Music Reviews

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Artist: Rothenberg / Hein / Tammen
Title: Bird Saw Buchla
Format: Download Only (MP3 + Lossless)
Label: Clang
There’s a purist streak to the way these three musicians have brought their own instruments- primilarly clarinet, guitar and a 70’s vintage Buchla music easel- to bear as equal thirds of this almost-hour-long collection of improvised works that sit on the border of avantgarde jazz and experimental electronic soundscaping. Sometimes toying with their own instruments, for example playing a guitar using saw motors rubbing the strings, at times it sounds like three decidedly introspective noise-makers whose simultaneous audability is more coincidence than design; at other points, there’s a clearer sense of musical responsiveness between the performers.

“Then Cry All Birds And Fishes” is a prime example of the latter, an expertly moderated nine-minute work of slow tension and build. In pieces like “Now In Sad Autumn” there’s strength in contrasts, the clarinet expressing the titular seasonal rustic melancholy but offset against bleeps, whirrs and scratches that map out a different path. One of the most interesting bits of soundscaping comes in final track “A Solitary Bird”, which at first glance appears to be a found sound cliché that reveals itself to be imitation bird noises constructed from oscillations that gradually devolve and lose their disguise while the Buchla steps out a sort of proto-techno pattern.

I’m very fond of the tonal qualities of clarinets, but even I have to admit that it perhaps over-dominates here at times. In mixing terms I might have liked to hear some of the rumblier electronic noises brought to the forefront, but they’re often crushed- obviously doing interesting stuff that’s buried underneath the bassier tones of a clarinet that does sometimes does everything except stop. There is some respite though, “Cold Pale Eyes Pour Tears” a successful example of what occurs when the balance shifts.

There are some deeply intriguing ideas at play here and it’s very well executed, certainly a release worth scratching beyond the surface of.



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