CD Reviews

Saturday 5th December

December 5, 2009

MpI spent most of today in an advanced state of vegetation, the first week back at work after a holiday always takes it out of me… This morning I spent some time sifting through the many CDs here that need listening to though, putting them into some kind of order in which to listen to, and then hopefully write about each one. Once tidied up and put into a neat pile it doesn’t look such a daunting task now. This evening I played the first of the six new CDrs very kindly sent to me this week by Cor Fuhler, five full length discs and one little 3″, all lovingly put together in handmade little packages as are all the discs on his Conundrom label. Cor never tells me when these discs are coming (or lets me pay for them) but never before have six turned up all at once. I wondered why this might have been, but it turns out that Cor and his family are due to emigrate to Australia very soon (why do so many good people keep doing this? It’s beyond me…) and in preparation to move he has been going through boxes of old recordings, and the five full length discs here are all the result of this revisiting of old material. The sixth disc, the 3″ release, which also happens to be the only one I have so far played, is a solo recording made in July of this year however, and a very fine little piece it is too.

The disc is named Mp, a reference to Montpellier, the city in which it was recorded for Radio France. The twenty-one minute piece is a straight improvisation, and while Fuhler uses a number of preparations inside the piano there are no overdubs on this recording, what we hear is exactly what occurred in the room. I can only assume then, that Cor has grown a couple more arms since I last saw him. The music is made up in equal parts from traditionally “played” piano notes, stroked, struck and electronically agitated piano strings and tiny clicking and ticking percussive sounds from inside the piano’s body. Or, other things that sound like this. The music is stunningly beautiful, with a chamber music delicacy and a slow, sad feel. Often there are gently oscillating drones sat behind brief little clusters of slowly played piano, one section at around nine minutes in is wonderfully muted, the slightest of distantly wailing cries welling up behind (dare I say it?) Tilburyesque rising arpeggios. Cor will probably kill me for saying this, but I am reminded of AMM is several places throughout Mp. The combination of warm ringing tones and little slow clusters of piano inevitably point me that way, but then elsewhere, as with the heavy persistent sinewave that rips through the track a little later, or the simply gorgeous combination of little skittering rhythms and slowly decaying keystrikes that close the piece there is little resemblance. I have heard quite a lot of Cor Fuhler’s music down the years, but nothing quite as complete sounding as this, as if it has everything it needs to go anywhere it likes, as if he has reached a stage with solo playing that he is entirely comfortable with, as so is able to craft these wonderful little sculptures out of thin air.

The fascinating and remarkable thing to me is just how Fuhler is capable of creating all of the sounds on Mp at the same time, and with such a fine touch and with no obvious mistakes. A gentle, lulling tone might be rising from the depths of the piano at one point, just as somewhere else is stroked with a beater and three or four notes played on the keys. The choices of sound are all perfect, and they work together very well, but the dexterity required to get this right, in one take is very impressive indeed, and yet still after all of this Fufler manages to pull it all together into one, powerful, cohesive whole. My favourite CD release of the year is certainly Sebastian Lexer’s Dazwischen, a disc that shows how the direct, realtime engagement of electronics and the acoustic power of the piano can result in wonderfully detailed, dramatic and achingly beautiful music, but here during this entirely acoustic twenty-one minutes of music Fuhler does similar things without the addition of computerised support. I have listened to this over and over for the past three days and have found myself entranced by its shapes and colours and flowing motions each time. Part of me keeps thinking that a full length album of this kind of material would be a superb thing to have and hear, but then I also love the brief, fleeting beauty of this little vignette (sorry!) and the mark that it leaves on you. Its a shame that, given the nature of Cor’s Conundrom label, which is really just a vehicle for him to raise money at concerts with only a tiny bit of distribution, there probably won’t be very many people that get to hear this music. Each Conundrom release always comes with a request from Cor that it not be placed onto the internet as well, making it even less likely that this great music will reach a wider audience. Perhaps when he gets to Australia and finds himself completely bored he will do more with the label. 😉

Comments (5)

  • jon abbey

    December 5, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    pretty sure you know that I distribute all of Cor’s Conundrom titles via ErstDist, the sole way to get them besides his concerts (and even then, not sure he brings copies of all to each show).

    I have copies of this and the other five new ones en route, looking forward to them. this was the one I was most excited about from the description, so glad to hear it’s satisfying…

  • billphoria

    December 8, 2009 at 5:36 am

    Odd,Sebastian Lexer’s ‘Dazwischen’ is one of my ’09 faves (TOP 5) ,and the next concert I’m attending is,Dave Rempis/Frank Rosaly on Wednesday,and what a GREAT saxophonist Rempis IS!!!

    I’m not sure why such improv boundaries exist,as small niches are carved…

    Thanks for helping me w/$mprov decisions this year!

  • Richard Pinnell

    December 9, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Glad to have been of some help Bill.

    Why is it odd that we both enjoy Dazwischen though?

  • billphoria

    December 10, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Not really that odd,but I’m nearing 60 and still love improv in all it’s varieties,while your tastes in ‘jazz’ are self-admittedly; sort of ‘non-jazz’ (?:),etc.
    I appreciate your honest ‘take’ on things…

    Other EAI folk I’ve read,have expressed a ‘non-appreciation’ for music they once enjoyed,and I can’t help but wonder if they’re after some self-aggrandizing agenda as ‘serious critics’,and left their love of music behind.Music as a disposable or recyclable commodity is disappointingly effete.

  • Richard Pinnell

    December 10, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Just to be clear Bill, I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as “EAI Folk” I wouldn’t describe anything as “EAI”. I am interested in improvised or otherwise experimental music, end of story. Within that wide spectrum yes my tastes lean in certain directions, but I don’t dismiss anything out of hand. Guillaume Viltard’s and John Edwards’ solo bass albums are amongst my favourite releases of the year for instance.

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