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Alan Courtis / Jaime Genovart / Christof Kurzmann / Pablo Reche
Palmar Zähler
MIKROTON CD 2 | 2009

Edition of 500.

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1. Einklang
2. Uranio Agreste
3. Bleimmazorca
4. Berilio
5. Medanos De Yodo
6. Agent Remolacha

Alan Courtis homemade violin, contact mic, mp3, tapes and processing
Jaime Genovart recording, synth, soft
Christof Kurzmann lloopp, clarinet, voice
Pablo Reche minidisc, ipod, alesis nanoverb, korg MS10

It is now 5 years that I travel to Latin America. My home base in Buenos Aires; and from there to almost all the other countries. When I arrived there first, I did not know much about the music scene, especially about any scene committed to “New Music” or “Improvisation”, but with the time i encountered a lot of movement, a lot of interesting music (of any form or genre) and I encountered musicians, that if they had been born in the so called “civilized West” would be within the most important protagonists of their scenes. With some of these musicians I finally became friends, met their work and started to work with them myself. Palmar Zähler (the title of the album, as all the title of all tracks on it, has no further meaning — its chosen only for reasons of “sound” and of losing yourself in translation), is the first release to document my experiences in Latin America. I had the honour to meet three of the most renown players within the Argentinean experimental music scene. Alan Courtis (probably famous for being member of the metal-noise band Reynols, by now leaving the guitar in its “classical” form behind him and developing his own instruments, still strings based, but returning to much more primitive forms to advance much further), Pablo Reche (one of the few electronic musicians to be known for his quite eclectic mix of ambient sounds and field recordings even within Europe) and Jaime Genovart (the man in the background, hardly ever playing live, the more investigating for new sounds in his studio) were partners for a recording made last year, that I think should not be considered as something exotic, but more compared to all the other music that is around today (including Africa, Asia and Latin America — the so called third world countries). I hope you all enjoy!

Christof Kurzmann [March 2009, Buenos Aires / Argentina

Reviews

Vital Weekly, Frans de Waard:
Recorded in Buenos Aires is a group improvisation between Alan Courtis (homemade violin, contact mic, mp3, tapes & processing), Jaime Genovart (recording, synth, soft), Christof Kurzmann (lloop, clarinet, voice) and Pablo Reche (minidisc, ipod, alesis nanoverb, Korg MS10). Six pieces, no doubt recorded as one piece, but edited into six different pieces, each with a very distinctive character. Throughout the buzz, hiss and crack play an important role, such as in the microscopic opening piece ‘Einklang’. It is followed by ‘Uranio Agreste’, which I think is by far the most interesting piece of the CD. Here things also buzz and crack, but the lead is taken by the clarinet of Kurzmann, who waves together a very nice melody, while Courtis bends his violin in the background. A great meeting of interests. In the other pieces things are perhaps less ‘musical’ then in this second piece, but this quartet shows an interesting variety of approaches. Soft and moody while exploring various textures, and a bit louder and grittier at other times, but each with its own specific character. Due to recording on multiple channels and extensive mixed in post production, this is an excellent work.

The Cookshop, Tibul:
The fool pool of migrating bad crickets, unmistakable stigma of Southern Comfort in sound. The quiet post-imperialist American rocking the straw chair, while his beloved three-legged weed-eating Old Puppier growls in amusing agony. So these pieces burn slow, interwoven with multi-orgasmic brands of chopped hiss and sliced shrubbery. Mysterious nanoverbal and nonverbal entities + gentle brushes of clarinet… Fair Winds or Good Air, right.

The winds of former lust and future perfect, frantic bedroom fistfights, hysterical ants vs. the catatonic boy, tiger almost smiling in the distant room, all in your headphones, dangerously trembling in the mothering cavity of nothingness. More and more nadasonic attacks merge while the mouth is opened and fragile strings of saliva flop spidery. You know the machinery by now but you don’t control the process; editing becomes the action in its own right; blowing up the studio executives, infecting the pizzas, spreading the Aural Fungi Flu in all directions. Or it could be the other way. The day of remembering the diseased and delirious, she’s sobbing, the rubber hand touching her from beyond, from below, the sweat rising, the heat igniting the indicators, her olive skin blistering, eyes hidden, lips distorted, the tears are real, the madman is raging, levitating amongst the urine-soaked scripts. The horse which spooked the dysfunctional family, the self-absorbing fog, the exam on totalitarian detachment, the masked orgy in the closed school, lottery tickets with atrocities at sea attached, the ancient knives and good people disappeared, the torturing tables, the Colón Theater incident and bloody hankies, violence density outreach.

Then, 1:04|04 a voice appears. Another spoiler here, sorry. The croon of a sorcerer, 48 barrios, 63.7 °F on the average. The heat of the body, the thin line of fabric covering the great divide, the feminine swamp taking your soul, swallowing you in sexual distress; at last we’re in the sea open. The cursor moves down, erasing what’s left of information; it all happens in real time, don’t forget. I burn for you, ash to ash, huge oiled Latin ashes.

And in the end. Todos los fuegos el fuego.

The Wire, Nick Cain:
Berlin based Austrian Kurzmann has been journeying to Latin America for a good few years now. “Palmar Zähler”, improvised with a trio of Argentinians — Courtis (ex-Reynois) being the best known of them — is the first fruit of his travels. It’s electroacoustic Improv, loosely defined, with both Courtis and Kurzmann employing a mix of instrumentation and electronics. There’s a good deal of polite agreement and tasteful sound arrangement, and the quieter passages are almost Ambient, presumably thanks to Reche’s electronics, but the louder passages on “Uranio Agreste” and “Berilio” are unusually turbulent, presumable thanks to Courtis’s influence. Kurzmann tremulously recites lyrics from the Rolling Stones/Marianne Faithful hit “As Tears Go By” on the latter, a reminder that his song based outings are just as rewarding as his improvising.

Scala Tympani, Jean-Claude Gevrey:
Après plusieurs années passées à Berlin, c’est à Buenos Aires que réside à présent Christof Kurzmann dont les accointances latino-américaines étaient déjà mises à jour sur l’album Neuschnee enregistré en partie au Chili et au Pérou. C’est aussi dans la capitale argentine que cette session a été capturée, réunissant Kurzmann et trois improvisateurs locaux : le prolifique et éclectique Alan Courtis (violon bricolé maison, micro contact, bandes, mp3), Pablo Reche (minidisc, iPod, processeur d’effets numériques, synthétiseur) et Jaime Genovart (enregistrement, synthétiseur) ; tous les trois semblant appartenir au comité d’accueil officiel lorsqu’une sommité étrangère fait escale, qu’il s’agisse de Zbigniew Karkowski ou de Günter Müller. On se laisse porter sans difficulté dans cette lente dérive au cœur de la moiteur tropicale où l’air miroitant est transpercé de nombreux signaux : bruissements dans les herbes hautes, tintements cristallins, lointaines rumeurs saisies par hasard, émanations immatérielles. On baigne dans une vapeur sédative dans laquelle la clarinette mélancolique de Kurzmann vient parfois s’immiscer, chargée d’une affectivité qui contraste avec les ambiances abstraites dominantes. Ce principe est mis à l’œuvre au cours de l’engageant « Uranio Agreste » et adoucit d’autant la confusion qui s’installe progressivement. Décidemment adepte du décalage sans complexe, Kurzmann va jusqu’à pousser la chansonnette en puisant dans le grand songbook mondial, une habitude dont il ne semble plus se départir depuis les deux premiers disques de la division ErstPop. Cette fois-ci, c’est une improbable reprise du « As Tears Go By » des Stones à laquelle on a droit en arrière-plan de « Berillio », qui, avec ses braiements et son feedback dissonant, est probablement le titre le plus singulier de Palmar Zähler.

Paris Transatlantic, Dan Warburton:
Christof Kurzmann has been a frequent visitor to Latin America for a while now, so it’s no surprise to see him popping up on clarinet, voice and lloopp (Klaus Filip’s Max/MSP application) in Buenos Aires for a studio session with locals Genovart (“recording, synth, soft” – go figure), Reche (“minidisc, ipod, alesis nanoverb, korg MS10″) and Courtis (“homemade violin, contact mic, mp3, tapes and processing”). Palmar Zähler is a collection of six elegant, spacious soundscapes, a beautifully engineered and eminently listenable addition to the discographies of all involved, in which Kurzmann’s plaintive clarinet chalumeau (“Uranio Agreste”) and melancholy vocal détournement of pop classics – here the Rolling Stones’ chestnut “As Tears Go By” in “Berilio” – serve to counterpoint the rather predictable swathes of gloomy feedback and digital rustle. The musicians seem to be more at ease when they allow themselves to stretch out, which makes one wonder why the decision was taken to edit three longer spans of music into six smaller tracks – to facilitate radio play, perhaps? In any case, “Einklang” and “Uranio”, the only two that go beyond the ten-minute mark, are the choice cuts here.

Just Outside, Brian Olewnick:
Kurzmann (lloopp, clarinet, voice) spends a good bit of time in South America and is here joined by several musicians from Buenos Aires: Courtis (homemade violin, contact mic, mp3, tapes, processing), Genovart (recording, synth, soft [sic]) and Reche (minidisc, ipod, alesis nanoverb, korg MS10). At its best, as on the second track where Kurzmann wields his clarinet (a crucial element in the whirling drone), the quartet creates a very rich swirl of thick, nodose textures with more than enough interior detail to satisfy. Kurzmann intoning “As Tears Go By” over threatening hums and rumbles works fairly well also. Elsewhere, they succumb somewhat to the homogeneous, if pleasant, kind of electronic improv often heard from For 4 Ears in recent times. Not bad but not special.

Touching Extemes, Massimo Ricci:
The six tracks comprised by Palmar Zähler were recorded in 2008 in Buenos Aires, Kurzmann being the only European member of the quartet amidst three Argentineans (including a new name for yours truly: Genovart, credited with “recording, synth, soft”). The instrumentation also comprises homemade violin, contact mic, mp3, tapes & processing (Courtis), lloopp, clarinet and voice (Kurzmann), minidisc, iPod, Alesis Nanoverb, Korg MS10 (Reche). This is a classic case of music that literally shuts its doors in the face of the listeners, preventing them to come in easily. Although all parts are layered with a neatness that contrasts with the generally unfriendly tones of which the whole is permeated, the general impression is one of difficulty in abandoning ourselves to the flux of the events, repeated listens not so helpful in unlocking the mechanisms revealing the secret beauties hypothetically lying in.

Most colours tends to the ashen side of the spectrum, revolving around sonorities ranging from bleeping signals and shrilling highs to intrusions of harsher, almost molesting flurries that cause a sense of indistinct distress. Droning elements are used with conscious care, without exaggeration. The ideas are mainly compatible, the unfolding of the improvisations unwelcomingly natural; points in common with the work of other artists operating in the same field are present (Günter Müller is a hovering ghost throughout). Some components do work very efficiently, others less (I don’t like when vocals are involved , to be entirely honest). Overall, a complicated evaluation. For sure this is a well planned recording, executed with intelligence except for a couple of short segments; yet it’s also very difficult to accept in terms of sheer aural gratification. An interesting experiment from serious explorers, but not gifted with the intrinsic radiance that characterizes the memorable episodes of the genre.

The Watchful Ear, Richard Pinnell:
So today I have been listening to a recent-ish release on the Mikroton label, a quartet recording named Palmar Zahler by the quartet of Alan Courtis, Jaime Genovart, Chistof Kurzmann and Pablo Reche. Three quarters of the group are, I believe Argentinian, and indeed the album was recorded in Buenos Aires mid-2008. The other quarter being Kurzmann, the familiar Viennese musician who seems to spend a lot of time in South America these days all the same. The instrumentation on this disc makes interesting reading. Courtis is credited with homemade violin, contact mic, mp3 (maybe this should be mp3 player?) tapes and processing. Genovart ( a completely new name to me) is listed as recording, (live? then played back? hmm) synth and soft (presumably software?) Kurzmann plays lloopp, clarinet and yes, voice, and Reche works with minidisc, iPod, Alesis nanoverb (you tell me) and Korg MS10. I can’t help but demand that this music be good after having to type out that lot! Of course, bar the violin, clarinet and Kurzmann’s distinctive voice I haven’t a clue what sounds come from where…

Palmar Zahler begins then as you might expect, with a lot of twitching, fizzing, chirrupping and partly looping digital sounds massed over grainy drones. Think several Günter Müllers and a couple of Steinbruchels all playing at once, so there are many things happening at once, mostly quite interesting and attractive, so the music builds up in a laminal manner with tiny twinkling bleeps and whistles sat above slowly churning abstract samples and a bed of groaning darkness underneath. The first track, Einklang continues just like this through gentle shifts in density and colour, not really creating any great surprises but rather pleasant with plenty to listen down into and through. The following Uranio Agreste drops the surface glissandi and we hear a deep, moody mesh of booming, moaning loops, circular patterns of abrasive digital noise and a dark ambient undertow. Sat on top of this though is Kurzmann’s clarinet, with which he picks out a simple, repetitive bassy semi-tune. The juxtaposition of this heavy, brooding backdrop and the meandering clarinet lines on top works well, almost because of how ludicrous it occasionally sounds, but mostly because it shows the more inventive side of the album. The track later blossoms into an almost My Bloody Valentinesque sea of warping looped sounds, consuming the clarinet slowly.

The third piece, Bleimmazorca returns to similar themes to the opening track, mixing an electronic approximation of tropical rainforests with louder digital chatter not unlike the sounds you hear when you phone a fax machine in error. The queasy, off-centre churnings of Berilio begin in nondescript manner until a minute or so in when Kurzmann’s voice appears, half singing, half talking as he is prone to do. His words are in English, but I don’t recognise them, so i don’t think there are any pop songs being recited here. Musically this is probably the least interesting track on the album as things slowly decay away down to a painfully insistent wail that I find difficult to listen to until I realise it is drowning out Kurzmann’s vocal, which I really don’t like any more than I have done in the past, and I’ve never been a fan. The noise does get interesting for a few moments as it breaks up into little shards of different sounds falling thick and fast but this section is gone as soon as it arrives.

The brief Medanos de Yodo seems to be little more than filler to me here, a repetitive, heavily processed and I think slowed down pounding sound hammers out constantly for a couple of minutes over fluttering clarinet and shimmering electronica, but it isn’t very interesting at all. The closing six minute piece Agent Remolacha (no idea on any of these titles by the way) returns to earlier themes, dense layers of looping digitalia and samples pile up into one semi-opaque, slightly dizzy cycle of sounds that gradually dissolve into steadily ground violin drones. The choice of instrumentation used throughout this release dictates the circular, seasick nature of the music I guess, but I think I would have preferred far less looping sounds and therefore quite obvious structures for the music. The sheer weight of often wildly differing sounds does make several of the piece here interesting to listen to, particularly when the music remains more transparent despite its density, so it can be listened down into and through. This is shown best on the first three pieces on the album. I’d have been happy if the album had stopped after these. All in all this is quite a nice album and a good introduction to some new names. I’d be interested to hear some of these musicians in smaller groups, where their sounds cannot hide amongst the forest so easily, but I’m not convinced that many of the sounds heard on Palmar Zahler would hold up so well on their own, and the album gains its strengths from its collective nature.

Also, I rarely criticise sleeve design in these pages, but this one is as generically uninteresting as it gets, a swirly, out of focus photo layered with some wholly uninteresting type. C’mon guys if these are the last dying days of music as physical objects we must be able to do better than this?

Auf Abwegen, Zipo:
Mitte Mai 2008 während eines Argentinien-Aufenthalts von Kurzmann in Buenos Aires eingespielt wirkt diese Kollaboration doch recht spannungsarm. Die Sounds gehen zu sehr in die Fläche, keiner der Akteure will die Deckung herunterlassen und so ist Palmar Zähler doch eher ein konturloses Gewaber. Wir stehen zwar eigentlich auf abstrakte Geräuschflächen, aber es fehlt wenigstens mal ein markanter Moment oder eine Spitze, um diesen Release auch von zahlreichen anderen unterscheidbar zu machen.