Saturday, 24 July 2010

On Acheulian Handaxe

The label established by the man who invented the fabulous definition “endangered guitar”, namely Hans Tammen. You might like them or not, but there’s no question that these records are likely to challenge the listener in diverse ways.


A duo working with processed sounds, electronics and voice (Naphtali usually employs a Max/MSP software for her trips). The concept is basically that of a sci-fi play, although I couldn’t find the desire to focus my attention to the descriptions of the single “chapters”. Both the good and the bad of extreme treatment are evident throughout. Certain solutions are quite humorous – occasionally awesome – in their warped glory, completely unrecognizable voices utilized as instruments for the generation of baffling soundscapes abounding in rhythmic diversifications, clustery indeterminations and instant outgrowths dressed with timbres from the depth of a black hole. Yet, as the time passes, the formula becomes somewhat predictable, the novelty factor leaving room to a slight degree of staleness (not helped by the obviousness of the rare snippets of “regular” spontaneous singing, following well-trodden paths that have nothing left to reveal nowadays). Thus, for this writer’s taste this is a 50-50 record, not destined to eternal remembrance. But it is definitely worth of an attentive listen, given the participants’ indisputable earnestness.


Two extensive tracks recorded in 2007, using heavily manipulated/altered trumpet and guitar. An intelligent proposal in which the balance between real and modified timbres is practically perfect, also thanks to quieter segments - infrequently appearing amidst ceaseless ingenious spurts - that help the psyche to agree to the most alien sounds even better. The general mood is one of rather polite edginess, dictated by the almost total absence of familiarity in relation to the instrumentation’s concrete appearance. Dörner privileges subdued rumble, controlled power and a smart management of hiss-and-puff traits permeated of oral humidity; Hirt is into the utter modification of the axe’s tone, generating strangely resounding walls of harmonically transgendered chordal abortions, placing his statements in the right spots with incredible perspicacity. Yet he’s not opposing the use of the strings as a percussive device, halfway through a small bell and an African instrument. The resulting music is pleasingly polluting and gently upsetting: subliminal at times, straight to the point elsewhere, but still difficult to appraise unless you really concentrate on it. Overall, a stimulating release.

CHARLES E.IVES / FEDERICO MOMPOU – Concord Sonata / Música Callada I

Something entirely different here. Pianist Peter Geisselbrecht tackles scores from the repertoire of a pair of composers from the last century who apparently don’t have so much in common. However a link exists between the two, under the guise of the diverse types of spirituality to which both allude (respectively, associations to transcendentalism and Thoreau, and the influence of mystic poet San Juan De La Cruz). The underlying aura should not divert our concentration from the severe beauty of the resulting music, interpreted by Geisselbrecht with exactness and sentiment. At times Concord Sonata might result slightly problematical for the not conversant, its four parts mixing ponderous chordal superimposition and unselfish reflection in a succession of intense movements, (rare) ironic touches and grieving passages. It’s a demonstration of the viewpoint according to which solemnity and a sharp mind can live together after all and, ultimately, it is splendid stuff. Mompou is the one to choose for the most melancholic in the audience: the nine chapters of Música Callada are rather undersized and explicatively titled (“Lento”, “Afflitto e Penoso”, “Semplice” to quote but three). They continue what the more placidly thoughtful sections of Ives’ work had begun, establishing a typical impression of quiet sadness connected with classic “look-at-a-distant-past” atmospheres, with just minor deviations from this canon. We almost smell the dust of the large rooms in ancient mansions while mentally envisioning interminable silences, meaningful studies and timorous approaches to an equally shy counterpart. Objects of a reciprocal love that will never be confessed.