John Butcher / Werner Dafeldecker / Burkhard Beins / Michael Moser / Martin Brandlmayr

August 14, 2006

Archives of the North

Hatology 633

By Ken Waxman

Situated even more so than previously within its own unique sound world, the now five-man Polwechsel mixes reductionist techniques and inchoate electronic tinctures with the autonomy of FreeImprov to make its point

On this CD, the Austrian-British band changes direction by adding two percussionists – Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr – to an aural concept that previously was advanced by Polwechsel founders, Werner Dafeldecker on bass and cellist Michael Moser and given auxiliary tinctures when London-based reedist John Butcher joined the ensemble at the beginning of the century.

True to its initial impulses though, Beins, who has partnered with everyone from British guitarist Keith Rowe to vocalist Phil Minton; and Brandlmayr, who is in the Trapist trio which explores similar territory; aren’t percussionists in the conventional sense – at least if that’s measured in beats, flams or paradiddles. Instead both men inject barely pressured, stretched tones from their kits – long, hocketing cymbal vibrations, patterning wooden rim shot snaps, drum top scrapes and friction plus chains rattling and the rolling of blunt objects.

Interlocking with these impulses are Butcher’s distinctive tongue fluttering and stops, singular tone warbling, and multiphonic note expansion. Dafeldecker adds precise arco string movements and more concentrated dense hums, plus occasional, and often seemingly random, pizzicato string strums. Additionally, Mosher outputs electronic impulses from his computer from time-to-time. Yet the crackling reverb and input signal- crossing is introduced with the same lapidary care as the reedist brings to his wind-chime-like trills or the bassist does to his droned undercurrent.

Essentially the concept, like similarly distinctive tone distribution from England’s AMM or Australia’s The Necks is inimitable – improvisation following its own reductionist strictures. This way, the underlying and overlaid pulses are as liable to result from polyphonic interaction among subsets of acoustic instruments as from wave form oscillation produced electronically.

Zart as well as staccato, yet characterized at points with authoritative undulation arising from strummed chords and reed-linked ghost-note obbligatos, the sound appears and vanishes according to its own logic. Of and in itself and apparently timeless, ARCHIVES OF THE NORTH marks a stimulating next step in Polwechsel’s evolution.

Track Listing: 1. Datum Cut 2. Mirror 3. Core Cut 4. Magnetic North 5. Site and Setting

Personnel: John Butcher (soprano and tenor saxophones); Michael Moser (cello and computer); Werner Dafeldecker (bass); Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr (drums and percussion)