November 3, 2021
Strangelet Trio/Leo Abrahams
Moments of Presence
Akt Produkt 46
Luís Lopes Lisbon Berlin Quartet
Clean Feed CF 571 CD
Rat 048/Walter 008
Distinctive individualism often becomes problematic when musicians align their creativity to all electric instruments. Even at this late date acoustic subtleties developed over the years can be lost with overreliance on voltage. However each of these groups uses its own method to make sure expression doesn’t get subordinated to electricity. Still there are junctures throughout where each of these guitar-dominated sessions comes awfully close to losing the way.
A first-time meeting between British guitarist Leo Abrahams, who is a soundtrack specialist and recorded with everyone from Adele to Eno, and the Siberian Strangelet trio based in Tomsk, shifts the focus to the group’s one acoustic instrument: Alisa Efromeeva’s piano. Furthermore percussive elements are created by Wadim Dicke’s bass pressure and her keyboard additions. Meanwhile Abrahams and Yuri Turov add to the mix with guitar licks, electronic drones and shaking animation from live sampling. The most profound pivot to this strategy is heard on “Dolphin Man”. With vague echoes of The Necks, the theme is propelled by crunching piano pulsations as double bass shudders and fluid guitar licks add staccato and allegro frails. Reaching a crescendo, the exposition becomes louder and more fragmented, with guitar string whines and whooshing oscillations vibrating alongside the repeated linear tremolo pattern. Finally each part combines into a layered atmospheric drone. Variants of this approach are used on the other tracks, with buzzing double bass bowing and whistling programmed inference on the final track replicating a pseudo string section that undulate in tandem with intermittent piano clunks. Meanwhile the introductory and extended “Deeper Breath” is based around transformative tones. Voltage shatters, near human vocalizing and guitar shakes join keyboard jabs and clips. Before the piece wraps up with ethereal floating tones, the quartet creates a sequence out of siren-like buzzes, guitar strums and a walking bass line that is as rhythmic as it is responsive.
More attuned to the contours of Jazz-Rock, the Lisbon Berlin Quartet projects EU connected kinetics from Portuguese players, guitarist Luís Lopes and Red Trio member Rodrigo Pinheiro on Fender Rhodes and two Germans, drummer Christian Lillinger and bassist Robert Landfermann, who along with the guitarist have been part of many Continental ensembles. The four build up from drum backbeats, clenched guitar strings, electric piano shudders and double bass thumps to the title track that evolves at warp speed. Despite the percussion raps and rattles and positioned bass line, the ascending timbres from keyboard jiggles and guitar twangs give the piece a warmer temperature. Demonstrating transformation that can emerge under hypnosis, the concluding section solidifies into a nearly opaque mass that vibrates with substantive power. Confirming this duality the concluding “Werther's Memories” and “Berlin Line (Picture of Berlin in Three Movements)”, while both ostensibly Teutonic, offer opposite projections. “Werther's Memories” is slower and methodical with keyboard processes and expressively reflective guitar echoes. The other squeals, shatters and slices as many textures as possible, as guitar stings and keyboard ringing tones cut through the exposition toward Metal territory. Horizontal consistency is maintained by Lillinger’s ruffs and Landfermann’s thundering bass continuum.
Briefest of the session and with the fewest number of band members, Cram Ration crams together the musical concepts of veteran drummer Teun Verbruggen, known for Jazz-directed groups like The Bureau of Atomic Tourism, and Cesar De Sutter-Pinoy and Vitja Pauwels, fellow Belgians whose guitar allegiances includes improvised music, electronic, Rock and Jazz. Surrounded by heavier outings whose landscape is defined by repeated percussion shakes and shuffles, electronic crackles and buzzes and singe-note string echoes, it’s the two centre tracks, “Bidzil” and “Lye” which offer the most variety. Weirdly cut off at the end, the latter could be termed a Metal ballad. With gentle guitar strums and drum rumbles projected at a languid pace, a stratified drone allows the piece to climax with a disintegrating ripple. “Bidzil” goes through more permutations than the purported three movements of the Lisbon-Berlin band’s final track. Clusters of unidentifiable idiophone thumps and sporadic outer space-like crackles are repeated at the top, underscored by drum clip-clops and bass-string thumps. After the exposition thickens with electric wheezes and stentorian drum rumbles further voltage whooshes tear apart it apart, pitch ascends and the narrative finally scrapes away.
Like firearms, drums, guitars and other electronic instruments is the right hands can be employed responsibly. Many overemphasized and electrified timbres can get out of hand. So it’s a tribute to the bands as to how well each date works.
Track Listing: Moments: 1. Deeper Breath 2. Dolphin Man 3. Into the Air-
Personnel: Moments: Alisa Efromeeva (piano and keyboards); Leo Abrahams (guitar and electronics); Yuri Turov (guitar, electronics, live sampling) and Wadim Dicke (bass)
Track Listing: Sinister: 1. Identification 2. O Androide que Sonhava Ser Humano 3. Sinister Hypnotization 4. Werther's Memories 5. Berlin Line (Picture of Berlin in Three Movements)
Personnel: Sinister: Luís Lopes (guitar); Rodrigo Pinheiro (Fender Rhodes); Robert Landfermann (bass with effects) and Christian Lillinger (drums)
Track Listing: Cram: 1. Mevrouw Post Van Gisteren 2. Bidzil 3. Lye 4. Sf > Si
Personnel: Cram: Vitja Pauwels (guitar and electronics); Cesar De Sutter-Pinoy (guitar) and Teun Verbruggen (drums and electronics)