CATALOG: mikroton cd 67
RELEASE: April 2018
Burkhard Beins percussion and objects
Bertrand Denzler tenor saxophone
Phil Durrant modular and software synthesizers
All music by Phil Durrant, Bertrand Denzler, Burkhard Beins
Recorded by Patrick Robalewski at Südstern Studios Berlin,
4th and 5th July 2016
Mixed and edited by Burkhard Beins
Mastered by Werner Dafeldecker
Photos by Serge Kolosov
Executive producer and designer: Kurt Liedwart
On their new album Third Issue Trio Sowari continues its musical investigation of asymmetric structures and multilayered ambiguities. Gravitation, Suspension, Exploration and finally Levitation, the four tracks on this CD present different fields of interactive possibilities. No signs of dystopianism or retrotopianism here, but undaunted and spirited ways of facing a complex and bewildering present. Bertrand Denzler on tenor saxophone, Burkhard Beins on percussion with Phil Durrant now also involving a modular next to his software synthesizer, which contributes some additional grain to the group’s sound.
Impossible to believe that ten years have slipped away from Trio Sowari’s previous release, the impressive Shortcut on Jacques Oger’s Potlatch imprint. Phil Durrant, Burkhard Beins and Bertrand Denzler embody the type of unyielding unit that could be entitled to produce a new album every six months, and I’d be perfectly content. However, authentic wisdom is nourished by a profound respect of silence; what is told after that silence becomes consequential in a process of real development. Accordingly, Third Issue may break a lengthy intermission in terms of discography, but its characteristics and meanings enfold all the experiences occurred in the meantime to the players, their intuitions now enriched by additional sagacity.
The coalescence of synthesizers, percussion and saxophone also delineates the individual textural settings. The dissimilarity of the sonic waves is of course evident, yet the multiplex integrity of the emerging music is (forgive the commonplace) a thing of beauty. The group ideally promotes the “let the sounds dictate the pace” theory; better still if the participants share a vision, which in the case of TS coincides with the term “improvement”. Nary a moment in these four tracks contains formularized sonorities; the organic qualities are directly proportional to a penetrating intricacy which, in turn, enhances the sympathetic listener’s responsiveness. This happens notwithstanding the artists’ proficiency in melting voices and merging sources. For example, try and separate synthetic and acoustic emissions at the beginning of “Suspension”; as a severe drone inexorably advances we picture a sequence of wordless events, a concatenation of “frequency frames” somehow flowing into a bigger undercurrent. This piece, though, is an exception of sorts given that the foremost “Sowari sound” derives from a hands-on investigation of the spaces between innumerable dynamic turns. Ultimately, tangible matters and vivid timbres become deprived of an owner: maintaining the ongoing flux is the rule of thumb. The musicians always manage to do this, with results often verging on the amazing.
Intense concentration and earnest sharing during a performance give birth to a loss of the self, especially when the only relevant science – that of vibrational propagation – is taught with such austere modesty. Strike another five-star record for these gentlemen, in the hope that I won’t be already departed when the next chapter is published.
On these discs Betrand Denzler is either composer or performer. For no other reason than it's a CD (and that is surely no valid reason) I started with the release by Trio Sowarei, which is Denzler on tenor saxophone, Phil Durrant on modular and software synthesizers and Burkheid Beins on percussion and objects. It has been a while since I last heard music by Trio Sowari (Vital Weekly 648), but I gather these are very busy people, performing around the globe all the time, so it might take some time before they meet each other again. Two days in July 2016 in Berlin was enough to get the show on the road again and recorded four excellent pieces that defy such notions as improvisation, composition, electro-acoustic music or musique concrete. It is all, perhaps quite rightfully so, quite blurred and as clear-cut as it could be. But that's how things should be of course. Both Denzler and Beins play their instruments like they are supposed, i.e. one can recognize them as such, but also use extended different techniques and approaches to them and make it sound unlike drums or saxophone. Durrant's input here is of course anyway different than, simply because one doesn't always know what a modular and software synthesizer is supposed to sound like. It peeps and it cracks, and that's not just Durrant, but something they are all responsible for and there is some wonderful interaction between all the sounds everyone's producing. It can be loud, it can be quiet, often within the space of a few seconds, or for extended times, such as the moody and mysterious piece 'Levitation'; it can be short and abrupt or spaced out, yet always with a fine dialogue among the players. Every listens, everyone responds or keeps quiet and when needed there are a quick interference and the conversation changes. This is a fine release and these men should meet more often.
Dass Burkhard Beins, Bertrand Denzler & Phil Durrant bei "Three Dances", 14 Jahre ist das her, als TRIO SOWARI zum Tanz aufspielten, war das Ironie? Mystifikation? Oder die Anstiftung zu einer Umwertung der Werte? Ilia Belorukov & Kurt Liedwart spielten bei "Vtoroi" nochmal denselben Joker aus. Das Cover von Third Issue (mikroton cd 67) führt einen dagegen mit einer grau-grusigen Schimmelwand und Holzscheiten vor einer alten Backsteinmauer auf jenes 'Essentielle' zu, von dem Thomas Shrubsole bei seinem "Gently down the Volga"-Essay zu "Contour" (mikroton cd 32) in einfühlsamer Skepsis gesprochen hat. Dazu versucht Beins, entschieden ins Leere wischend, Schrödingers Katze zu waschen, ohne sie nass zu machen. Die will davon nichts wissen und huscht und faucht in Denzlers Tenorsax umeinander und lässt mit ihren elektrifizierten, von mir herbeigezogenen Haaren Durrants Synthies prickeln. So bleibt viel Raum für sparsame, weil zweckdienliche und im Alltag oft genug geübte Gesten. Weil man eine Phantomkatze auch nicht anders wäscht als das eigene Gesicht. Mit einem Reiben, einem Rubbeln und Wobbeln, einem metallischen Schaben, kreisenden Schürfen und Schlürfen und spuckigem Trillern, mit dem windigen Pfeifen oder Surren und dem Schleifen, ja Schleifen von Messern und Gabeln an rostigen Stellen, dem Züllen und Blasen von Krusten und dunklen Stellen, dunklen und hohlen, von Soßen gefurchten, von Kummer gekrümmten. Mit mechanischem Klappern, dünnen Pfiffen, dumpfem Tupfen, mit lang dröhnendem Dröhnen, tönendem Denzlern und geduldig tickenden Sekunden unter paukendumpfen Wolken. Wolken, die dongen und nadeln, die sirren und scheppern im blechernen Anstoß in gurrender Luft. Luft, die sich zu metalloidem Schimmern und schummrigem Brummen melancholisch wellt, während Beins die letzten Flusen von den Backen, den Becken, den Häuten schabt.
As its title hints, Third Issue follows on from Trio Sowari's two previous albums, 2005's Three Dances and 2008's ShortCut, both released on Potlatch. Despite a label change to Mikrotron, the personnel remains unchanged - Denzler on tenor saxophone, Burkhard Beins on percussion and Phil Durrant on synths - for this album which was studio-recorded in Berlin in July 2016. Although there is a considerable gap since their previous album together, straight from the start the three are right back together. Their music in this trio has always been characterised by their ability to listen to one another, allied to the restraint of their playing, which allows ample space for each of them to play and be heard clearly; they fit together like pieces of a jigsaw. It is also part of the trio's ongoing evolution, as in 2016 Durrant was still using a laptop in addition to modular synthesiser whereas now he no longer does.
Across four tracks, ranging in length from under four minutes to almost fifteen, the energy level and mood vary considerably, giving each piece its own very different character, as reflected in their titles. So, the twelve-minute "Suspension" features a rather sinister modulated drone throughout that would not be out of place on the soundtrack of a low budget slasher movie - maybe a future path for the trio to consider? In contrast, the shortest track, "Exploration," features sounds that could have come from field recordings made in some distant land but were actually played in the studio. Very impressive.
Over the past 20 years, Durrant has become one of the more deft exponents of software-generated sound; while this entailed his dispensing with the violin, an instrument on which he had honed a singular voice in the trio with Butcher and Russell and other ensembles, he has created a similar approach emphasizing small fluctuations of pitch and timbre and keen attention to dynamics. Percussionist Burkhard Beins and tenor saxophonist Bertrand Denzler have complementary sensibilities; subsequently, Trio Sowari has developed a fully integrated ensemble sound that has survived long periods of inactivity over the past 15 years. The LP-length Third Issue is their first album in a dozen years, yet it picks up where their predecessors on Potlatch left off, giving stark, even grating sounds a magnetic property that pulls the listener deeper into the music.
Now for some heavy-duty improvisation from a trio of big names. Trio Sowari are Bertrand Denzler, Burkhard Beins and Phil Durrant, each man an accomplished player and most of them appear regularly in these pages; French giant Denzler most recently as one-third of Neuköllner Modelle (on which he bent his sax slightly more in the direction of the free jazz beacon), and Beins leading three other stern minimo-types on that impressive Fracture Mechanics record (for this same label). One thing of interest is that Trio Sowari have only made two records before this, hence the name 'Third Issue', yet have been calling themselves a threesome since 2005. It's possible that they rarely get to meet up, and once this benighted country has severed its ties with Europe we'll probably hear even less music from them, unless someone deigns to set up a musical smuggling ring across the English Channel.
Music created here by the expected means of acoustic instruments meeting electronic devices of some sort, specifically a droning tenor sax that could drown a 300-pound pig at the circus, percussive objects (sometimes) rending the air and breaking the mirrors, and Phil D's modular and software synths either sighing or spitting sewage. (I am one of those who constantly regret that he gave up the violin; he was a very distinctive player on that instrument, had his own voice, whereas now he just sounds like any other electronica key-presser.) Combined effects show strong team playing; 'Gravitation' is agitated boxing match action, 'Suspension' is a lengthy drone-bore in slow motion, 'Exploration' is harsh and bitty and far too short to amount to much, while 'Levitation' is the epic of the set, stirring heroic emotions in weak men simply through constant rubbing and weaving of abstract textures and puffy wisps. Assured, interactive gestures from everyone in the room.
Dig the contrasting tones and lush sounds for sure, but as always with this type of post-EAI noodling it's hard to say how much it creates an actual concrete "event", or pinpoint when it does so; the aim seems to be to keep playing without stopping, and rub up against the warm bodies in the room, then see what impressions have been made on the rubber mattress. However, as press blurb forewarns us, the record represents "undaunted and spirited ways of facing a complex and bewildering present". While the first half of that claim is debatable, I'm not about to take issue with the second half.