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|Reviews that mention Jozef van Wissem
Abs (.) Hum
Nu Bop Records
The London Electric Guitar Orchestra
Sticks and Stones
Jozef van Wissem
Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear
By Ken Waxman
April 10, 2006
Strings in multiples sets are the focus of these CDs, which match electronics to traditional instruments in programs that in most cases could only be created in the 21st Century. Featuring musicians from five European countries and the United States, they also suggest that globalism can be beneficial when it involves sounds rather than commercial trade. All the discs feature strings manipulated in different fashions, although the majority of musicians are playing some variation of the worlds most popular string set the guitar.
Sticks and Stones highlights all that can be done with the six-string, when the 11 [!] members of the British-based London Electric Guitar Orchestra (L.E.G.O.) combine forces. Even more sound-oriented, Fibre matches up the six-string guitars and electronics of Zürich-based Thomas Korber and Keith Rowe of the United Kingdom with the ipod and electronics of Günther Müller of Itingen Switzerland; while Uotha is a first-time meeting between Chicago drummer Hamid Drake and Sardinian Paolo Angeli, whose cello-sized, guitar from North Sardinia, has extra strings and a bridge and is played with either fingers or a bow.
More minimally, Amsterdam-based Jozef van Wissem extends the timbres of his 10-course lute with electronics and pre-recorded airfield sounds on Objects in Mirror are Closer than They Appear. Finally, showcasing the most labor-saving method of preparing an instrument, No Heroes features both Charles-Henry Beneteau and Christophe Havard from St-Nazaire, France playing the same guitar, remotely controlled with a computer and mixer and extended with installations.
Concentrating many of the machine or man-made vibrations and pulsations that a full-sized electro-acoustic band would display, the 10-year-old L.E.G.O. runs through three semi-improvised/semi-notated tracks in less than 20 minutes. An augmentation of many of the sonic experiments art schools lecturer and conductor John Bisset has advanced with only one guitar partner Alex Ward or German drummer Burkhard Beins, the buzzing, clinking, tapping and slack key effects create one 66-string instrument, that here is played by Christopher Evans, Simon Williams, Perry, Viv Dogan Corringham, Michael Rogers, Ivor Kallin, Nigel Teers and Jon Lever; plus Jem Finer and Darryl Hunt of the Pogues band, as well as Bisset.
Extending ring modulator whooshes, delay, zooms and drones, the massed strings can sometimes be so overwhelming that they nearly suck all the available air from the compositions. Recurrent tremolo whammy-bar excursions and modulated feedback buzzes make things even more claustrophobic. Alternately by attaching alligator clips or raising the strings horizontally, then using knitting needles, the massed plectrumists produce bell-ringing, aviary-styled chirps that scramble upwards from metallic scrapes and widely-spaced harmonized strokes to whines and flanges. At times, as well, chromatic licks that could come from old-timey banjos are transformed into slurred finger picking and superseded by steady rasgueado strums then reprised in different combinations.
Related to this sort of guitar retuning and rethinking but on a micro scale are Abs (.) Hum and Korber/Rowe/Müller, whose conceptions resemble one anothers. A maximum of two guitarists are involved in Fibre and No Heroes, with both aggregations using electronics and distinctive preparations to create wave forms that rarely relate to standard guitar sounds. A self-described tinkerer, who recorded on soprano and tenor saxophones with Rowe and the members of AMM, Havard has found the perfect partner for guitar à distance in the initially self-taught Beneteau, whose background encompasses rock, blues and multi-guitar chamber music.
Using small engines, and chord-pulling-initiated vibrations and tension, the two players glide among the strings without colliding with one another, diffusing distorted tones that range from walloped drones to bell-like sideband whooshes. Using delay for repeated effects, at points Havard and Beneteau resonate folksy strums ad infinitum and build up to jet plane-like quivering resonance elsewhere. Sometimes electronically triggered facsimiles of sounded timbres are immediately mixed with primary signals so the number of phantom guitarists multiples as well. Sharp, near ear-piercing noises shrill as do pseudo-cymbal cracks. When these blend with concentrated buzzes and drones, the texture suggested is that of a constantly revolving dust-encrusted turntable.
In spite of piezo pickups isolating individual string tones and split-second sound loops, flat-picked tones and palm-tapped string distortions are audible as well as are staccato finger-picking not to mention constantly rotating rasgueado rubs and associated echoes. The coarse overlay from the preparations allow triggered loops of sound to disappear, then appear and augment in volume and intensity until the two human performers subside into infrequent metallic clanking.
Linked even more to electronic fluttering and delays, Fibre extends first-generation electro-acoustic diagnostics from Rowe, whose playing partners have ranged from percussionist Beins to British saxophonist Evan Parker and Müller, who has partnered the Swiss cracked everyday-electronic band Voice Crack and British soundsinger Phil Minton among many others, with concepts from 27-year-old computer scientist Korber, whose collaborators range from ex-Voice Cracker Norbert Möslang to Japanese no-input-mixing-board specialist Toshimaru Nakamura.
During the course of two 20-minute and one shorter track, triggered sequences and droned static often complicate and stabilize the results, nearly stripping them of all string references. One example is the second track which, like the others, is untitled. Broadened with envelopes of buzzing motor-driven twists plus percolating watery billows, these high-pitched almost inaudible squeaks are resequenced into bell-ringing and thumping pulsations. More than half-way through, a single guitar chord reverberates as fingers slide up-and-down the strings only to have dial-twisting radio static most likely from Rowe divide the ensuing textures into faint drones.
Another echoing guitar chord and the occasional chromatic thumb picks characterize the primary scene-setting of the third track. But generated sounds accumulated from Müllers ipod and the others electronics soon transform into dense, near hisses and pulsations, solid enough to slide up against immovable objects of equal hardness. Conclusively, a single organ-like chord subsumed all other noises into watery drones which eventually become a regularized sequence of gradually fading, well-spaced pings.
Comparing Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear to these other sessions makes its10 brief tracks appear to be a mixture of musique concrète and the early multi-string experimentations of non-jazz guitarists like Sandy Bull and John Fahey. Using backwards reading palindromes, repetitive flat-picking and flamenco-like strumming as his base, van Wissem adds loudspeaker announcements, passenger cross talk and luggage car wheel squeaks to his double-picked bass string passages and inserts supplementary tension with percussive whacks. Using fretting hand pressure to vibrate nylon-string squeaks, by the conclusion he has reshuffled his string resonation in such a way that found sounds and created notes are nearly indistinguishable.
Percussionist Drake the one non-string player featured on all these albums constructs distinctive responses to anything Angelis mammoth strummed and stroked guitar can create during Uotha. Considering Drakes musical associates have ranged over the spectrum of powerful and individualistic players from German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann to New York bassist William Parker, theres little doubt that he wouldnt have been equally unfazed by Abs (.) Hum and Korber/Rowe/Müllers electronics, van Wissems palindromes and all of L.E.G.O.s 11 guitarists improvising simultaneously.
Not that he isnt willing to cooperate with the Sardinian guitarist. Especially instructive is The Many Faces of the Beloved, which features Drake chanting and rattling a frame drum in response to Angelis bowed cello-like continuo plus the plucking of multiple strings. In this case, undercurrents link Sardinian, Arabic-tinged sounds to North African memories present in Drakes solos. As the American vocalizes, the surrounding musical gestalt is transformed in such a way that Drake could be playing a bata and Angeli a 21-string kora. The guitarists double-stopped accents easily complement the drumming, and introduce finger-picked vamps when Drake harshly vibrates his lathed cymbals.
Pieces such as Fuga dal Mouse and Specchi dArancia, may have traditional sounding titles. Yet resonating chromatic guitar lines and sharp bowed arpeggios augment to winging, Jimi Hendrix-like feedback as the drummer rams and plops intense flams and ruffs hard beats from his kit. While Drakes American background cant and wont deny a jazz history, except for the odd, perhaps inadvertent quote, the guitarist stays clear of that music. Nor, despite an extended section of authentic-sounding chant-vocalizing mixed with string-snapping picks from Angeli is this unaltered ethnic music disc.
Instead, the end result is yet another example of the adoption of new patterns and new thinking to the playing of conventional stringed instruments. This leitmotif unites all these sessions.
April 10, 2006
Absinth Records 002
JOSEF VAN WISSEM
Dispatches from the front lines of EuroImprov, these unusual CDs provide fresh evidence of the inventiveness enlivening the thought processes of many musicians on the other side of the Atlantic.
Subject at hand is strings, and the sessions are unusual in more ways than one. Second volume in a series that also showcased German reed players, BERLIN STRINGS is made up of four three-inch CDs, each showcasing one Berlin-based stringslinger: three guitarists and Andrea Neumann on inside piano and mixing deck.
Two of the other plectrumists -- Michael Renkel on guitar, zither and preparations and Serge Baghdassarians on guitar and mixing desk -- take advantage of 21st century electronics, as does the player on SIMULACRUM. On his fourth solo release, Amsterdams Jozef van Wissem adds electronics and field recordings to solo playing on an instrument that was already commonplace in European music by the middle of the 15th century: the lute. However van Wissem does play a special 10 course -- that is 20-string -- lute built for him by a Toronto craftsman. Plus the compositions altered by electric impulses here are palindromes or musical verses that sound the same played backwards and forwards. Back to BERLIN, odd person out here is Olaf Rupp, who applies a flamenco style attack to nine short pieces for acoustic guitar.
Neumann, who usually plays in a duo with Annette Krebs on electro-acoustic guitar or in Continental coop groups such as Phosphor or No Spaghetti Edition, produces the most in-your-face textures with her specially constructed inside piano. During the first three, uniquely titled tracks the sheer weight of industrial discord being produced is reminiscent of Andy Warhols one-time plaint that he wished he could be as mechanical as a robot.
With most of the tones static sine waves, intense patterns and scratches and factory whistle squeals, you figure shes figured out how to create guitar pedal effects and distortions in her many-stringed instrument. Although there are also periods when it sounds as if shes mashing an electric drill against parts of the instruments that were initially hand crafted.
On end of a motor noticed by 5 picks ups the longest and most descriptively titled track, she proves her inventiveness by making a soundtrack out of the action described. Beginning with the amplified clunk of what could be cymbals rolling between the key frame and the bottom board, the piece soon develops hollow, cylindrical tones and the intermittent buzzes of a malfunctioning motor. Undeterred, she creates a noise that resembles hooks scraping sheet metal that is then transformed into shuddering impulses that move from one sound source to another until the track lapses into silence.
Another convert to robotic drones and pulses that reach assembly line proportions is Baghdassarians, a German of Armenian descent. Someone who turned his study of classical guitar into sonic art work and participation with liked-minded performers at different improv or New music festivals, his pulsations here move between aviary squeals and an approximation of sheet metal severing. Among the droning static and sluiced osculation are spasmodic periods of silence. Probably courtesy of his mixing deck, versuch eine welle zu lessen ends when what could be the noise a turntable makes when its tracking is stuck. The sound is transformed into Bronx cheers and shrill video game explosions.
Antithetically, Rupps nine [!] acoustic guitar solos are intense example of slurred fingering that simulate a sort of pseudo flamenco. Likely having shoved a mike deep into his guitars sound hole, the amplification picks up every string snap, individual finger pick and note vibration. A former improvising pop musician, who has worked with Necks drummer Tony Buck and British woodwind master Lol Coxhill, Rupp has recently focused on solo acoustic guitar performances. Here hes constantly strumming and picking, so that it appears as if hes trying to cram as many notes into a bar line that, despite his best efforts, refuses to expand. Sliding up the neck for new tones, his pummeled notes then go flamenco one better, exposing not only entire smudged line fills, but also the quivering vibrations from the movements.
Despite utilizing preparations and the extra strings of a zither as well as his guitar, Renkels one track is unexpectedly quiet, with tumbrel scratches from high up on the strings and behind the bridge appearing as well as ringing tone that are softly answered by seconding lines. Another reductionist and member of Phosphor with Neumann, he combines a classical guitar background with an interest in computer technology and live electronics. Additionally, Renkel is part of a reeds and strings duo with clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski, who was featured on BERLIN REEDS.
In a pacific mood here, the fretman often appears to be applying fingertip pressure to his strings, creating strums, what sound like small animal movements and irregular, swaying Hawaiian slack key patterns. Before ending with what sounds like him pressing a tiny rotating fan against his strings, Renkels repeated timbres and reverberations fade away for a time, as if hes lost interest, with the audible results coming as much from shifting the instrument as playing it.
Moving north and west to the Netherlands, one person who definitely does play on the eight tracks that make up his CD is van Wissem. Someone who in the past has collaborated with outside guitarists like American Gary Lucas and Japans Tetuzi Akiyama, hes completely on his own here. However, a condensator mike inserted within the instruments allows him to cut, paste, sample and add so-called internal wolf tones to his acoustic improvisations.
Setting aside his tweaking of the palindromes, which unite the 15th and 21st centuries, two of the more memorable tracks are U.S. Drone Strikes Again and Smoke and Mirrors. On both, especially the former, the sampled electronic impulses allow him to output a variety of sounds underscored by jagged electronic thunderclaps. On top of that though, these actions makes the lone picker resemble all the members of Bill Monroes Blue Grass Boys. Using mitosis-like actions to combine, then split apart different licks, he plays the lead with a Lester Flatt-type run only to cut into it with lines that could be Monroes focused mandolin licks and Earl Scruggs syncopated banjo-picking rolls. Processed wolf tone make the second tune even spookier.
Although he does add sounds recorded in a Brooklyn, N.Y. subway station to John F. Kennedy, his strength there and throughout is the doubled guitar-like drone created with the twinned lute strings. Often, you wouldnt even know that processing is involved, so unerringly do the parts fit together. Palindromes help too, of course.
Regression for instance sounds straight and traditional enough as if it was recorded by minstrel Alan ODale, standing beside Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. In actuality its an edited, cut and pasted version of Precession, the first track, inspired by a Renaissance lute form.
Looking forwards and backwards simultaneously, the five string players represented on these five -- or is it one plus four half? -- CDs, illuminate the advanced thinking about and playing with strings thats invigorating European improv.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: berlin: CD1: 1.~ 2.* 3.`` 4. end of a motor noticed by 5 picks ups CD2: 1. trans aronex CD3: 1. Metal Peace, Suite in neun Teilen Parts 1-9 CD4: 1. versuch eine welle zu lessen
Personnel: berlin: CD1: Andrea Neumann (inside piano and mixing desk); CD2: Michael Renkel (guitar, zither and preparations); CD3: Olaf Rupp (guitar); CD4: Serge Baghdassarians (guitar and mixing desk)
Track Listing: Simulacrum: 1. Precession 2. Reconnaissance 3. U.S. Drone Strikes Again 4. Smoke and Mirrors 5. John F. Kennedy 6. Marja I Taqled 7. Mimicry and camouflage 8. Regression
Personnel: Simulacrum: Jozef van Wissem (lute, electronics, field recordings)
February 23, 2004
Yuko: A New Daxophone Operetta
a l l 003
JOZEF VAN WISSEM
Primitivism and futurism have coexisted within improvised music for many years -- consider the oeuvre of Sun Ra among others -- and this singular dichotomy continues into the 21st century. Thats the attraction of these two solo CDs by inventive string players.
On his disc, Hollands Jozef van Wissem subverts the pre-Renaissance sound of the lute with a program of original work based on palindromes, that is verses that sound the same backwards and forwards. He also plays a special 10 course lute designed by a Toronto craftsman. Conversely, Germanys Hans Reichel has recorded an entire operetta, where all vocal and instrumental parts are created on the daxophone, a stringed instrument of his own invention. Connoisseurs of the unique will be fascinated by both discs.
An artisan in the traditional sense, Hagen-born Reichel is a typeface designer, composer, inventor and luthier. He claims to have invented the daxophone after hearing an LP of animal sounds and being impressed with the badgers great sonic range. In German the animal is called a dachs, but Reichel insists on spelling his invention dax when he tired of explaining its genesis. The Daxophone is a narrow flat strip of wood anchored at one end and which can be bowed, scraped, tapped or otherwise vibrated and whose frequency of vibration can be varied by the application of a mobile wooden block anywhere along the length. Approximately 330 mm long, 30 mm wide and 5mm deep, the strips are shaped from different woods and with different contours to provide a variety of sounds from falsetto soprano to basso profundo.
YUKO evolved from a commission Reichel received to write and record new music for a production of William Shakespeares Comedy of Errors. While many of the selections are definitely theatrically rooted, theyre certainly not stage bound. As a matter of fact, the harmonies produced by the ebony, rosewood and cedar vocalists on these tracks often appear to be transmutations of classic vocal group techniques, as well as the work of other songsters. Sometimes the daxophone, which can be extended with junk percussion and sampling, will come up with a tone that sounds like a wild boar accompanied by a chorus of sopranos, or alternately, a German beer hall band and a doo wop singing group mixing it up in a touristy café. Dont forget the plectrumists ability to use what he calls his pick-behind-the-bridge guitar technique to create what could almost be real cathedral or chapel bells tolling.
Other tracks suggest massed childrens and adult choirs; congas and Latin percussion mixed with electronic dance rhythms and interrupted by an oom-pah-pah band; a Roma wedding; reverberating outer space voices harmonizing on nursery rhymes; the bubbling tempo of an assembly line; and cheesy roller rink pipe organs giving way to the sound of a gee-tar strummed by a lonesome cowpoke on the range.
On The South Coast Route, for instance, the solo dax sounds like one of those Las Vegas performers such as Al Martino doing a wordless version of his lounge lizard routine. Then theres Street Song where the soprano and baritone harmony makes it appear as if one of those classic girl groups like The Ronettes had met The all-male Drifters somewhere in Germany.
Bubu and his Friends, which Reichel imagined as his version of Ray Charles Hit The Road, Jack instead sounds as if the soloist is warbling through his nose, while chipmunks Alvin, Theodore and Simon disguise themselves as the Raelets and burble and gurgle in the background. Most impressive is the reharmonized Le Bal (new version), where it initially appears as if the bass-baritone from Porgy and Bess is projecting while frogs and toads burp in unison. Later it appears as if a jug band is backing up one of those multi-part harmony singing groups like The Four Freshman or The Nylons as clearly in-sync voices pass the lead back and forth.
YUXO is both a tour-de-force and a triumph.
Moving from the cast of (imaginary) characters that seem to populate the other disc to NARCISSUS DROWNING, is solo van Wissem on his specially designed lute. He himself adds drum and electronics to a few tracks, while New York downtowner Gary Lucas sits in on three playing steel-string dobro.
Deadpan Jack Benny to Reichels frantic Robin Williams, the lutenist is much more restrained, though more obviously experimental than on RETROGRADE (Persphone 002), his earlier CD, 28 minutes of backwards rendition of original lute pieces from the 1600s. During the course of this discs eight tracks in 37 minutes, van Wissem claims to be dealing with a musical metaphor for mirror stage theory. This is an infants first encounter with sexuality and the beginning of aggressive behavior, reflected in the Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with own reflected image and drowned trying to reach it.
Definitely not so-called folk or period music, when the electronics and drums are taken into account, some of the lutenists pieces resemble extensions of guitarist Sandy Bulls discs of the early 1960s, where that American guitarist mixed roots themes, middle eastern influences and Billy Higgins jazz drumming. Other times it sounds as if van Wissem had somehow managed to transfer the chords-heavy, scalar attack of Travis-style picking to his lute, while adding the primitive foot-percussion of songsters like Jesse Lone Cat Fuller. However there are also times, as on the title track, where the jiggling electronics and body percussion of the tunes penultimate minutes hardly makes up for the nearly eight minutes of moderate tempo arpeggios, glissandos and finger picking that proceed it.
Putting his downtown trendiness aside, Lucas can be quite effective when his Appalachian dobro provides the echoing voice to van Wissems Elizabethan-oriented lute. On Diplopia, Lucas bottleneck style almost makes it appears that the Mississippi delta is next to the Dutch flatlands.
A former Captain Beefheart sideman, Lucas also know how to mutate rock music. So when he and the lutenist perform their version of Kraftwerks Hall of Mirrors the simple repetitive dance melody is given added heft. Between van Wissems faux drums and Lucas metal-bodied slide-guitar approach, intensity not found in the original is added.
Should an interest in skewing and advancing an ancient sound through new instrumentation and new methods be in your bailiwick, then this CD will undoubtedly attract you.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: Yuko: 1. The Duke of Syracuse 2. A life without Lychees 3.You can dance with me 4.Bubu and his friends 5. Oway oway 6. Out of Namakemono 7. Death procession 8.Street song 9.My haunted house 10. Le Bal (new version) 11. Sometimes at night 12.The South Coast route 14. Eros vs. education
Personnel: Yuko: Hans Reichel (daxophone, guitar, processing)
Track Listing: Narcissus: 1. Of Voluntary Departure 2. Tijuana Round 3. Brethren of the Free Spirit* 4. Diplopia 5. Elian Gonzalez* 6. The Mirror Stage 7. Narcissus Drowning*
Personnel: Narcissus: Jozef van Wissem (lute, electronics, beats); Gary Lucas (dobro*)
October 21, 2002