Whole Note
Whole Note
March 2007
About as distant from Swiss folk music’s traditional Alpine airs as possible, this imaginative CD features five Zürich-based players – lacking both suits and a violin – exploring the intersections among minimalism, electronics and free improvisation. Spiccato scrapes, stretched stops and shrilling slides from bassist Christian Weber and cellist Michael Moser combine with complex triggered sound envelopes to make up the inchoate lines and quivering drones which coagulate underneath individual tones on each track. Disconnected frails and licks from guitarist and lap-steel player Martin Siewert or clustered split-tone whistles from bass clarinettist and tenor saxophonist Hans Koch are easily identifiable despite the rotor-blade-like grinding created by their electronic add-ons. Distinctive too are the blunt, concussive pops from drummer Christian Wolfarth’s echoing cymbals.
But the triumph of hard-core chamber sounds like these is that typically each instrument’s sonic characteristics are subsumed into indivisible timbres. Humour isn’t lacking however, considering that one drone-fest is ostentatiously named for American astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
The session’s unequivocal definition is attained on Frogmouth the nearly 16-minute climatic track. Slithering among drones, amplifier hums and fan-belt-like pitter-pattering, folksy guitar strums swollen by electronics plus jarring broken chords from the arco strings simultaneously references the 17th and 21st century. Lacking a melodic centre, the cyclical friction still reflects tension then release, allowing the quintet’s undifferentiated timbres to impress as the program dissolves into silence.

Ken Waxman