Chris Abrahams, Sabine Vogel – KopfüberwelleMarch 31, 2013
When I leaf frustratedly through the heaps of stuff here I still have to listen to, pipe organs, for reasons I don’t fully understand come up a lot more than they used to. Chris Abrahams’ name seems to arise often as well, as the Australian pianist (and on this occasion pipe organist) has released a lot of material since moving to Berlin and engaging with the vibrant improv scene there. Kopfüberwelle (vague translation something like Head above the wave?) is a duo with the flautist Sabine Vogel, and a nice little affair it is as well. The first track here, Roadless seems to be eleven minutes of the musicians just making sounds and listening in awe of how they sound together. The closely miked flute and the majesty of the pipe organ combine superbly well, and in this suitably titled piece it feels as if all the duo choose to do is leave simple tones to interact with each other, not setting off anywhere in particular, just listening to and enjoying how things develop. The piece is beautiful, and on a really simple level at which basic enjoyment of sounds and how they respond to each other when layered are absorbed, its a lovely work, with the slightly dryer, more intimate exhalations of Vogel’s flute blending into the room flooding warmth of the organ.
The following pieces seem to see the duo lift themselves out of the almost awestruck tonal explorations of the opening piece and begin to seek out a narrative for the music. The sounds break up more, Abrahams in particular moving to stabbing, repetitive sections and Vogel twisting notes around in a more responsive manner. The second and third track see the duo mould music around one another, with Vogel’s far more mobile sound darting through and around the heavier weights of the organ, but the overall pace stays slow, with the sudden events that do occur standing out firmly against the otherwise gradual progress. The fourth track, Floating over head returns to the laminal structure, and again the title works well as the music takes on an airy, drifting quality until such time as you listen deeper into it, with the woody scribbles of the flute scribing wild circles into the hefty fog of the organ.
Much of the charm of Kopfüberwelle does come from the quality of the sounds used, and their skilled placement by two experienced improvisers. It is inevitable that comparisons are drawn between the mighty, mechanical air pressures of the organ and the comparably slight lungs of the flautist. If at times the music feels like a David and Goliath battle then we are also often reminded of how these two musicians set out to nudge and push at each other, but ultimately to make music that pulls together as thoroughly beautiful. An unusual, and so unpredictable palette of sounds then, that Abrahams and Vogel work together well to make a thoroughly listenable album.