It’s been a while…

One of my favorite recordings I was able to hear last year was “Kravis Rhonn Project” by Annette Krebs and Rhodri Davies on the Another Timbre label in the UK. Annette Krebs is credited with guitar, objects, mixing board, and tape manipulations, while Davies plays electric harp and unspecified electronics. There’s always a certain trouble one enters when writing about music such as this. Invariably one falls back on the standard genre specifiers when attempting to write about it, as though saying an album such as this is electro-acoustic-improv or European-free-improv or experimental sound art or fuck knows what right off the bat really helps explain what it sounds like. Sure, it’s improvised, it uses extended playing techniques, it’s abstract and to certain extent intractable — and in many ways writing that an album like this is EAI does conjure up a sort of playing field for the imagination – you know there’s going to be a lot of unidentified rumbles, pings and scrapes and nothing much resembling such “standard” classical instrumentation as the guitar and harp. But this album transcends in what my mind has become a sort of staid and hermetic qualification, that of the term EAI, popularized in various (better informed no doubt) circles, because the now easily recognizable traits of EAI are pushed further, the expectations of the post AMM group stumped. SO…what is this album like then? Yes, there’s the rumbles, scrapes and pings as written earlier but what comes somewhat startling to life here is how they are used, sounding to me almost as if it were cleanly composed, constructed painstakingly in some studio– each sound is so provocatively but intuitively placed, with what feels like an almost pre-ordained order, but often sounding sculpted in time. This has little to no recognizable quality with improvisational efforts from the free improvisation tradition, no frantic scrabbling at the locks here, or show boating flights of fancy found in the random free jazz/improv record, and again only a slight recognizable whiff of EAI, unavoidable as these two musicians are/were part of the scene(s) that helped invent that new language of the bearded and bespectacled. But the use of tapes and the human voice are remarkable here, something I believe Krebs is responsible for– often layered with the odd sonic detritus: radio rambling, clicking whirs, a slow and pungent ebowed harp. Sometimes Krebs’s found voices are slowed and distorted, almost always they appear meditated on, obscurely pertinent in their cut short or elongated placements. If I could understand these German speaking voices I wonder if it would affect how I perceive the music… invariably it would, although it’s hard to tell how much. For all I know they could be talking about the moons of Jupiter or the American military industrial complex. Who knows? But the fact that unlike a Gauze or Moderat Likvidation record (where my lack of Japanese or Swedish didn’t effect my understanding of the kick assitude raging in the grooves) I find that the content of these words must have an importance I’m missing. Of course, this only allows the music to achieve a fascinating stasis when combined with the the sour lilts of resonating string and crumpled bag electronics. In many ways this music reminds me of a dream, of listening to a story in a muffled and only half identified language, the actual meaning achingly within reach but so far off. But when the music itself is so mesmerizing and indeed beautiful (a moment on the second track brings to mind langourous bamboo windchimes with subtle, dry machinations) it’s hard to care if you “understand” the meaning or not. It’s an endless fascinating document of a duo I hope continues to push these boundaries. And putting a label of EAI on such music would just be a shame, a disservice really to the associations it conjures. Just let it alone, let it breathe.

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