Koch/Badrutt/Babel

Species Appropriate Animal Husbandry
Creative Sources CS 249 CD

Continuing sonic investigations while into his so-called golden years, Biel-based bass clarinetist Hans Koch, 66, isn’t content to rest on his laurels as a member of Switzerland’s seminal Koch-Schütz-Studer band or with players his own vintage. Instead the reedist, whose recording career goes back to the early 1980s, makes it a point to interact with sound explorers several years his junior as on this oddly named session. Made up of seven oblique improvisations, part of the CD’s appeal is how Koch’s distinctive timbres are no more upfront than the self-possessed percussion of Swiss born, Berlin-based drummer Alexandre Babel or the electronic apparatus from programmer Gaudenz Badrutt, who also lives in Biel. It’s a partnership, not a star soloist showcase.

Familiar with astringent tremolo tones via his duo with accordionist Jonas Kocher, Badrutt operates his granular synthesized elements in such a way that they create the underscore for most of the tracks, and are only fully defined when they reference certain familiar tones like soft-drink-bottle pops. Meanwhile Babel, whose background, like Koch’s, includes contemporary so-called classical music studies, is the very model of a cooperative rhythm stretcher. Except for the odd cymbal-sawing ratchet as on “Outside”, his movements are fluidly intermittent, with clicks, clanks and rattles expanding the open spatial landscape.

Overall the results are seven tracks carefully, but murkily, balanced among full breaths, tongue spits and slurps, cymbal and bell echoes plus quivering, electro-forced whooshes and flanges. With the blended sequences understated in such a way that undifferentiated tones appear as if they could arise from any one of the instruments, the narrative eventually reaches a variable climax with the incongruously named “Inside”. Mocking the common musical meaning of the phrase, this sequence corkscrews a constantly undulating drone onto textures that elsewhere define Free Jazz: bellowing reed cries and mouth squeaks plus clattering rim shots and splattering beats. The almost palpable jubilation expressed in this sonic release then dissipates into wispy, nasal calls.

Recommended for those willing to forego conventional rhythm and harmony to experience a free-form ride along, careful listening is rewarded. Plus it conforms that Koch’s unique vocabulary and voicing are constantly evolving.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Introduction 2. Apartment 3. Interlude 4. Outside 5. Interlude 6. Inside 7. End

Personnel: Hans Koch (bass clarinet); Alexandre Babel (percussion) and Gaudenz Badrutt (electronics)