Hans Koch/Gaudenz Badrutt

Social Insects
Flexion Records flex_004

Mixing severe and sparse acoustic instrumental techniques with both instantaneously created sound synthesis and live sampling is how bass clarinetist Hans Koch and electronic musician Gaudenz Badrutt personalize Social Insects’ one dozen tracks. Badrutt’s microtonal sputters and buzzes aren’t treated as extensions of the reedist’s improvisations; just as Badrutt’s sophisticatedly programmed sound environment doesn’t function as the bedrock given additional filigree by Koch’s fully focused reed strategies. Instead the allure of this CD lies in tracking how the results blend while integrating or deconstructing identifiable textures initially created by each participant.

Not unlike a Swiss Jimmy Giuffre, Koch is one of those rare improvisers whose playing has become more abstract and searching as he gets older. Born in 1947, the Biel-based tenor saxophonist and clarinetist has moved from Jazz to Free Jazz to membership in a co-op trio of so-called hardcore chamber music with cellist Martin Schütz and percussionist Fredy Studer, to affiliations with rappers, poets, djs, other woodwind players, membership in bassist Barry Guy’s New Orchestra and now this duo. Born in 1972, Badrutt, who also lives in Biel, began as pianist interpreting so-called contemporary classical music before turning to electronics-based improvisations, usually in duos with fellow electronics-manipulator Christian Müller or free-form accordionist Jonas Kocher.

From the top of this session, staccato reed trilling and keyboard-like cascades from the electronics manipulator are transformed with unaccented air from the clarinetist and granularly synthesized crackles from the plugged-in interface. Gradually the 12 sequences become both microtonal yet linear. While there are displays of flanged signal processing and oscillating laptop buzzes mixed with tongue stops plus lip and key percussion, flaunting sonic moves is never the preferred option. On “XI 5:05” for example, sequences of reprocessed field recording are gradually synthesized by Badrutt while animalistic snorts and snarls from Koch extend his initial unaffiliated split tones. By the track’s conclusion the resulting diminished and blurry textures are indistinguishable from one another.

Longest and loudest track is “IX 10:19”, whose differentiated sections ultimately work up to a crescendo of hard, atonal drones. The electronics manipulator’s concentrated buzzing wave forms flank the reedist’s chalumeau stops and backward-moving mouthpiece squeaks. With both instruments apparently similarly amplified, the dual abrasive textures undulate separately until their individual tones crumble. At this point thickened oscillations combine and subsume both lines for a satisfactory climax.

Koch’s improvisational techniques get a showcase in other spots, most notably with his mercurial work on the final selection. But this CD’s appeal and accomplishment rests above anything else, in the assemblage of these sympathetic group creations.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. I 09:02 2. II 0:46 3. III 3:05 4. IV 2:07 5. V 8:59 6. VI 1:06 7. VII 3:52 8. VIII 0:36 9. IX10:19 10. X 0:38 11. XI 5:05 12. XII 8:37

Personnel: Hans Koch (bass clarinet) and Gaudenz Badrutt (electronics)