2. Adapt/Oppose 14/1-A
4. Adapt/Oppose 14/1-B
CATALOG: mikroton cd 38
RELEASE: April 2015
Burkhard Beins percussion
Enrico Malatesta percussion
Michael Vorfeld percussion
Christian Wolfarth percussion
Ingar Zach percussion
The international quintet Glück combines percussionists of diverse stripes and their individual pronounced ways of playing. The five musicians are internationally renowned as soloists and with various musical outfits. An extremely sound orientated, fragile and transparent approach to their idiosyncratic percussion sets is what they all have in common. From diverse conjoint long-term projects (Vorwolf, Malatesta/Wolfarth, Misiiki) arose the shared wish to put the musical experiences made within these collaborations into a wider context. By means of compositional and improvisational methods the quintet creates new forms of contemporary percussion music, their own discreet language and a distinctive group aesthetic.
An all-star quintet culled from contemporary improvisers gathered together, one hopes for a while, to perform composed work. Here there are two pieces by Beins and one each from Wolfarth and Zach but if the ensemble continues, we might look forward to spreading out the repertoire to include work from non-affiliated composers.
Needless to say, the arsenal of instrumentation at hand is rather vast, though it doesn't include any electronics that this listener can detect. More to the point, the pieces are clearly compositions, not improvisations (although one imagines some degree of leniency in the scores on that point) which is a refreshing tack. Wolfarth's "Glück" is a robust, rollicking work that, following a bowed metal prelude which ends with some wonderfully rich and harsh stroking, launches into a furious deep percussion mode more reminiscent of Xenakis than free improvisation. It's more to do with timbral relationships than rhythm as such but creates quite a forceful and fascinating sound world, propelling one along through its roiling cascade and darkly rubbed surfaces. This listener found it far more engaging than most of the recordings Wolfarth has released as a solo performer. Beins' brief "Adapt/Oppose 14/1-A" offsets bowed, squeaky sounds with consistently struck metal and bass drum, very effective, leading to washes of cymbals, a very strong build-sustain-collapse picture.
Going into such a project and having heard hundreds of free percussionists over the years, the seasoned listener might have something of a fear of excessive metal-bowing, not unreasonably as it certainly can be an overused device. On the other hand, it's one of the principal means of prolonging duration for such musicians. Here, it's generally handled well, and doesn't become overbearing. Ingar Zach's "Floaters" makes the most consistent use of this approach. As the title implies, it's more of a steady-state work, each subsection being largely self-similar. Initial low rumblings giving way to lengthy stretches of bowed metals, done with enough concentration and focus to allay any worries about overindulgence, though its drone-y nature may test the patience of some. It reverts to the rumbles for the last section. The second part of Beins' work ("14/1-B") opens with a fine clatter but the piece shifts rapidly back and forth between methods of attack, from dry rubbings to keening bowed tones and more. It's something of a collage piece but hangs together well enough, avoiding any piecemeal character, very enjoyable.
As mentioned above, I hope this quintet stays together and expands its repertoire. The results could be pretty fantastic.
So to Glück, in which Wolfarth joins forces with Burkhard Beins, Enrico Malatesta, Michael Vorfeld, and Ingar Zach in an all-percussion quintet. Now, I’m a slave to the rhythm as much as the next person, but I must admit that I faced this one with a little bit of trepidation. An entire album of people basically hitting things, no matter how artfully, seemed like it might be a bit of an endurance test.
Thankfully, it’s not quite the clatter-fest I feared. In fact, it’s remarkable just how much space and silence there is on this record. Ingar Zach’s ‘Floaters’ is like a passing thunderstorm, dark drones fading away only to rumble back into life. Wolfarth’s title composition focuses more on the shimmering and occasionally strident tones of bowed cymbals, with a bit of tympani rumble underneath. Compared to these, the two parts of ‘Adapt/Oppose’ sound like Ginger Baker doing Toad, but it’s all relative, and the tracks provide a welcome bit of contrast.
As an introduction to contemporary percussion music, this is hard to beat.
Systemizing an interconnected approach to aleatory playing with instruments usually relegated to the rhythm section is the objective of these discs featuring Berlin-based percussionist Burkhard Beins and others. A polymath who has moved among noise, notated and electronic sounds plus semi-acoustic improvising with the likes of pianist Andrea Neumann and tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler, Beins expresses atonality in a unique fashion on each disc.
The most recent (as of 2012) manifestation of microtonal ensemble Polwechsel’s sound, Untitled (No.7) explores three oddly titled group instant compositions, Besides Beins, this edition includes fellow percussionist Martin Brandlmayr, who also works in bands such as Radian and Trapist; cellist Michael Moser; and double bassist Werner Dafeldecker, involved in other electro-acoustic experiments such as the Splitter Orchestra. More aggressive by definition, Glück is a five-part percussion discussion among Beins, fellow Berliner Michael Vorfeld; Swiss drummer, Christian Wolfarth, who often work in regular Jazz contexts; Norwegian percussionist Ingar Zach, member of the bands Dans Les Arbes and Huntsville; plus Italian sound art researcher and practitioner Enrico Malatesta.
Like Chinese Red Guards working undesignated in matching Mao suits, the five drummers go about their business almost anonymously and without solos. Concerned most with percussion timbres and patterns ascribed compositions aren’t that individual either. The two – short and lengthy – versions of Beins’ “Adapt/Oppose 14” for example play with the attributes of clamor and silence, refracting from barely-there microtonal scratches, shuffles and sibilance to, on “Adapt/Oppose 14/1-b”, an apocalyptic-like detonation that suggest all the percussionists are hitting every surface available with weightlifters’ power. Preceding a resonating clunk that signal completion, a trope used throughout, the composition appears to be about how many sound patterns can be sourced with various implements from a single cymbal.
In contrast Wolfarth’s title track and Zach’s “Floaters”, both of which clock in on either side of the 19-minute mark, try for individual separation, but like details in a painter’s busy canvas of the royal court, are only integral as part of the larger work. “Glück” for instance, includes enough persistent pummeling to push Death Metal percussionists into awed silence, whereas the clanking and clicking locomotive-like passages on “Floaters” oscillate with such machine-like precision that electric drum sets are suggested. Besides replicating what could be string and horn timbres, the mournful buzzing and rubbing tension reaches a point of release when quivers are cut off with a diminishing pop as if an impending thunderstorm has just been averted.
As for the title track, the climax is a crescendo of juddering and resonating dissonance that seeps into every crack and crevice of the composition. Although there’s enough bell ringing, gong resonation and steel rail-like clanking and shrilling to be a field recording of a subway station at track level, fine-spun vibrations alternating with the noise, pinpoint the quintet’s sophisticated logic. Subtle drum surface sweeps and washes plus a distant drone underscore and alternate with the sonically opaque material so that a pressure-release is finally attained.
This ability to color the proceeding by a process of uniting seemingly opposite impulses decides the musical shape of the rest of the sounds. Like figures glimpsed from far-away windows, the occasional press roll, rim shot or sul ponticello string sweep confirms that acoustic orchestral instruments are in use. But the overriding concept is that of group solidity. Although the almost impenetrable drone produced by the quartet is distinguishable from the five’s resonation on the other disc, both affirm the kaleidoscopic textures that develop from ensemble programs. Careful listening allows the overlaid impulses that go into these sound constructions to be more closely appreciated.
Si la ligne qu’ils forment est courbe sur la droite, la somme de ces batteurs à plat (Burkhard Beins, Enrico Malatesta, Michael Vorfeld, Christian Wolfarth et Ingar Zach) n’en est pas moins directe : c’est qu’il s’agit de défendre un art percussif qui de l’acoustique a fait son affaire. On oubliera bien vite les premiers grincements, puisque les peaux et les cymbales grondent au gré d’un passage de témoins auquel se livrent quatre percussionnistes de premier plan. Oubliée la ligne, c’est au premier plan que tournent bientôt les aigus et les graves ; et c’est sur des compositions de Beins, Wolfarth et Zach, qu’éclate la cohérence de cette somme de percussions suspendues. Quitte à brouiller les pistes.
Glück ist - mit Gleichgesinnten die Musik machen zu können,
die man liebt, egal wie sperrig sie ist. Und fünf Perkussionisten sind nun mal sperrig, auch wenn sie fernab der trommlerischen Materialschlachten der 70er mit dem Allerwenigsten auskommen. ENRICO MALATESTA, MICHAEL VORFELD und CHRISTIAN WOLFARTH genügen eine Snare und ein paar Cymbals. INGAR ZACH steht an einer großen Pauke und hat Kuhglocken um sich hängen. Nur BURKHARD BEINS sitzt an einem halbwegs normalen Drumset, was nicht heißt, dass er im üblichen Sinn trommelt. Nein, Beat und Puls sind hier selten. Das von Wolfarth erdachte Titelstück (18:55), 'Adapt/Oppose 14/1-A' (2:40) & '1-B' (11:19) von Beins und Zachs 'Floaters' (19:00) füllten das Ausland in Berlin mit dröhnminimalistischer Klangkunst. Schleifendes Schimmern, windspielerisches Funkeln, singendes Metall, rauschendes Blech, ein kollektives Reiben und Beben, das Luft und Licht in den Raum hext, mit ratschenden Gesten und immer wieder Strichen über Metallflächen und -kanten. Bassdrum- und Paukenschläge interpunktieren das markant, aber dabei eher als vereinzelte Klangballungen im Raum, denn als Schnitte auf der Zeitachse. Als Loop stürzen Klänge immer wieder über die gleichen Stufen, doch schon folgen wieder rieselnde und ratschende Feinheiten auf metalloiden, glücksberauschten Dröhnfeldern. Der kurze '1-A'-Teil von Beins beginnt mit einem Punkt- und Strichcode, wird aber von Gong überrauscht. Dem folgt das grummelnde 'Floaters', lange als nur sanfte Drohkulisse. Bis sich das in ein helleres Dröhnen verwandelt, eine stete, in sich leicht changierende Präsenz mit wieder metallischem Beigeschmack. Als Colorfieldmalerei mit der Zeit als Leinwand. Bis zu einem Luftloch, nach dem nochmal das Grummeln wiederkehrt. Die '1-B'-Dialektik von Beins setzt mit heftigem Gerappel erstmal einen starken Kontrast. Aber schnell reduziert sich das auf wieder fein pfeifende und dröhnende Sublimität in Echtzeit. Mit schleifendem Styropor und dezenten Tupfern aufs Metall, dessen Potenzen dazwischen rauschend, nadelfein zugespitzt oder flächig ausgewalzt aufscheinen.
Here we have a quintet of percussion players: Burkhard Beins, Enrico Malatesta, Michael Vorfeld, Christian Wolfarth and Ingar Zach. All five of them have an extensive background in improvised music and many of their releases can be found in these pages. They also work together in smaller configurations, such as as Vorwolf, Misiiki and Malatesta/Wolfarth. I bet it's not easy to get them all together and so they spend three days at Ausland in Berlin in April 2014 to record the four pieces of this album. For each piece there is a composer mentioned, so perhaps there is some guidance in these pieces. Beins composed two of them, and Zach and Wolfarth each one. The latter composed the piece that is also named 'Glück' and it's a fine, if not somewhat traditional piece of improvised music; although some of the players play repeating patterns, which might be unusual in the world of improvisation. But that's only in parts of the composition, not throughout. The five players move around from place to place, using bows on cymbals (all five of them), hectic and chaotic playing and all of that together. The two parts of 'Adapt/Oppose 14/1' are actually quite mellow bits, save a few more chaotic bits here, in which the players explore resonating surfaces of drum skins and cymbals, with objects. It's however 'Floaters' by Zach, which is the biggest surprise here. It falls apart in three separate sections and in each of them they explore the bass frequencies of the bass drums using objects on the skin. The result is a more than excellent piece of drone music; dark, moody, atmosphere and full of tension. It's hard to think of this as percussion music as there is a complete absence of rhythm of any kind. It's eighteen minutes of pure sonic bliss.
Three musicians and a drummer walk into a bar... if you're breaking into a smile, this superb disc should wipe it away. It's the self-titled first release of all-percussion Euro-supergroup Glück — Burkhard Beins, Enrico Malatesta, Michael Vorfeld, Christian Wolfarth, Ingar Zach — and it's intensely musical. All-percussion groups are rare in Western music — Les Percussions De Strasbourg and Max Roach's M'Boom come to mind, but neither covers the ground of Glück. The name means both joy and happiness, or good luck and good fortune, and the group's organically evolving, almost orchestral range covers the full sonic spectrum. The opening title track focuses on bowed cymbals, interrupted by dramatical timpani beats. Beins's "Adapt/Oppose 14/1-a" is brief and haunting. Ingar Zach's "Floaters", the most drone-like of the pieces, is perhaps the most remarkable — twice it breaks down, before resuming its dark, doom-laden course.