Keith Rowe/Martin Küchen

The Bakery
Mikroton CD 46

Fellow travelers on the more outré edge of improvised music, veteran Swedish saxophonist Martin Küchen and even more venerable British guitarist Keith Rowe rarely cross paths and record together even less frequently. The Bakery captures one of those occasions and while the 35-minute concert preserves some otherworldly sounds the unwary should be aware that this bakery produces the equivalent of jagged unleavened slices rather than sweetened, sugary jelly doughnuts.

Replete with plenty of silences, the two tracks baked by Rowe, best known for his affiliation with AMM, and Küchen, who has played with figures ranging from Steve Noble to Joe McPhee, rely very little on the sonic shapes one would expect from their respective instruments. With Rowe’s table-top guitar altered with preparations and add-ons and modified with electronics, and textures from his radio plus iPod more prominent than alto and baritone saxophone timbres on Küchen’s part, this CD would never be mistaken for a session with Paul Desmond and Jim Hall. Instead the segmented wiggles, clatters, buzzes and echoes often could be a sound replication of what transpires on the floor of an industrial bakery. Some textures could some from a steel dolly loaded with clanking trays of material shoved across an unfinished warehouse floor. Away from physical properties, heightened processed impulses are more prominent than sporadic string plinks or flat line reed overblowing as well. The climax of the first track in fact comes when sizzling electronic impulses become almost overpowering in their intensity.

Like the arrival of the factory clean-up crew in the early morning hours, interaction on “The Bakery 2” is more weighted and restrained. Although again the rubs and sweeps heard could be sourced from janitors’ brushes and mops, disruptive textures via radio-dial motion and static plus oscillated drones confirm this is no commonplace textural polishing. When gurgling electronics curdle into warbles to meet flat-line reed whistles, the ending is confirmed.

Seekers of elevated high musical drama or carefully plotted interface should find another pastry merchandiser. Ascetic and obdurate types who don’t demand immediate gratification may fare better.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1, The Bakery 1 2. The Bakery 2

Personnel: Martin Küchen (alto and baritone saxophones, radio and iPod) and Keith Rowe (electronics and guitar)