Spill

Stockholm Syndrome
Al Maslakh Recordings 13

Annette Krebs/Anthea Caddy/Magda Mayas

Thread

Another Timbre at48

During the past decade or so, Magda Mayas has established herself in Berlin as an inside piano specialist. A recruit to a variant of free-form exploration which threatens to become a sub-genre unto itself, the Münster native’s focal point is preparing the piano’s internal strings with tape, plasticine, metal and rubber objects and spending as much time manipulating them with hands and mallets as playing on the keyboard. Nonetheless, as these CDs demonstrate, Mayas’ improvising is most appealing not so much for how she prepares her instrument’s strings, but for the sound strategies she creates once the items are in place.

Thread knits her creations into a trio interface with similar harsh, extended techniques advanced by Australian-in-Berlin cellist Anthea Caddy and Köln-native, now fellow Berliner Annette Krebs, who uses a prepared guitar plus tapes and a mixing desk. Taking the Antipodean partnership still further and recorded two years later, Stockholm Syndrome is a duet between Mayas and the distinct percussion work of another Aussie expatriate, Tony Buck. Buck is best-known for his long-time membership in The Necks, while Caddy, who also works with people like bassist Clayton Thomas, has been in separate duos with both Mayas and Krebs. Krebs frequently worked with Andrea Neumann, another inside-piano specialist, while Mayas has also played with the likes of saxophonist Frank Gratkowski and trombonist Johannes Bauer.

However the only orally affiliated sounds heard on the trio disc are taped sampled of German and English, extracted and altered with granular synthesis by Krebs’ electronics. Tellingly enough, despite more of a literal multiplicity of voices, the trio interface is more minimalist and more severe than the interplay between the pianist and the drummer. Stretching the strand further and tauter without breaking it, Krebs, Caddy and Mayas interweave a sound garment whose foundation is the processed voices and blurred crackles from Krebs’ electronic arsenal, with the trimming consisting of Caddy’s frequent harsh, cat-gut scratches and Mayas’ plucked strings, pauses and key clips, often intertwined with sporadic guitar twangs. These timbres swell immeasurably by the 26-minute “Shore”, which reaches a contrapuntal crescendo. Caddy’s jagged sul ponticello lines move closer to Mayas’ staccato key palming at the same time as Krebs’ pre-recorded samples of bird cries, gashed wave form friction and German, French and English voices are warped, repeated, stretched, time-shifted and flanged. With silences bypassed, the three climax with chromatic, if often unaffiliated, cascades of collective textures.

Instructively, Stockholm Syndrome’s two extended tracks are more evenly balanced, as is the pianist’s work alongside the percussionist’s. As Buck vibrates various parts of his kit, adding chain rattling, gong smacks and the friction resulting from stroking his cymbals and drum tops harshly, Mayas’ voicing is similarly focused. Adopting a strategy that allows her to pluck individual strings as she applies pressure to the external keys, the mashed piano tones that result are sharper and tenser but also bond more with the drummer’s metallic whacks. The nearly 35-minute “Oslo” includes idiosyncratic sonic tinctures as Buck’s ruffs, drags and abrasions add a heavier percussiveness to the interface. So too do Mayas’ low-note keyboard rumbles and tension-affiliated string twangs. Again the agitated pianism is muted as Buck appears to be vibrating as many small implements on his drums as are attached to piano strings. Additionally chain rattling, subtle press rolls and cymbal strokes are even met with a few snatches of legato, near-swing passages from the pianist. Finally as tremolo piano tones envelop the drummer’s singular cymbal claps and clicks, a satisfying tonal dissolve is attained.

Unnerving and overly abstract for the uninitiated, each of these CDs does showcase what in some circles, are genuinely accepted, virtually commonplace keyboard strategies.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Stockholm: 1. Helsinki 2. Oslo

Personnel: Stockholm: Magda Mayas (piano) and Tony Buck (drums)

Track Listing: Thread: 1. Sands 2. Shore

Personnel: Thread: Magda Mayas (piano); Annette Krebs (prepared guitar, tapes and mixing desk) and Anthea Caddy (cello)