August 27, 2012
Mika Vainio/Kevin Drumm/Axel Dörner/Lucio Capece
Monotype Records Mono048
Assimilating the austere, atonal and blurred timbres of drone-oriented electronics with similar sombre interface produced acoustically, is one of the ongoing challenges of one branch of experimental music. Consider these intriguing, similarly constituted, sessions. Each explores the limits of electro-acoustic improvisations with adjacent textures imported from noise and/or industrial sounds. But each is also succinct and balanced enough so that this intricate interfacing doesn`t wear out its welcome with excess.
Recorded in Metz, France, TSSTT matches the textures emanating from the electric-acoustic devices of local Jean-Philippe Gross plus the tape recorder and short-wave sounds of musique concrète composer Lionel Marchetti with the acoustic contributions of French clarinetist Xavier Charles and Austrian quarter-tone trumpeter Franz Hautzinger. Featuring even more geographically diverse personnel, Venexia recorded the next year in Venice, couples the electronic, metal music-oriented drones of Chicago’s Kevin Drumm with similar bulky oscillations from Finland’s Mika Vainio. Spelling them acoustically are the soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and shruti box of Argentinean-in-Berlin Lucio Capece and the trumpet and computer of Berlin-based Axel Dörner.
Customary brass and reed sounds recede far into the background on Venexia, as Dörner, who is an old hand at creating non-brass sounds from a trumpet, and Capece, who has a history with the two electronic manipulators, concentrate on moving suspended air through their horns. Despite infrequent key pops, tough blats, grace notes or aviary twitters, the two finally evacuate the sound field in favor of Drumm and Vainio, leaving the key punchers and wire twisters to work out electronic texture and grain in sequences that are as opaque as they are dense and as staccato as they are quivering. Nonetheless some drones can probably be attributed to the trumpeter’s computer programming and vibrating pressure from the reedist’s shruti box.
Vainio, who is also a member of post-industrial band Pan Sonic, likely contributes the dense, stentorian feedback which at points threatens to become not only sonically impenetrable but almost literally concrete. With these machine-directed oscillations and granular synthesis growing louder and more repetitive at junctures during each of the session’s two tracks, it’s probably Drumm, who has worked in saxophonist Ken Vandermark’s ensembles, who pulls back at times with field-captured sequences which slightly modify the interface. Appropriate responses on one track seem to be pseudo-organ glissandi, while accordion-like pulsing serves a similar function on the other. Eventually processed vibrations mixed with thin reed whistles resolve the sound design on one track; the other resolutely replaces the shuddering and crackling machine-directed thumps with osculating reed patterns that gouge a flattened smear across the sound field.
Notwithstanding Marchetti’s status as a composer with the Groupe de Recherches Musicales and in other situations, his use of a 1960s tape recorder makes TSSTT’s four very short tracks – the entire disc whizzes by in fewer than 29 minutes –more descriptive of acoustic/electronic intersection. For instance while short-wave signals and computer-game-styled buzzing and explosions may reveal distinctive concussion-like impulses on the first track, also audible are bugle-like triplets from Hautzinger and pseudo dog yelps from Charles’ clarinet. Furthermore while blurry loops and an undertow of tape-machine buzzing predominates on other tracks – along with unexpected gun-shot like pops – so do aleatory and contrapuntal acoustic squeak and peeps.
Probably the most characteristic track on TSSTT is the third which contrasts air-filled vibrations that gradually turn to harsher, narrower sine waves with tandem instrumental extensions. Linearly the trumpeter’s bubbling grace notes and the clarinetist’s intense overblowing sound. By the finale, escalating and burbling timbres from Gross’s so-called devices and flanged abrasions from Marchetti’s motor-driven Revox join with the horns’ multiphonic hisses and whistles.
Two slabs of calculated electro-acoustic improvisation taken to their logical extreme(s), these CDs won’t satisfy everyone. But they’ll certainly be listened to with intensity by those tracking the evolution of new sounds.
Track Listing: TSSTT: 1. 6'12" 2. 5'03" 3. 8'27" 4. 3'51" 5. 5'15"
Personnel: TSSTT: Franz Hautzinger (quarter tone trumpet); Xavier Charles (clarinet); Jean-Philippe Gross (electric-acoustic devices) and Lionel Marchetti (Revox B77 tape recorder, short waves)
Track Listing: Venexia: 1. I 2. II
Personnel: Venexia: Axel Dörner (trumpet and computer); Lucio Capece (soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and shruti box); Mika Vainio and Kevin Drumm (electronics)