Ignaz Schick + Andrea Neumann
Keith Rowe + Burkhard Beins
Ignaz Schick is a busy man. Along with running the Zarek label, he’s a forerunner in the vanguard of European improvisation. He is part of a number of ensembles, including Perlonex (with Burkhard Beins and Jorg Maria Zeger), Phosphor (with Axel Dorner, Robin Hayward, Annette Krebs, Michael Renkel, Andrea Neumann, and Burkhard Beins), and a trio with Phil Durrant and Burkhard Beins. Schick plays, vaguely enough, “electronics,” which I take to mean feedback inducers, samplers, buzzers, hissers, and miscellaneous noisemakers.
Peripherique is Perlonex’s second CD. Their debut from last year was a beautifully subtle, textured exploration by three instrumentalists who worked together to create a massive bed of sound. This follow-up sees the band working closer together to create a sonic cloud where it’s hard to hear who is making what noise. Discerning interplay is pointless here, all one can do is hear this massive cloud of sound. Percussionist Burkhard Beins uses a prepared drumset, where he can elicit a variety of timbres and textures. Jorg Maria Zeger uses a guitar (modified in some fashion, I’d imagine) to• ummm• well, do something. Once again, other than a few recognizable sections of skronk, I can’t figure out what Zeger really is doing in the mix. The trio manages to cover a lot of ground, from dense, noisy sections to more understated segments filled with tiny gestures. It’s the really quiet segments that really do it for me, though. When a slightly bowed cymbal radically alters the direction the music is going, you can tell that you’re dealing with players with a deep sensitivity towards sound.
Schick carries that attention to detail to his duet with Andrea Neumann. Neumann plays “inside-piano,” which I’ve heard described essentially as “piano guts.” Her bio describes it slightly more elegantly as “a rudimental and fragmented piano, which is reduced to its corpse with only the strings remaining, being prepared and manipulated with a huge variety of objects.” Whatever its nature; it gives Neumann a huge arsenal of sounds to work with. The duo have a powerful control over dynamics; Schick’s electronics can set up low drones or interject with bursts of white noise, while Neumann strings together chains of repeated sounds, or explores the resonance of her “piano.”
The duo’s strength lies in their manipulation of velocity. They explore a wide array of densities that are often quickly destabilized. “Petit I” goes from tense and quiet to wild and discordant within a matter of minutes, while “Petit III” verges on inaudibility. It doesn’t stay quiet for long, though, with Schick and Neumann slowly building the tension and creating a dramatic climax. They’re two extraordinarily responsive musicians, whose sensitivity towards detail and pacing make Petit Pale a record that’ll reward future listening.
Almost all free-improvisation falls in the wake of AMM. To listen to AMM is to have time stop. That trio of Keith Rowe (prepared guitar), John Tilbury (piano), and Eddie Prèvost (percussion) have rearranged so many heads that their inclusion into the canon of “essential creative music” is guaranteed. Their influence on improvisation is vast and profound. Post-_AMMmusic_, many improvised musicians became more concerned with creating a total sound field than just engaging in dialogue. The new third wave of improvisers takes more from the AMM model of egoless sound creation than free jazz’s distinctly individualistic improvisation. So, this meeting between Keith Rowe and Burkhard Beins is a little cultural milestone. Beins is one of many exciting musicians coming out of Germany. He’s a tremendous percussionist; his previous release with Perlonex is as time dilating as :zoviet::france:’s best work ever was.
Grain completely measures up to the precedent set by both musicians. Rowe and Beins share a link through their extensive preparations of their instruments. The duo uses the common ground to explore a vast range of textures and atmospheres. Beins’ percussion is only occasionally recognizable as such, while Rowe is doing what he’d done so well for 35+ years now: extending the range of the guitar into a mini-orchestra of instruments. It will never cease to amaze me how two musicians can make music as dense and detailed as a symphony.
Ignaz Schick is doing an admirable job of contributing to the slew of mind-expanding music coming out of Europe. Zarek is a label to watch, and these three CDs are essential for fans of creative new music.