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CD Feature/ V.A.: "Signal to Noise Vol. 4"

img  Tobias
The fact that the releases of the “Signal to Noise” series on Günter Müller’s For4Ears label have been spread out over a relatively long timespan has created the illusion that we’re dealing with an ongoing process here. In reality, the material collected on these albums was recorded within an intensely condensed frame (both spatially and time-wise), capturing the minute mood swings and day-to-day peculiarities of its protagonists with seismographic precision. If you want to reference the recordings, then you’ll have to reference them to cities and local food, rather than to musically comparable projects.

As two further installments hit record stores, this becomes clearer than ever, with “Signal to Noise Vol. 4” representing a companion release to the second part of the series. While the latter operated within a trio constellation, resulting in almost pointilistic warmth and in minimalistic Jazz-moods, Tomas Korber (Guitar, Electronics), Christian Weber (Contrabass) and Katsura Yamauchi (Sax) are joined by Jason Kahn on good old analog synthesizer and percussion, Norbert Möslang on electronics and Müller on his iPod in a second session at Yamaguchi’s YCAM performance space.

The result are two untitled tracks between twenty and thirty minutes’ length, one for each day of recording. The first piece could be called “careful raprochement”, with the players patting down each other’s performance, trying to sense what the others want, feeling their way forward towards a concerted release, a collective direction. For ten minutes, the entire space is filled with nothing but isolated drum caresses, airy, ultratonal saxophone breaths, crisp crackles from various sources, the occasional plucked bass string in the upper register and tentative electronic buzzes and effects, constituting a field in flux, rather than a force in flow.

The instrumentalists are so utterly concentrated and careful to pick the right moment to explode that the journey increasingly turns into the reward. At about the eleven-minute mark, guitar tremolos rise from the fold, but quickly subside into the open stream again – is the trip over before it has begun?

Then cymbal-drones trickle in, permeating the sonic environment with a sudden urgency and acuteness. Like apocalyptic waves, the still subtle pulsations twist in nightmarish distortion, with all elements picking up pace. The track begins to heave, getting more noisey and rising from from hazy lucidity into upfront concretion, like a hangar singing in its sleep. Just as quickly as it has begun, the episode ends, with only loose threads remaining, fading away slowly as the ambiance softly disintegrates.

The second contribution is more openly alert, drums, high-pitched saxophone lines and electronic frequencies entwining around stretched tones. Already starting slightly nervous and uptight, the music remains antsy throughout, even after its collapse halfway and drops into a cavernous space of howles and shreaks, from whence it grows into a coiled-up drone, ebbing out into waves of pit-patting rhythms.

An identical ensemble recording two completely different pieces within just a single day’s distance – “Signal to Noise Vol. 4” proves that it a mere enumeration of equipment will never do in describing improvised music. It captures a group already partially strained by an intense touring schedule, yet simultaneously probably at their most relaxed: There’s not a tiny bit of egoism to be found in these sessions, with all artists showing enough respect to listen to each other and enough initiative to inject their counterparts with fresh ideas. Just like the performances themselves, listening to them feels different each time, with new details surfacing again and again. The series may soon be ended, but the process continues inside the listener.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: For4Ears Records
Homepage: Günter Müller
Homepage: Jason Kahn
Homepage: Tomas Korber
Homepage: Norbert Möslang
Homepage: Christian Weber
Homepage: Katsura Yamauchi

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