Thanos Chrysakis/Chris Cundy/Peer Schlechta/Ove Volquartz

April 3, 2024

Aural Terrains 1752


Combining the timbres from two organs and two low-pitched clarinets isn’t a very common sonic configuration. But Greek keyboardist/composer Thanos Chrysakis has done just that, organizing a gripping five-part investigation of mostly deeply sonorous textures that evolve with horizontally gradations of collective pressure.

Chrysakis, who has worked with Ernesto Rodrigues among others, situates his chamber organ timbres among sympathetic tones from other sound explorers. They are Peer Schlechta, whose pipe organ playing is usually heard in the Kurhessen-Waldeck church; fellow German Ove Volquartz, whose bass, contra alto and contrabass clarinets have been heard with Cecil Taylor Barre Phillips and many others; and the UK’s Chris Cundy whose bass and contrabass clarinets have been part of ensembles involving Alexander Hawkins, Moby and the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Creating a near-solid continuum from the ecclesiastical and electrical keyboards, consolidation is further applied as reed tongue slaps and slurs blend into darker and thicker snores, with only an occasional bird-like flutter or melody motif spangling the sequence. The  climatic “Part II-III” introduce some variables as organ ranks and stops create repeated gradations of pitches and volume that evolve alongside reed coloration. High resolution split tones from one clarinetist and low-pitched snores from the other create enough variations so that intermittent counterpoint is heard alongside tremolo organ variations. Overridden by the subsequent near immobile drone created by fused chamber organ thumps and pipe organ wafts, clarinet pitches, that are low and lower merely create slight variations on the near monochrome timbral undulations.

A break and an unexpected turnaround occurs on the concluding “Part V” as Cundy’s sudden switch to multi-hole sopranino ocarina introduces piercing aviary shrills. These periodic plastic peeps provide intervallic lulls to the almost unbroken buzz from the other basso instruments. These contrapuntal breaks also put into bolder relief the scope of the program, providing the proper deviation to appreciate its distinctive musical architecture. Despite the implication of the title, the high rank here is musical not religious.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Part I 2. Part II-III 3. Part IV 4. Part V

Personnel: Chris Cundy (bass and contrabass clarinets, sopranino ocarina); Ove Volquartz (bass, contra alto and contrabass clarinets); Thanos Chrysakis (chamber organ and voice) and Peer Schlechta (organ)