An intruiging display of benign schizophrenia: For 38 minutes, the stage belongs to no one but Weber and his Contrabass.

For objectivity’s sake, I’ll drop the pretence of impartiality right here: I’ve been waiting for this release ever since I fell in love with the “Signal to Noise” albums on Swiss label For4Ears. Every volume of this six-part series was thoroughly worth the time and concentration invested in it, yet somehow the two CDs involving Christian Weber stood out for me: The warm, multichromatic minimalism of “Volume 2” and the silent meditation that was “Volume 4” greatly benefited from attentive listening and careful advancement on all sides - while relying on the crisp timbral explorations and nocturnal Jazz sensibilities of Weber’s Contrabass as a splendid foundation in particular.

While “Osaka Solo” from 2006, Weber’s first solo release after a 16-year relationship with his instrument, was again culled from the “Signal to Noise” tour and, at eighteen minutes duration, represented more of a sublime foretaste of things to come than a full-fledged album statement, “Wacheturm Solo” presents him in an appreciative local environment (an arts and music space in Zürich) and with complete freedom regarding the spacing and length of his performance.
For 38 minutes, the stage now belongs to no one but Weber. Like a painter, he carefully begins delineating a space, fillingthe canvas with clear and resolute strokes. “Wacheturm Solo” opens with determined string tectonics and sharply outlined groanings and moanings, like the rigging of a ghost ship sailing through an infinite fog bank. Gradually, the painfully organic utterings are counterpointed by textural pads of abrading tones: Weber establishes a dialogue with the different characteristics of his Bass. It is a technique he will continue to display over the course of the improvisation, with various lines of development, noisy frequencies and pitched material running at different speeds yet closely related to each other.

Ten minutes into the piece, the halucinatory introduction has given way to a section of rigidly plucked high tones and a groovy Bass-counterpoint. Weber thinks in segments, in series of scenes driven by an inherent and intuitive logic. He doesn’t need silence to structure his piece and eschews the dynamic undulation typical of many improvisational interactions. His aesthetics are not so much dominated by terminologies such as “loud” or “quiet”, nor by the somewhat banale method of minutely building up tension and releasing it in an erruptive burst. Slowly and fluently, motives are replaced, rhythms subtely adjusted, sounds finely tweaked, until a completely different situation has established itself, offering fresh potentials and new horizons.

As the music progresses, Weber moves from passages with a focus on sound
transformation and drone-stasis to strongly percussive phrases, in which deep, teethgnawing episodes are fueled by almost snaredrum-like impulses. Only seconds later, the wood of the Double Bass appears to expand and contract as if it were placed on a rack, while some strings sound as though they’d been torn on purpose, snarling metalically.

From this tortured acme, the track seems to fizzle out, but Weber has kept the best for last. In a series of irregularly hit chords, he drifts in a dreamy slipstream of reverb and sensual harmonics pulsing languidly in the air. Time is suspended in one final breath, until the sensation of infinity is veiled by the darkness of silence.

Thanks to this emotive and overwhelming culmination, “Wacheturm Solo” leaves the impression of a carefully composed concert, moving from a state of entanglement to complete harmony. The exact balance between pre-planned material and in-the-moment spontaneity doesn’t matter, however. The real point of fascination is how Weber has avoided the pitfalls of navel-gazing and kept things interesting for himself and his audience alike. In an intruiging display of benign schizophrenia, his solo efforts are marked by the same attentive listening and careful advancement as his group work. No need to be impartial here: Easily one of the more unique and inspiring albums this year.

Tobias Fischer
July 2008