December 21, 2016
Chris Abrahams & Burkhard Beins
Instead of the Sun
Herbal Conrete Disc 1602
Serge Baghdassarians/Boris Baltschun/Burkhard Beins
Mikroton Recordings CD 49
Often when dealing with music heavily oriented towards electronics two scenarios are in play. One can imagine a so-called movie for the mind with images suggested by the sounds on disc. Alternately the listener can passively surrender to the performance as an entity, letting it wash over consciousness like white noise in a feedback session. Each of these approaches is suggested by these CDs featuring Berlin-based sound artist/percussionist Burkhard Beins. Alongside fellow Germans Serge Baghdassarians using mixing desk, delays and guitar plus Boris Baltschun’s computer and sampler, Future Perfect was recorded during 2008 and 2009, and then mixed by Baghdassarians and Baltschun during the later year and 2015. It remains in the abstract orbit. Its antithesis, Instead of the Sun, recorded by Australian Chris Abrahams playing synthesizers and electronics plus Beins using percussion and electronics, and subsequently mixed by the percussionist, includes distinctive enough themes so that a pictorial representative is advanced – at least in the mind’s eye.
Long-time keyboardist with the Ambient-Improv group The Necks, Abrahams’ usual instrument is the acoustic piano, and his prevailing strategy during one of that trio’s hour-long sets is to judicious inject keyboard coloration within the evolving performances. The divergence from that on this CD is that there are nine tracks of various lengths instead of one block; there are more stretches of unaltered silences; and most importantly the drones, judders and oscillations produced by both players often add up to near-visual perceptions. The most discernible instance of this occurs on “The Decline of Reductionism”. As fitful buzzes are succeeded by a combination of upwards whines and machine-like propulsion, train imagery come to fore with the ceaseless motion expanded as the result of repetative bell-like clanging. Among other perceptions which can be as vivid and visible as images that float into consciousness while day- or night-dreaming, occur during “Recall Us Brutally” where crackling telephone wires are alluded to by whistling voltage that cut through the otherwise blurry sequences; and “Drudges of the Narrow-Souled” as motor-driven oscillations appear to hollow out the centre of a timbral agglomeration completed by the potential perception of machinery’s wheels and dials slowly turning counter clockwise. Violent pseudo-thunderstorms alternating with radio-dial-like tuning describe what happens on “The Non-Passage”. Yet its climax could be the recording of rushing water flattening a sandy beach. This satisfying hiss is strengthened by the organ-like drones from Abrahams’ keyboard.
Merely seeking out visually discernible stimuli from aural sources can be self-defeating however. Instead of the Sun’s other strong points are the faultless interaction between the two players, whether they involved a near ceaseless drone suddenly interrupted by sold-state-like recoil, like distant horse hoof galloping on “Second-Hand Ecstasy”; or how the grainy surface of “A Variety of Din”, the commodious final track, subtly mocks its title by animating the interface with silences and expansive tremolos.
Moving backwards in time and from a duo to a trio with Beins using a zither as well as more expected percussion, the three-track Future Perfect is more abstract than the other CD. Paradoxically though because string instruments are in use, like a visually impaired person identifying an accustomed sound, numerous aural sign posts exist along the abstract improvisational routes. The most pronounced instance of this is on the concluding “futur 2” where a solid lower-case drone is intersected by faint drum beats and string plinks. The effect is rather like observing the undulations of a heart monitor where the blurry resonations are interrupted to confirm a patient’s vital signs. A more spectacular instance of electro-acoustic interaction emerges on “n-eck” however. Here the progressive acceleration of oscillated drones is balanced by occasional guitar flanges, zither scratching and percussive abrasions. Eventually the unyielding mass breaks up into granulated vibrations leaving behind a sense of accomplished buoyancy.
Nearly a decade may separate these CDs, but they confirm Beins continued proficiency in his preferred sonic genre.
Track Listing: Instead: 1. After the Violet of the First 2. Second-Hand Ecstasy 3. The Decline of Reductionism 4. The Non-Passage 5. Fudged, Circumnavigated 6. No Need to Pity Mankind Now 7. Drudges of the Narrow-Souled 8. Recall Us Brutally 9. A Variety of Din
Personnel: Instead: Chris Abrahams (synthesizers, electronics) and Burkhard Beins (percussion and electronics)
Track Listing: Future: 1. futur 1 2. n-eck 3. futur 2
Personnel: Future: Serge Baghdassarians (mixing desk, delays and guitar); Burkhard Beins (percussion, zither) and Boris Baltschun (computer, sampler)