CD Reviews

Thursday 2nd September

September 3, 2010

2976027.jpgI’m on a bit of a healthy eating kick at the moment, coupled with a “stop eating snacks at all time of the day” diet. So this morning, before work I was in a shop looking at different boxes of porridge available to buy for breakfast. Of the many options on the shelves, most tried to add a new twist on good old porridge, some adding fruit, some honey, one even mixing in chocolate and banana in the same box (ugh). In the end, faced by all this choice and variation I settled for plain old Scottish porridge oats, which I will enjoy for breakfast tomorrow.

Listening to the first International Nothing album last night may well have influenced my decision in the supermarket today. Sometimes it is the simple, subtle things in life that work best. Adding extra elements often just overcomplicates things and detracts from your enjoyment of the basics when they are just done really well. For me the album Mainstream felt like the shelves of porridge today, a really lovely, deceptively simple article spoilt very slightly by the addition of extra elements. The new International Nothing album, named, ironically, (and brilliantly) Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything is, for want of any other ridiculously overstretched metaphor, a great example of a really well made bowl of good quality, simple porridge.

So yes, the new disc is just the two clarinets of Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, composed, played ‘straight’ with little use of extended technique, and entirely reliant on the creativity of the composition and the skill of the musicians to capture the attention and go somewhere interesting. The five pieces here then work with converging and diverging harmonics again, but also there feels like there is a greater sense of structure to the compositions, perhaps more definition in them, and a greater variety in the use of space and time. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this music is how in-tune with one another Fagaschinski and Thieke are. There was once a time when I wrote somewhere that I could pick Kai’s playing out on any CD he appeared on, such was his own personal musical signature, but here I haven’t a clue which of the two clarinetists plays which note, and as the pair cross their sounds over often mid-flow I’m not even sure I always know if the musician that started a note is the same one that ends it. The sense of mutual understanding is present throughout what is a consistently impressive album that oozes a delicate subtlety that requires careful listening to get the most out of. Notes swell out of the silence rather than just begin, and they slip away with a similar charm. The attention to detail is remarkable, not only in this kind of exit and entrance technique, but in the accuracy of the combined tonal playing. Despite there being extended use of harmonic systems here I can’t find a single mistake, a single loose wavering note, a single missed entry point. In short, it is a beautiful set of five fine, compact pieces that have been executed very well indeed. Simple ingredients, well combined by very talented people. Fine music with no chocolate or bananas in sight.

Comment (1)

  • kylie fagischefsky

    September 4, 2010 at 1:01 am

    Hey Richard, your words go down like butter and when you’re starting here to talk about porridge I almost felt like someone tries to grease honey around my beard. Did you know that I eat porridge every morning since almost three years now?

    When you where writing about those different kind of porridges on the shelves I was really upset about this ready-made instant industrial crap they seem to offer over there. Hey man, all it needs is plain and simple oats, milk and water (50:50), a pinch of salt, and when this is boiling a finger-crushed (to keep the structure) banana and as a final blessing two spoons of maple sirup (grade c). How come the mother country of porridge goes for the sins of instant meals when it come down to this most honest way of morning ingestion?

    I was starting my daily porridge habit after a fasting and now I wonder if porridge goes well with The International Nothing should one probably fast when listening to this super-reduced, malfattish kind of stuff? I noticed my concentration while fasting is very strong and I can listening to lots of music without digressing with my thoughts. I usually went for my Heavy Metal collections then, but I should try next time the other direction?

    But to the review and its subject. There is this kind of dogma going on with T.I.N. of working only with the tone and not using those overused air noise materials, preparations, circular breathing, etc., but actually there is quite a bit in there which falls under the category ‘extended techniques’ – it’s the multiphonics and the music is full of it.

    Thanks for your thoughtful 2 days T.I.N. feature.

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