WERNER DAFELDECKER / CHRISTOF KURZMANN / JOHN TILBURY / STEVIE WISHARTThe Violet Quartet
Werner Dafeldecker and Christof Kurzmann are two distinguished and original voices of Austrian modern music.Dafeldecker, a bassist, is known as a founder of improv group Polwechsel, which has released this summer a long awaited album “Field” on Hat Hut featuring pianist John Tilbury, an integral part of AMM and his solo album “Long Dead Machines I – IX” last year on Italian label Presto!?. Dafeldecker has composed numerous pieces for various classical ensembles. He also works with electronics and guitar, and runs the influential Durian label.Kurzmann has been a prominent part and driving force of Vienna, Berlin and recently Buenos Aires scenes for two decades. He organized the phonoTAKTIK festival, helped to start famous Rhiz club in Vienna and ran the prestigious charhizma label. He also founded Extended Versions, Orchestra 33 1/3, Schnee, The Magic I.D. and The Year Of, which also features Dafeldecker, his longtime partner. Together they founded their “color”, “Dafeldecker and Kurzmann meets” series in 1999, which is still active today.While their first album (Dafeldecker/Kurzmann/Fennesz/O´Rourke/Drumm/Siewert – Orange/1999) at its time was called “the culminating point in electronic improvised music — a “supergroup” (Felix Klopotek/Spex) or “perhaps the best evidence of the good wrought by such combinations yet” (Other Music N.Y.), their follow up album (Dafeldecker/Kurzmann/Drumm/eRikm/Dieb13/Noetinger – Green 2003) demonstrated a development from basic electronic energy to the more (pre-)structured forms of improvisation.With the release of the third album (Dafeldecker/Kurzmann/Tilbury/Wishart – Violet 2009) another 6 years have passed and what catches the eye and ear first is the shift from heavy use of electronic sound tools towards a more “acoustic” line up. With the musicianship of John Tilbury on piano and Stevie Wishart on hurdy gurdy, Dafeldecker and Kurzmann teamed up with two masters, equally virtuosos of their instruments. No wonder, the general mood of the quartet shifts to quite different horizons, while the openness and curiosity, that made their work so incomparably from the beginning, is still there.The deceptively simple serial cover with only one change in color was designed by M. Fineder and V. Winkler for D+ and remixed by Marion Gerth.
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CATALOG: mikroton cd 4FORMAT: CDEDITION: 500RELEASE: August 2009
Werner Dafeldecker electronics, bassChristof Kurzmann lloopp, clarinetJohn Tilbury pianoStevie Wishart hurdy gurdy
Maybe you remember that CD by Dafeldecker, Kurzmann, Fennesz, O’Rourke, Drumm and Siewert, on Charhizma, released a decade ago? Today the brother of that album arrived: the same cover, but then in violet, in stead of orange. Four players here: Werner Dafeldecker (electronics, bass), Christof Kurzmann (lloop, clarinet), John Tilbury (piano) and Stevie Wishart (hurdy gurdy). The recordings were made in concert in 2007 and provides the listener with some great improvised music. Slow music that is. This quartet plays slow curves, bending the notes and tones with great care, emphasizing the beauty of a single note, a small phrase, a sustained tone. The hurdy gurdy seems to be the odd ball in this collection of instruments, but it provides a fine counter point to the other three instruments. Highly delicate music, which floats by with great ease. A great brother to the previous release (and a fine reminded to play that one again too).
Orange, then green, now violet. Seven tracks recorded live in Vienna and Wels (sounds as though the first four are from one, the latter three from another), this is an enjoyable set though a somehow dissatisfying one. Rich in colors and textures, (Wishart credited on hurdy gurdy but, I assume, also playing violin, the clarinet and bowed bass of Kurzmann and Dafeldecker twining beautifully, Tilbury being Tilbury) the more or less drone-based improvisations are ultimately a little featureless, a bit too much like attractive slabs without much inner structure. Not sure what it is that gnaws at me here, maybe just a sense of too much noodling, albeit with variegated, often tasty pasta. There are a couple of points, oddly enough, especially in the first and last tracks, where I was reminded of early Anthony Davis pieces, specifically his “A Walk Through the Shadow” theme. Not bad, but a bit disappointing given the participants.
In 1999 Austrians Werner Dafeldecker and Christof Kurzmann joined forces with Christian Fennesz, Jim O’Rourke, Kevin Drumm and Martin Siewert to produce an untitled album of live recordings. Now considered one of the key stepping stones along Improv’s route into electroacoustic areas, it came adorned with a fluorescent orange cover, and has long since been known as The Orange Album. In 2003 Dafeldecker and Kurzmann convened a further group for an album that swapped orange for green, and this new release with new musicians, recorded live in Wels and Vienna in 2007, reprises the sleeve design in violet.
There’s no doubt about the quality of the playing. John Tilbury’s piano brings an elegant subtlety to any album, Dafeldecker’s bowed bass is immaculately controlled and positioned, Kurzmann’s laptop work highly refined, and his clarinet used to great effect at key moments. Stevie Wishart’s hurdy gurdy adds an element of unfamiliarity, but her experience with the instrument allows her to find a home in the music. It all fits together comfortably — the problem may be that it’s too comfortable. There are swells of energy and spikes of intervention, but the seven tracks lean too often towards tasteful droning, lacking a sustained sense of danger. With Tilbury’s pounding tremors on the sixth track, it sounds like things might tip over the edge, but somehow one hand is kept on the reins.
With the last two tracks, the musicians began to find their feet. The music becomes more transparent and the various layers provide the listener with more to follow. Given more time to develop, this quartet would produce work of greater depth and purpose, but for now this album feels like a snapshot along the way. If The Orange Album was an important document in the advancement of this music into new areas, then this new instalment feels more static, less adventurous, as if taking stock of where things currently lie.
Werner Dafeldecker (électronique, contrebasse) et Christof Kurzmann (logiciel lloopp, clarinette) ont manifestement de la suite dans les idées. Après un disque orange en 1999 et un vert en 2003, la déclinaison du spectre de la lumière se poursuit avec ce nouvel opus, violet, dont le design est rigoureusement identique à celui des précédents. Comme à l’accoutumée, d’autres musiciens viennent se joindre au duo : ici John Tilbury (piano) et Stevie Wishart (vielle à roue). Ah la vielle à roue, ce vénérable instrument qui semble prédestiné à la musique éternelle et qui, entre les mains de Keiji Haino ou celles de Yann Gourdon, produit parfois des miracles… Cependant, un timbre âpre et un contrôle limité du volume sonore ne sont pas forcément des atouts dans un contexte d’improvisation collective où des sonorités plus dissimulées sont à entendre. C’est assurément le point faible de cet enregistrement qui, parfois, est un peu trop sous l’emprise de la vielliste britannique qui n’hésite pas non plus à déployer un jeu considérablement plus expansif que celui de ses partenaires. A l’opposé, le doigté plein de retenue Tilbury prend la forme d’ornements délicats et laisse toute la place aux discrets gargouillements électroniques et autres interventions instrumentales non invasives. On s’étonne ponctuellement de la tournure prise par les événements, notamment au début de “Wien 5″ où la répétition de courts motifs par la clarinette et la vielle a presque des allures de transe digne des Masters Musicians of Jajouka. Un disque pétri de bonnes intentions mais dont peu parviennent à se concrétiser en raison d’un rapport de forces souvent inégal.
Sans doute est-ce par la couleur violette de sa pochette que les amateurs désigneront ce troisième volet des aventures de Werner Dafeldecker (contrebasse, electronics) et Christof Kurzmann (ordinateur, clarinette) : en 1999, sous jaquette orange et pour l’étiquette Charhizma, leur cellule s’augmentait d’O’Rourke, Drumm et Siewert ; en 2003, le pavillon vert du même label signalait l’adjonction d’eRikm, Died13, Noetinger et Drumm…
En 2007, c’est à John Tilbury (piano) et Stevie Wishart (vielle à roue) que l’invitation fut faite ; si le premier se fond aisément – n’était-il pas aussi l’hôte de Polwechsel cette année-là ? – dans des densités qu’il vient hanter avec subtilité, la seconde apporte élan et invention. Sous ses doigts, la vielle gagne une dimension concrète & abstraite (organique guitare à plat & passionnant synthétiseur médiéval) ; tout en participant au tressage collectif et au tramage des sept paysages reproduits ici, elle apporte une qualité toute tactile à l’hypnose déployée ; ses bourdons magiques ont une vie propre qui démultiplie frottements harmoniques et résonances collatérales. Crêpages et élégants rainurages, Wishart anime l’univers posément architecturé de ses comparses.
I’m always rather embarrassed when I re-read old reviews at how often I use the word “lugubrious” to describe the bass playing of Werner Dafeldecker, but it’s still the first adjective that springs to mind on listening to these 2007 live recordings from Vienna and Wels, a quartet in which he’s joined by Christof Kurzmann (once more), John Tilbury and Stevie Wishart. It’s an intriguing line-up from the point of view of timbre, combining Tilbury’s soft mid-register clusters (I’ll refrain from calling them “Feldmanesque” again, in the light of the above remark, but, well..), Wishart’s acrid whining hurdy gurdy, and Kurzmann (and Dafeldecker’s) laptop hums and fizzes. Wishart tends to stand out in the mix, not only because of the distinctive sonority of the hurdy gurdy but because she’s the only musician in the group to fully exploit her instrument’s melodic potential, tempting Tilbury up out of the bottom octave on “Wien 1″ to complement her lines with the odd forlorn arpeggio. The electronics are more in evidence on the second track, but Wishart’s spidery drone still dominates the musical foreground. In terms of pace and event density this music is undeniably spacious, but it also feels strangely claustrophobic at times, as if struggling towards a common ground it knows it can never reach. Fred Frith once coined the phrase “tense serenity” for one of his pieces – I think I’ll steal that to describe this. Makes a change from “lugubrious” anyway.
Minimalist and understated in approach, but maximal and sophisticated in talent and presentation, this CD demonstrates how well profoundly committed improvisers, who don’t work together regularly, can find common ground.
During the course of five tracks recorded in Vienna and two from Wels, Austria, the quartet crafts a soundscape of stretched tones and opaque drones that at points masks the expected timbres of the instruments and at others clearly delineate them. All the participants are old hands at this sort of in-the-moment improvisation, British pianist John Tilbury is a long-time member of AMM; Austrian bassist Werner Dafeldecker is a member of Polwechsel; Stevie Wishart from the United Kingdom has played her hurdy gurdy in ensembles featuring pianist Chris Burn and saxophonist John Butcher; and Austrian Christof Kurzmann, who plays lloopp and clarinet here, has recorded with Butcher and clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski among others.
Overall the Wels selections appear to be harsher and more robust with nearly overpowering electronic growls and metal-upon-metal friction prominent. Textures from Wishart’s old-time instrument, which range from pawl-and-notch ratcheting to stretched pumps confirm the human impulses involved, as do Tilbury’s methodical licks and single key presses. After flat-line electronic smears double and triple in intensity, expansive flanged impulses bury, then expose the delicate wood scratches, distracted twangs and key clinks which help define the program.
Given more scope, the five-part “Wien” suite develops in a more tranquil fashion with low-frequency piano key clusters and Maghreb music-like flutters from the hurdy gurdy. Sometimes the loops and pulses accelerate to almost church-organ-like ostinatos; other times wave forms narrow so that circling whistles are heard, suggesting the sound of a hamster turning round and round on its wheel. Blurry, hissing granulations can be watery and repetitive or explode with signal-processed grating. Individual double-bass string pumps and heavily vibrated clarinet trills breech the unvarying audio environment at times – so do distracted piano cadences – adding a pastoral connection to the otherwise electronically defined interface. Finally after an extended polyphonic episode of augmented pitches and velocity, the final variant melds a ney-like reed whine, extended lloops loops and simple piano chords. The resulting calm defines the finale.
Unheralded but certainly potent, this CD demonstrates what results from the interaction of four first-class electro-acoustic musicians during a set of protracted improvisations.
Diese unaufgeregt präsentierte CD besteht aus editierten Livemitschnitten von 2007 aus Wien und Wels. Dafeldecker und Kurzmann sind uns als Akteure im Pool der tänzelnden Stille bekannt. Sie setzen konkrete Klangangeln und besonders Dafeldeckers spröde Electronics spannen einen weiten Raum auf. Der ruhende Pol, das Gravitationszentrum dieser Musik ist aber eindeutig John Tilbury, dessen warme Klaviertöne im Gesamtsound herausstechen und einen speziellen Charakter zeigen. Er scheint der Ausgangspunkt für die zuckenden Experimente der Mitspieler zu sein. Stevie Wishart wird mit ihtrem Hurdy Gurdy Spiel prägnant wenn das Ganze ein Drone-Note bekommen soll, wie zur Mitte der CD. Die Töne tanzen, Reibungen setzen ungeahnte Energien frei. Dies ist höchste Konzentration in der Improvisation. TOLL!
Detta är den tredje skivan som kretsar kring Werner Dafeldecker och Christoph Kurzmann. Denna gången med pianisten John Tilbury och Stevie Wishart på vevlira, eller hurdy gurdy som det heter på engelska. Vevlirans skavande droner står sig väl mot dessa reduktionens mästare.
Four players here: Werner Dafeldecker (electronics, bass), Christof Kurzmann (lloop, clarinet), John Tilbury (piano) and Stevie Wishart (hurdy gurdy). The recordings were made in concert in 2007 and provides the listener with some great improvised music. Slow music that is. This quartet plays slow curves, bending the notes and tones with great care, emphasizing the beauty of a single note, a small phrase, a sustained tone. The hurdy gurdy seems to be the odd ball in this collection of instruments, but it provides a fine counter point to the other three instruments. Highly delicate music, which floats by with great ease.
Seven live tracks – five recorded in Vienna, two in Wels – give us a rather splendid vision of four strong personalities sounding unassumingly intelligent across a 50-minute span. The instrumentation features electronics, bass, lloopp, clarinet, piano and hurdy-gurdy.
After an introductory droning spell that had me thinking about a somewhat static dissertation, surprises turn up when Wishart’s hurdy-gurdy – a predominant voice in various parts of the performance – alternate nervous zigzags and measured oscillation while a background of quiet bubbling activity is decorated by Tilbury’s dewdrops, the whole melting in an intoxicating textural mantra. The mating of Dafeldecker’s arco with misshapen timbral identities in “Wien 3” is too beautiful to last; it is in fact the shortest track on offer, but deep as a well in terms of thrills. On the other hand, “Wien 4” combines scattered events and light touches with grating hints to melodic figures and tremolos, executed over noises of all kinds – including the piano’s insides – and ebbing-and-flowing subsonics; Tilbury stamps the finale with the solemn austerity of his unhurried arpeggios. Kurzmann’s clarinet characterizes the initial phase of “Wien 5”, perhaps the album’s most entrancing moment. The instruments rotate around the same tonal axes, partially dislodged by underlying drones until glissando prevails, disintegrating any tendency to harmonic stability. The hurdy-gurdy acts as an acoustic village’s fool in a skip-and-pray metaphor of genuine ritualism.
The first Wels take is mildly ominous, mostly utilizing the lower regions of the piano and, in general, tending to uninviting territories where rumble, hum and autistic repetition gather. The second chapter’s temperament is even darker, the opening segment akin to the fragment of a East European folk song. The performers trade sketches and convey glimpses of imaginary sound worlds, gaining knowledge of something that they instantly retransmit, transforming silent implications and intuitions into flashes of highly suggestive interplay, emphasized by humming pulses and first-matching-then-divergent parabolic designs. An excellent way to conclude a record that deserves to be rescued from anonymity, and in several occasions made this reviewer consider the use of stronger words to depict its unpretentious radiance.