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CD Feature/ Mike Hansen: "At every Point"

img  Tobias

On the inner pannel to this digipack, Andrew Johnson delivers an introductory statement, which once again makes me wonder why the art of writing prefaces to album has all but disappeared from sight. “As with Mike Hansen’s paintings”, Johnson claims, “the compositions of “At every point” avoid making a grand statement (...) It is the lack of a grand statement that allows the listener to focus on the depth of each detail.” Which is another way of saying: There are surprises behind each and every corner.

As one might expect, the open invitation to enjoy the pleasures of this album’s details requires a great deal of concentration and the ability to let go of all expectations concerning structure. Not because there is none to be found here, but because its logic is hard to decipher. As humans beings, we all rely on a certain degree of familair organisation, while our thirst for the new leads us to places alien and fearsome to our organism. This dichotomy has lead to techniques such as cut-up writing, but Hansen is not one to simply construct meaning by deconstrcting it on another level. Rather, his method comes close to walking a tightrope: Each step is carefully measured, yet once it has been taken, the situation has changed and requires new considerations. While our imaginary tighrope walker will take hours to cross the canyon, the process of “At every point” is one of many instantaneous decisions: Sceneries change abruptly and without prior notice; what was once pleasant can now appear intimidating and the darkness breathing in your neck may reveal its hidden beauty. Sound-wise, Hansen has a strong inclination for scraping metallic noises - sometimes as soft as brushing cymbals and occasionally as confronting as dropping a heavy trash bin lid from the top of the empire state building - all created from instruments such as cowbells, harmonicas or Vietnamese drums. On more than one occasion, the thought of this being Jazz comes up, not only in the most obvious example of “Tidying up after” with its blaring wind section and drum escapades, but quite generally in the way the different elements interact with each other, interlocking for ensemble play and errupting into weird solos.

It is this interaction on the one hand and the notion of rhythm on the other which hold the disparate components together and act as a guide through the abstractions of “At every point”. Even though Hansen comes from turntablism, he has not reverted to the usual and probably easiest option of sampling himself to death, but created a world from scratch. Which is maybe the most remarkable feat about this album, which sounds as though its source material could have been taken from an international field recording sampler. The fact that it appears hugely ambitious is certainly no contradiction to Andrew Johnson’s opening remarks: In the lack of any recognisable theme at all, every detail could be a grand statement.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Mike Hansen
Homepage: Etude Records

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