Todd A. Carter / Brent Gutzeit / Michael Hartman

October 30, 2006


Southport S-SSD 0116



Formed 102

Prime instances of the Chicago-Vienna connection, these trios are committed to electro-improv’s reduced parameters, yet also succeed in magnifying these conventions beyond simple ambience.

Although both bands ostensibly feature a three-to-one ratio of acoustic to electronic instrument, you could never tell by casual listening to the drones, silences and squeals on the CDs. Each offers a memorable definition of how new players are shaping unique musical impulses to their own needs. Wane may be a little more notable however, perhaps because of its briefer length and possibly because its members are jobbing musicians rather than committed sound shapers.

TV POW’s Brent Gutzeit for instance, who plays keyboards, percussion and guitars here, initially organized the band while studying sculpture in Tokyo. His initial partner in TV POW is Michael Hartman, with whom he had been in a Kalamazoo, Mich. Band, and who plays percussion, computer and piano on this CD. Moving to Chicago, the duo added freelance audio engineer Todd Carter to form the definite TV POW trio which has been together ever since.

Interestingly enough when the trio is sometimes augmented by other musicians, one of them is on-and-off Chicago resident Boris Hauf, featured on Wane. Actually Viennese, Hauf, who plays baritone saxophone and synthesizers on the other CD, is best-known as a member of the band efzeg. Another Vienna resident, Wener Dafeldecker, who plays guitar and percussion on Wane, is a founder of Polwechsel. The third Wane participant is oboe and English horn player Kyle Bruckmann, a former Chicagoan turned Californians, who also leads the band Wrack.

Informed by the adaptable timbres of both acoustic and electronic sounds, the Wane trio almost seamlessly melds knob clicking and ring modulator whooshes with reed chirping and flutter-tonguing. Taking amp feedback and electronic drones to a place where they dissolve into string flanges and adding reed spetrofluctuation, the three maintain a horizontal interface. Yet there are also enough extruding resonating timbres and ratcheting strokes to keep the four almost-identically titled tracks rhythmically interesting and almost melodic.

“Going 2”, the nearly 14-minute centerpiece, finds modular bell ringing and circular metronomic pulses making common cause with tongue stops and reed osculation. Silences make way for scratches and vice versa, while pressured distortions appear to emanate as much from the guitar’s body as the strings themselves. Climaxing with irregular reed slurs, minute scrapes and ratchets and mechanized hisses, the echoing timbres eventually meshed without a glitch – electrical or acoustic. Here and elsewhere, however, it’s nearly impossible to definitely isolate one characteristic instrumental sound from another.

The members of TV POW, who play on, recorded, mixed and mastered their CD, aim for similar group transference. Committed to additional electronic impulses than the Wane trio, and lacking oral instrumental pitches, their sound is more repetitive and brittle. Languid and often wedding whooshing drones to low-frequency piano clusters, at points passages on the CD resemble the work of Australia’s The Necks or full-fledged minimalism.

Perhaps commenting on how creation is as much perspiration as inspiration, the three build up to the more-than-27 minute live final track, entitled “Sweating Just Sitting Here”. Practically a reductionist sonata, the timbres of this many-layered track shuffle from a single cymbal slap and wavering organ chords and inflate to a protoplasmic mass of shifting wave forms that seem to be informed by rock-like string and drum rhythms.

Following a section devoted to bass drum booming and woodblock popping resonation, it seems as if inflexible objects are being bluntly smacked and shoved along the floor as bent bottleneck-like strings whine. Finally percussive flams and rebounds complete the thought. A penultimate variation finds another ascending organ chord interrupted by real-time applause, grunts and coughs – from an invited audience or the performers isn’t made clear – in addition to top-of-cymbal scrapes. Repetitive guitar background chords plus sampled cymbal echoes signal the throbbing ending.

Both Mid-Westerners and Mid-Easterners take the pulse of lower case improv here. Only length and instrumentation may determine which the listener finds more satisfying.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Pow: 1. The International Brigade 2. Maybe it’s the Alternator 3. I’m Working on it Right Now 4. Chicago Underground Laptop Trio 5. Sweating Just Sitting Here

Personnel: Pow: Todd A. Carter (computer, piano, guitar, percussion, shakes, organ and canjo); Brent Gutzeit (piano, chimes, guitar, vocals, drinks, shakers, bells/chimes, sleep and organ); Michael Hartman (drums, computer, piano, percussion, shakers, singing bowl and bells)

Track Listing: Wane: 1. Going (1) 2. Going (2) 3. Going (3) 4. Gone

Personnel Wane: Kyle Bruckmann (oboe and English horn); Boris Hauf (baritone saxophone and synthesizers); Werner Dafeldecker (guitar and percussion)