Burkhard Stangl + Christof Kurzmann | Schnee

Erstwhile | CD

'Schnee' documents the coming together of two critically acclaimed Austrians: Stangl on guitars and percussion and Kurzmann on Apple G3. Both are active members of the digitally-inclined improv scene grounded in Vienna, which takes in Polwechel (a group which includes Stangl); Kurzmann's label Charhizma; Orchester 33 1/3 (led by Kurzmann and Christian Fennesz); and those nomads-with-powerbooks at Mego whose improvisational activities were most recently documented on 'The Magic Sound of Fenn O'Berg' [Mego]; and, with the Sonig crew, on 'esognomig' [Sonig].

Jon Abbey's Erstwhile label is, in itself, an important catalyst for micro-digital and electro-acoustic improv activities such as these, bringing together prominant practitioners from around the globe and releasing the results. 'Schnee' exhibits a distinct blending of textural elements and is the result of delicate interplay more than stylistic confrontation. Although it is often impossible to tell which player or instrument is making which sound, in general the guitar creates the focal point producing everything from microscopic flickers and scuttles to ringing twangs and strums. These play over amorphous drifts deposited by the G3 and occasional eddies generated by stick on drumskin.

In 'Passion' the G3 lays down a swelling blanket of buzzing hurdy-gurdy drone whilst Stangl's strings, damped whilst struck, create remarkable concave patterns on top. 'Sans Soliel' sees both players create a menacing growl in which mid-range flutters are joined to metallic vibrations and low-end drone. Not all is as engaging though: in a short-lived passage at the beginning of the final piece 'In Einem Jahr Mit 13 Monden' Kurzmann's G3 strikes a deferential pose when it answers the startling figures ringing out from Stangl's strings with rather less interesting home-computer squiggles circa 1983. Overall, however, this CD rewards close and repeated listening and comes highly recommended. We look forward to hearing the results of further such improvisations on Erstwhile.


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