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Festival Report/ Echtzeitmusiktage 2010 Part 2

img  Tobias Fischer


16/09/2010 – That night, the gigs took place in the Festsaal Kreuzberg, also a Turkish wedding hall. Again, I discovered a band with weirdly mixed influences. The Understated Brown is made up of Boris Hauf, Thomas Meadowcroft and (again!) Steve Heather on drums. Hauf and Meadowcroft were supposed to play with an organ and a synth (which they did) but for the first track one was playing sax, the other trombone and some electronic equipment I couldn't quite see. With obvious references to classic, psychedelic and krautrock, they performed some ‘groovy’ music with pretty nice organ layers, sometimes beautifully combined with the warm brass timbre of Meadowcroft's trombone. They also ventured in free jazz digressions, but Heather kept on drumming, over and over, often at a blistering pace, transfixed by his repeating rhythmic motifs. Either disconcerted by the patchwork of sounds, or eager to hear more experimental stuff, the audience didn't seem electrified by the performance. I found it quite fascinating.

Vladislav Delay moved from Berlin back to Finland but as far as I know, Mika Vainio, Lucio Capece and Derek Shirley are still living in the German capital. For some reason, the Vladislav Delay Quartet (pictured) have played in Poznan, Prag, Athens, Geneva and Belgrade but never in Berlin. So you can imagine how the local fans felt about this long-awaited gig, which proved to be stunning despite its short duration. The whole local underground music scene was present among the audience. On stage we saw Delay much quieter than in his Berlin performance with the Moritz von Oswald trio last year: focused, but less frantically involved, just feeling free to hit (or not to hit) his cymbals, pads and percussions. The approach here was not the same: you wouldn't dance to this music. On soprano sax and bass clarinet, Lucio Capece blew harmonically-advanced sequences of notes, steady drones, or simply air, sometimes even blowing with some kind of tube installed in the instrument's bell (and with an empty tin on top of it—at least it looked like that) in order to create vibrations. Processing and sampling live elements, Mika Vainio's sounds melted successfully into the surrounding acoustic jazz feeling but he also produced his very own deep deep bass patterns, mesmerizing the audience and eating up Derek Shirley's bass playing in its waves, in fact sort of eating up our brains too. Getting along perfectly together, the way the four of them interacted seemed inherited from jazz, but the soundscapes were far less predictable. A risky and exciting business. After barely half an hour, the performance was over and it felt like a coitus interruptus. I guess it left everybody wanting more. Which makes sense when you know that a debut record is to be released soon.

17/09/2010 – Another concert, another venue. The Elizabethkirche, an unfurnished church with red brick walls, welcomed two 7-member-bands. Phosphor's music is halfway between improvised and contemporary music. More to the point: it is improvised but it sounds like some quiet Webern-influenced contemporary music. Referring to Webern is just an excuse to talk about silence: during that performance we heard some beautiful pieces of silence. It wasn't as though no one was playing - they just played their instrument sparsely. On David Sylvian's latest album Manafon, you can also hear this kind of will-o'-the-wisp music, but on the foreground you have Sylvian's oh so human voice. Hearing Phosphor's members, you had no earthly clues but these ephemeral ghost-lights. Every sound was unfamiliar because almost all instruments were being played with extended techniques: an acoustic guitar with mallets or a bow (Michael Renkel), the harp of a piano on a table (Andrea Neuman), a trumpet with electronics (Axel Dörner), a turntable (Ignaz Schick) and percussions (Burkhard Beins) used with objects, modified electric guitar (Annette Krebs) with a laptop. Oh and a tuba (Robin Hayward) for some bass drones; just a tuba, it seemed. Not sitting on the front row, I tried to recognize which instrument produced such and such particular sound, but that wasn't enhancing the listening experience at all. I decided that the best way to appreciate the performance was to be in a state of daydream, a state actually fostered by the music which was, I couldn't be sure, cosmic or microscopic. I think I made the right decision.

Hammeriver is a supergroup which gathers no less than Chris Abrahams on grand piano, Werner Dafeldecker and Clayon Thomas on double bass, Tobias Delius on tenor sax and clarinet, Will Guthrie on drums (instead of Tony Buck on a previous formation), Australian harpist Clare Cooper (who created the band) and Austrian laptop artist Christof Kurzmann.

Moving his bow across any part of his bass outside the strings, Dafeldecker, along with his restless partner Thomas, and not forgetting Guthrie, served as a creative rhythm section, giving away ideas for free. Accordingly, they often seemed to inspire the rest of the band. Always ready, Delius was responding with raucous sounds, or frankly disrupted what was going on. Clare Cooper, who played a remarkable solo part, and Abrahams, so patient and minimal again, coloured the improvisations with whispered scales and arpeggi, while Kurzmann was busy distorting and real time-sampling. Sometimes the whole group found itself magically contributing to some gorgeous and contemplative static moments.

Unlike with Phosphor, collective silence didn't happen. Not even in the end: reaching for a peaceful conclusion, as all instruments seemed to tell their last secrets, someone's cell phone rang. And rang. A collective sigh.Then the musicians moved on and all together they abruptly struck up one of Cooper's composition revolving around one note. I stayed there, happily soundbathing in E for ten minutes.

By Antoine Richard.

Antoine Richard maintains the Blog „Happily the Future“ dealing with Experimental and Contemporary Art.

Homepage: Echtzeitmusiktage Berlin
Homepage: Festsaal Kreuzberg, Berlin
Homepage: The Understated Brown
Homepage: Vladislav Delay Quartet
Homepage: Phosphor
Homepage: Hammeriver

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