One redeeming pleasure that comes from the current resurgence of music released on vinyl (and in my opinion probably the only one) is that we get to hold big square record sleeves in our hands again, twelve inch design opportunities rather than little jewel case booklets. Such a shame then that this particular release comes slipped inside a really terrible sleeve. Presumably ironic or at least just humorous, the heavy metal pastiche is a but lost on me I’m afraid. Good job it doesn’t matter. The music carved into the grooves of this album then comes from The Dogmatics, who turn out to be the Berlin based duo of Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet) and Chris Abrahams (piano). Revelling in the title The Sacrifice for the music became our lifestyle, the slightly OTT nature of the packaging is something of a misdirection. The music here is quiet, gentle and very lovely.
In many ways Kai Fagaschinski’s playing here is very familiar. He uses low, warm, very soft, attack-free tones, often quite lengthy ones and with a lot of space between them. He constantly suggests that he will break into some kind of melody, as he has on other records in the past, but on this occasion never quite manages it. Chris Abrahams acts as the perfect foil here. His playing is equally spacious, sometimes almost pointillistic, and just as calm and quiet. He splits his time between the piano’s keys and within the body of the instrument and keeps his sounds mostly very brief and simple. Between them, the duo create music that offers subtlety and fragility. There is a feeling of precision and careful placement here, perhaps even a hint at composition, but the music is, I think, all improvised. The obvious comparison is Feldman, and while there are no direct links the general mood and feel of the music is often unavoidably close. There are other elements in there however- hints at bar-room jazz, Reichian repetition, turn of the millennium reductionism even, but not a sniff of heavy metal.
The seven short tracks each works as a little vignette in itself, some more active than others, but they come together to form a whole that is very restful and calm, almost dangerously soothing to listen to at times, though there is plenty happening around these simple little sets of sounds and the spaces between them to betray a tension in the music that keeps it well away from new age cheesiness. All in all its a very nice record indeed, possibly the best I have heard from Fagaschinski since his Los Glissandinos days and definitely enough to make me go and find the Abrahams/Lucio Capece album that arrived here earlier this year and yet somehow, shamefully I overlooked. Lovely stuff, despite the attempt to hide it in something quite the opposite.