences, the concept behind the sounds of these trios relates to conviction not nationalism. Each approach is equally valid.
Mostly the progeny of Nuremberg guitarist Frank Möbus, Der Rote Bereich – or Red Zone – is a rough and ready aggregation whose often ferocious tunes harken back to Fusion’s beginning. Certainly the guitarist prefers the company of other Rock-influenced players such as bassist Carlos Bica and drummer Jim Black. On the other hand, bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, Möbus’ Rote Bereich associate since the beginning, while expelling the appropriate fire and power during his solos on 7 doesn’t play a horn favored by any Jazz-Fusionists. Mahall is also equally at home working with anything from Monk tunes to Third Stream chamber music with musicians as different as pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and drummer Bartlomiej Oles. Der Rote Bereich’s new drummer Oliver Steidle also negotiates a fine line among influences. He has worked with players as disparate as saxophonist/electronics manipulator Daniel Erdmann and tradition-oriented pianist Aki Takase.
On the other side of the divide – or German-French border – from Der Rote Bereich’s exuberant and fortissimo textures are the minimalist and near-solipsistic timbres of a trio unquestioningly committed to lower-case music. Although guitarist Jean-Sébastien Mariage is involved with some noisier projects, he’s best-known for his work with the subtly microtonal Hubbub band. Guiding light, alto and soprano saxophonist Bertrand Gauguet is usually found on sessions featuring fellow reductionists such as pianist Sophie Agnel, percussionist Lê Quan Ninh and cellist Martine Altenburger; while Bordeaux-based drummer Mathias Pontevia is most frequently involved in similar low-key experiments with companions such as clarinetist Benjamin Bondonneau or saxophonist Heddy Boubaker.
Microscopic guitar licks, drum top slides and scrapes plus extended tongue slaps and whistles characterize most of the trio’s work on Penche Un Peu Vers L’Angle – Slope Slightly Towards the Edge. Except for certain interludes, as on “Tazuki” when the broken chord connection moves towards forte with amp-echoing buzzes, repetitive bass drum whacks and mouthpiece tongue stops and clicks, the three-part invention demonstrates how subtly ideas can be expressed linearly. Gauguet does so with flat-line reed glissandi, propelled without key movements, ultimately using staccato air respiration encompassing partials and ghost notes to encourage string twangs and drum top swats towards a defining conclusion.
More of the same, the final section of “Tsuri” showcases sonic afterimages created acoustically the same way other do with software. Here long-lined crackling and spluttering ghost notes are constructed out of speedy, agitated reed multiphonics, Pontevia’s irregular drags and ruffs and Mariage’s disconnected finger-picking licks. Overall, the contrapuntal interaction is mercurial, toned-down and gloomy with distorted split tones, widely spaced stretches of reverberating strings and extended drum top vibrations eventually reaching a mid-point crescendo of slurred fingering, metal-inflected reed-biting and wood-crackling imitations from the percussionist. Once this climax is reached the musical structure incrementally fades to image echoing.
There are plenty of echoing reverberations on 7, but in contrast most of them are related to Möbus’ tremolo twangs and muscular rasgueado, causing Mahall to sluice fortissimo reed bites that leap to altissimo and dip to chalumeau. All the while Steidle scatters rolls, drags and ruffs, while maintain a bonding backbeat. It is tracks such as “Banker’s burning bakeries” and “Bremser” that are most illustrative of this strategy
On the former, swathes of strained, nephritic split tones from Mahall are contrapuntally stacked up against oscillated and warped guitar licks, which manage to sustain an organ-like drone. As the drummer’s rough cross sticking and ragged shuffle beats push the clarinetist towards squeaky, false-register altissimo and Möbus to knob-twisting phaser action, the staccatissimo pinnacle is reached, with the sound then descending to amp drones and staccato reed blasts.“Bremser” is more typical, of the session however since it includes the sort of herky-jerky head present on many of the CD’s 10 tracks. Here however Steidle’s multiphonic nerve beats plus short stroked cymbals expose more than the standard Jazz-Rock rhythms. Mahall and Möbus respond in kind with respectively lower pitched buzzes and circular cross picking.
Also unlike standard Jazz Rockers – but light years away from the microtonal ethos of X_Brame – the trio is capable of treating sincerely a dramatic intermezzo such as “Ramallah”. Consisting in equal parts of rubbed drum tops and chain shakes; strident clarinet cries; and slack-key guitar harmonies; the parallel exposition showcases tenderness without losing chromatic motion.
Two similarly constituted trios expose the chasm that can exist even when three similar instruments are coordinated. Penche Un Peu Vers L’Angle is suitable for those who understand that cerebral pleasures can sometimes be extracted from grating, extended understatements. Conversely, 7 is for those who prefer their sonic ideas pounded quickly rather than gradually developed. And Rudi Mahall proves that Heavy Metal bass clarinet playing exists – and can be riveting.
Track Listing: Penche: 1. Tazuki 2. Tsuri 3. Hishi
Personnel: Penche: Bertrand Gauguet (alto and soprano saxophones); Jean-Sébastien Mariage (guitar) and Mathias Pontevia (horizontal drums)
Track Listing: 7: 1. Polit Pilot 2. Paulie and Christopher (out in the woods) 3. Tier/bla/tot 4. Winterlos 5. Bremser 6. ASH 7. Rumba brutal 8. Banker’s burning bakeries 9. Die Deutschen 10. Ramallah
Personnel: 7: Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet); Frank Möbus (guitar) and Oliver Steidle (drums)