February 26, 2016
Confucius Tarif Reduit
Although confined to the margins of the Euro-American improvised music scene because of his long residency in Seoul, German multi-reedist/sound manipulator Alfred 23 Harth is far from inactive. In fact, he occasionally shows up overseas to confirm that the creativity for which he was known years ago is still as consistent and illuminating as the eternal flame at Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. Take for instance this 12-track conflagration.
Bringing along his saxophones; pocket trumpet and dojirak, Harth creates an original sound tapestry along with two Wiesbaden-based players: Marcel Daemgen on synthesizer and electronics, who was part of an earlier Harth band; and percussionist Jörg Fischer, who has worked with the likes of Peter Brötzmann and Olaf Rupp. Like a post-modernist artist who alters a canvas with doodads and stickers after the fact, Daemgen later took some of the recorded improvisations and modified, filtered, shortened and thinned-out the sound as well as adding some judicious overdubbing.
Not that this post-production wizardry really alters the program. Much of it is concerned with how inventively Fischer bends habitual time keeping in tandem with the other two’s ideas. Over the course of the disc, the percussionist fuses his rhythmic skills with the others’ aberrant strategies via insistent cymbal pealing, watery rhythmic plops and cunningly displaced clanks and clatters. Electro-sourced wiggles and jiggles plus crackling drones and vibrations make up Daemgen’s intermittent continuum. Meantime sing-song recitations in German or English are as likely to issue from Harth’s side as reed-sources gargles, breaths and cries, all pressed into an undulating exposition. “Patina I” for instance could be the soundtrack of an exhausting play date overseen by a stern caregiver. Here upper partial reed squeezes surmount a percussive din consisting of pops, rattles and clangs, insinuating what may result from giving instruments to a day care class – or a sophisticated free-music ensemble. On “Rübensaft” as well, is Harth murmuring “brushes” or “Russian” as the drummer satisfies the first command with a low-key pulsing.
Concluding on “The Art of Explaining Art” with a stick-in-the-eye-like 1970s-style Free Jazz challenge that’s all harsh saxophone trills, accelerating synthesiser buzzes and connective clip-clops, other pieces demonstrate instrumental as well as atonal cohesion. Probably due to overdubbing, “5 Stunden Wald” comes across as a near-blues battle between two saxophones decisively driven by solid hi-hat clanks and finessed press rolls. Meanwhile the connected “The Asteroid Are We” and “Hymnus” are more outer space than heavenly in execution. This is made explicit as Harth’s reed snorts keep narrowing as if digging a tunnel through a black hole and are propelled forward by pneumatic drill-like whacks from Fisher. As the saxophone improvisations stalls at material so thick it’s almost visual, it takes a cataclysm of synthesized drones to effect a break through. The climatic result is a sustained duet between acoustic and electronic interface.
This CD proves that Harth has lost none of his ability to produce the unexpected, and that Fischer and Daemgen can meet any challenge thrown at them. An all-acoustic session though could really reveal how the three musicians react without adds-ons and processing.
Track Listing: 1. Kostenloses Vergessen 2. Lebben3. Au Sans Pareil 4. Bodenhaftung 5. Patina I 6. The Asteroid Are We 7. Hymnus 8. Rübensaft 9. 5 Stunden Wald 10. Tugce 11. Patina II 12. The Art of Explaining Art
Personnel: Alfred 23 Harth (soprano and alto saxophones; pocket trumpet, voice and dojirak); Marcel Daemgen (synthesizer and electronics) and Jörg Fischer (drums and percussion