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CD Feature/ Freiband: "298"

img  Tobias
“Are you listening to what you are hearing?” is a famous quote by Pauline Oliveros and it deals with many preconceptions about the perceptual process. Frans de Waard’s “298” adds a further point to Oliveros message: One of the reasons why we are not really taking in all the information in our acoustic environment is because perception is linked to function.

Raw Saxophone recordings are at the heart of the album, which was partly recorded in de Waard’s home country of The Netherlands in 2005 and partly on two quiet days during a tour of Japan two years later. The fact that the source material was performed by one of the more famous protagonists of the healthy Dutch Jazz scene, Bo van de Graaf, hardly matters with regards to the immediate design of these three compositions. Various Freiband live performances with other artists, in which extracts of the master tapes were used in different settings, have however definitely turned out to be helpful in making their potential transparent.

The entire material on “298” is of an extremely “pure” nature. Of course, de Waard has ripped original melodies apart, exposed extreme playing techniques or transposed thematic lines as well as using electronic processing tools to develop his pieces. But the Saxophone remains recognisable throughout. If anything, the album brings out the many different shadings a proficient player like de Graaf can award his instrument, evoking associations from harmonica to toy flutes. While de Waard is certainly not the only act around with this philosphy, his taste for the implicit power which lies in the moment of picking up a sound marks him as one of the most consequential ones.

Another typical feature of the album is its straightforwardness, its unmasked attitude towards its methods. “298” does not want to stupify its audience into believing this is tremendously complex art. Opener “258” begins with repetitions single tone, slowly shrinking the intervals between each note until a long, sustained pad results, which is in turn subjected to subtle manipulations. “8” juxtaposes various musical elements like fruits and liquids inside a cocktail shaker, increasing tension by atonal impurities. Dynamics are at the heart of “32”, which closes out the record in quartatonic harmony.

Because of its outwardly raw state and because they are limited to higher tonal regions, the tracks have a very open and relaxed ambiance and never force themselves upon the listener. The musical ideas are only made clearer by this. De Waard plays with parameters outside of our usual interest.

On “258”, there is a slight flutter in each tone, a short gasp of air. As the pulse bleeds into a drone, this flutter takes on rhythmic qualities, presenting itself in rapid-fire staccatos or glistening arpeggios. Thanks to the changing form of the material, different aspects of the basic sound are brought to the surface, bringing out increased awareness and appreciation of the source performance. Likewhise, the permutations of “32” show how many underlying information is submerged in the drift of an interval.

These details are often overlooked, because, in its fundamental state, the tonal building blocks do not all have musical merrits. They only become audible when this changes and the mind becomes aware of them as rhythm, melody, timbre or harmony. After “298”, however, there is a sudden motivation to pay more attention.

It is almost as though de Waard considers these pieces as pre-exercises to a work which will only contain a single Saxophone note, played with heartfelt enthusiasm for a couple of seconds, before the album ends. Everything’s there, ready to be taken in, if one only truly listens to what one is hearing.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Freiband/Frans de Waard
Homepage: Tosom Records

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