Michael Thieke / Olivier Toulemonde, Lucio Capece / Jamie Drouin – The Berlin Series No. 1July 27, 2013
The first in a series of releases from Another Timbre designed to feature some of the very many improvising musicians active in berlin right now is a split release, featuring two long tracks by two duos. The first of these is a forty-three minute collaboration named Inframince between the clarinet of Michael Thieke and the assorted acoustic objects of Olivier Toulemonde. The piece follows in a long line of percussion/wind duos in that it mostly pits long, sustained notes from Thieke against smaller, less pitch based sounds from Toulemonde, at least in the earlier parts of the recording. Thieke’s sound is recogniseable from other releases- mostly soft, slightly textured low notes that hang heavily in passages roughly the length of a single held breath. Toulemonde rolls all kinds of percussive sounds around these lines. There are clouds of little clattering, bustling sounds, various scrapes and rasps, and a few groaning bowed metal-type sounds. Its a nice piece, if perhaps a little predictable, with a nice balance between the expansive, languorous feel of the clarinet and the more immediate intimacy of the percussion. At almost exactly the half hour mark though, maybe just as the main structure of the piece begins to outstay its welcome, it all changes. The percussion seems to take the lead, switching to small tapping sounds, little whirring clicks similar to something clockwork being wound up very sharply and a host of other small sounds. Thieke switches completely to tiny noteless bursts of released air, his sound moving towards something more percussive in itself, and the piece changes completely, benefitting greatly from the sudden shift in emphasis. Finishing in the closing moments with piercing combined tones from the duo, Inframince feels a bit like a long journey that suddenly took a sharp turn and visited new scenery, and it works well perhaps because of this structure, with the more pointillistic closing section working well simply because of how it site beside the rest of the work.
If the first track only partly hits the spot then Lucio Capece and Jamie Drouin’s excellently titled Immensity wins me over from start to finish. The mix of Capece’s bass clarinet and Drouin’s analogue synth with some radio thrown in is another perfect balance of the soft and smooth with the quietly gritty, but here there is a beautiful sense of balance in the music- just enough silence, just the right degree of control holding sounds down in places, and when it does billow out into more spiteful, edgily abrasive passages of activity the duo do so in perfect harmony. This is really subtle music that (to use an overused phrase that I personally don’t wheel out unless it really fits) rewards careful listening. This is one that, given a cursory glance while doing something else may hide its real rewards from you. The music’s power, for me at least, comes not only from the way the sounds chosen by the musicians combine, but how everything here works together to form one neatly structured piece made up of smaller parts. The pair seem to take turns in pushing their sounds forward in the music, with Capece’s dense notes overwhelming everything when he chooses to offer them, or the irregular crackle and electronic scribble of Drouin occasionally bursting through its usual hidden in a corner status to carve momentary scars across the music. In general, its a quiet affair, but its never subdued. There is a feeling of continually simmering menace in the music that only occasionally breaks the surface, but is always in there if you listen closely. Very fine work indeed.