Music Reviews

Artist: Daniel Studer
Title: Extended (For Strings & Piano)
Format: CD + Download
Label: Hat Hut
In his sleeve notes for Daniel Studer’s “Extended”, Brian Morton draws quite an eyebrow-raising comparison between ‘professional’ versus ‘improvisational’ musical methods and the industrial methodologies of old East Germany and Nigeria, praising the virtues and effectiveness of the latter and stating that Studer’s work is effective in the same manner. It’s an ambitious comparison, but in “Extended” you can see what Morton is getting at- that both organisation and beauty lie underneath the apparent chaos.

Playing the double bass himself and working with four other performers with whom he is already very familiar, Studer offers up a series of works that are extremely spacious, sometimes minimalist, impulsive and unpredictable.

“Comprimere” sets the tone, a series of builds and relaxations that traces a fascinating waveform path, almost defying itself when the double bass becomes rhythmic in the final quarter.

“Bagatelle”, in three parts, draws most comparison to the industrial methods described above, beginning with slow sawing motions and seemingly describing a more mechanical outlook to performance as it flows. “Operandi” retains the slow method-driven approach, initially bringing a bit more character and melody to it but gradually dipping further into growling and grumbling tones, then abrupt reverb-laden piano crashes.

Initially “Verba” is a screechy and difficult work, driven by agonised high-pitched string notes that seem to mock the steady, almost ballad-like piano playing that tries to cut through it, but it settles into steadier and almost romantic territory as the strings back off. They then return for a vengeance in frantic final piece “Motus”, an energetic cacophony that must be almost as tiring to listen to as it was to perform, but in a good way, cathartic and engaging as the listener becomes aware of splendid details in among the noise and in the occasional respites.

It’s a bold, accomplished and confident 54-minute CD that’s moderately purist in its approach, the sound of assured high quality improvisation and musical virtuosity that defies traditionalism and manages to forge the template for a new form of traditional in the process.

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