Bernhard Gál

Gromoga Records gro 10801

Tomas Korber/Gert-Jan Prins

RI 1.5442

Cavity CD 03

Committed listening and the ability to distinguish among various sorts of intonation, samples and silences, characterize these two CDs, positioned on the far side of innovative electro-acoustic music. For each, the mood and sense of the sound program, as well as its creation, is as essential to appreciation as the recorded sounds.

Clocking in at over 70 minutes, the single track of RI 1.5442 leans more towards ambient and spatial sounds and was created during one afternoon in Arc-et-Senas in eastern France by Zürich-based guitarist and electronics manipulator Tomas Korber and electronic sound designer Gert-Jan Prins from the Netherlands. Besides work such as this, Korber has collaborated with other sound stretchers such as German clarinettist Kai Fagaschinski and Swiss bassist Christian Weber. Eighteen years Korber’s senior, Prins, who also plays percussion, has involved himself in such group efforts as The Flirts, with keyboardist Cor Fuhler, and MIMEO, with at least half a dozen sound manipulators.

Aged midway between Korber and Prins, Vienna resident Bernhard Gál is equally comfortable creating sound installations involving objects, video, pre-recorded sound samples, interdisciplinary art works or within designated spaces. The nearly-78-minute Relive is unique however in that the eight tracks capture eight live laptop performances by Gál recorded in eight separate cities during 2007 and 2008. Along the way, implanted in these performances – which last from six to more than 15½-minutes – are piano, guzheng and vocal samples which are intermingled with the crackling and buzzing sonic wave forms.

One particular episode for instance combines bouncing and rebounding vocal samples, the clanking and chugging of Viennese subway cars plus brief twitters and caws from local birds. Mulching and mixing these textures with progressively swelling and buzzing oscillations creates another point of entry. The congruent sounds are continuous but low-key, and more often felt than heard. Another track uses recognizable ship’s horn and bell-clanging sounds to invade a site-specific sonic space with appearing and vanishing sequences that could come from a bassoon or a bell tree. Eventually the continuous flanges reach a climax of contrapuntal cross tones, which vanish as quickly as they`re apparent, leaving deconstructed drones.

Probably the most characteristic performance is “Ordinary Love”, pieced together at a nightclub in Guangzhou. Reflective of the location, without being overbearingly Oriental, the sound picture mixes crunching snippets of global and international pop music, plus the human drone audible from the attached disco, pool-hall, and casino. Staccato, agitato and fortissimo shrills predominate, as the heating and air conditioning system becomes an instrument in itself. Meanwhile the sounds of pool cues hitting billiard balls, along with stretched and deconstructed guzheng-created notes intermingle with gambling patrons’ mutters and yells. When the textures finally diffuse by the track’s completion, a coda of unaffiliated Mandarin words and phrases is heard, both parlando and polyphonic.

Attached media material helps demystify some of Relive`s timbres. But the listener has no clues as the tones on RI 1.5442 meander from beginning to end. Undifferentiated and barely there, time-stretching granulation is present, but only once is a chord, albeit distorted, clear enough to be ascribed to Korber`s guitar. Other sounds are hinted at among the continuous drones and processed signals that underlie the program. There is what could be faint footfalls, arriving and retreating; a watery tide coming in to the shore and receding; the rhythmic tick-tocks of a clock; what could be rapid gun fire; and finally circular bird-like twitters.

By the same token however, any of these sounds could merely result from the ear canal imaginatively concentrating abstract pulses and wave forms into familiar sounds. Meantime the smears, ripples and flutters constructed by electronic interface and diffused throughout the extended track never abate. Alongside that, whooshes, flanges and drones swell to gargantuan proportions then fade away, or dial-twisting elasticized distortion reaches a crescendo, and then dissipates.

In truth, it appears as if this CD is designed as a mood extender or a trip in the psychedelic sense, rather than as a sonic program that can be parsed. Should a person have the time to give in to the overwhelming sound experience that pulses according to its own logic here, then the Korber-Prins CD may excite him or her. The same caveat exists for Gál’s conceptions, although they are showcased in smaller doses. However many others, even committed free music followers, may insist that instrumental sounds, thematic development and more obvious involvement from the creators be present on a CD for full appreciation.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Relive: 1. Meu nome é gal também* 2. Konzerthauskeller 3. Velvet Green^ 4. Schulterblatt*#5. Ordinary Love+% 6. Pierce 7. Uhudler 8. Hungover+

Personnel: Relive: Bernhard Gál (laptop and electronics) with Xenia Hu (piano samples*); Yeh Jiuan-Reng (guzheng samples+); Marianthi^, Mandy# or Vivian% (voice samples)

Track Listing: RI: RI 1.5442

Personnel: RI: Tomas Korber (guitar and electronics) and Gert-Jan Prins (electronics)