Friday 17th June

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Another fine release of improvised music on the Another Timbre label tonight then, and another CD that seems to inhabit a stylistic middle ground that takes on the best of the various approaches to this area of music while not being easy to define as anything other than improvised music. Actually the disc in question, a release by the trio of Michel Doneda, Jonas Kocher and Christoph Schiller named (peculiarly) ///grape skin could perhaps be categorised more accurately as acoustic improvised music, though certainly there is a feeling throughout the disc of electronic textures and stylings being mimicked to some degree, and Michel Doneda uses a radio alongside his soprano saxophone, though its contribution here is mostly an abstract, textural one.

The album contains two tracks, each lasting roughly around the twenty minute mark. The instrumentation here is a mix that probably hasn’t been heard on disc before- alongside Doneda’s chosen instruments Kocher plays an accordion and Schiller a prepared spinet. Whilst seemingly quite specialised, the range of tools used here actually provide the musicians with quite a range of sounds, and throughout the two pieces we hear everything from breathy escaping air of one kind or another to bowed strings, percussive clatter and chiming tones. There is a lot going on here, with the music sounding beautifully rounded and fully formed right from the start, suggesting that the trio know each other well despite this being the only release they seem to have made together.

The one aspect of the music that stays constant throughout is its slowness. The trio pay great attention to the quality of the sounds they play, with texture and timbre in particular really sounding important here. As the music progresses slowly the sounds unfurl across one another with a sense of real elegance. The way everything fits together is very beautiful indeed. The sensation of electronics is a strong one. The excellent second piece here, named Second membrane in particular uses a lot of long languorous tones and hums that are pockmarked by smaller sounds, with no one musician more responsible for any one aspect than the other as they take it in turns to fulfill the separate roles. The track ends with a single low note holding a line for a few seconds before fading out. I’m not even sure which of the trio is making this sound, though if I had to guess I’d go for Kocher, but the delicacy of this ending, the quality of the held note, and the inability to figure out where it comes from sum up this album for me. Its a beautifully played, very nicely balanced example of how good improvised acoustic music can be when its just done really well. ///grape skin is a really beautiful work, recorded really well (by Simon Reynell, in a church, but this time away in Switzerland) and its a shame to me that this music might not attract some of the younger followers of improvised music who may not know the names involved or baulk at the thought of three acoustic instruments. In fact this is as elegant, beautifully crafted and thoroughly modern an approach to improvisation as you are likely to hear this year.

2 Comments

  • simon reynell June 18, 2011 - 9:54 am

    Thanks for the review, Richard, and I’m glad you like this one.

    re electronics: when the session was originally set up I imagined that Jonas would be playing electronics as well as accordion, but by the time it took place he had abandoned electronics entirely. He touches on the reasons why in his brief interview on the AT website
    ( http://www.anothertimbre.com/page89.html ), but as he says there several of the techniques he applies to the accordion sound like electronics – including the sustained note at the end of the second piece that you mention. [The same is true of Christoph's prepared spinet - which is why it also works so well in duo with Sebastian Lexer's 'piano +' set-up]

    You’re right that the three musicians hadn’t played together as a trio, but they had worked together in duos and knew each other’s work well. And you’re also right that the music was “rounded and fully-formed right from the start”: the first track is an only slightly edited version of the first piece they played at the session.

    One of my favourite things from the disc is the way in which environmental sounds from the (very beautiful) location near Lake Biel float in and out of the music in ways that seem to belong, and I’m sure most people won’t even notice them as being originally separate from the music – passing trains, a boat horn, birdsong, aeroplanes etc.

  • [...] Swiss accordion player who also appeared on the ///grape skin release that I recently wrote about here. Now I’ve never been a big fan of the accordion when played ‘properly’ in folk [...]

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