importance of concentration and close listening

In one of the most pitifully attended concerts I’ve ever witnessed in Vienna, last weekend saw a deserted Porgy & Bess play host to the first gig in seven years by electroacoustic improvisation quintet Efzeg. The meagre turnout was probably inevitable, given that it was a hot Sunday night and that this music is not exactly a crowd-puller at the best of times; but it was also unfortunate, since what we had here was a reunion gig (oh, how I do love reunions) by a group containing some of Europe’s leading exponents of the electroacoustic genre.

I missed Efzeg the first time around, of course, which makes their 2012 reformation all the more pertinent. I’ve long admired guitarist Martin Siewert’s work, though, having seen him play both with avant rock unit Heaven And and in a trio with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson and turntablist and Efzeg member dieb13 (Dieter Kovacic). Kovacic, meanwhile, turns up in Swedish Azz with Gustafsson, who was a guest at Heaven And’s last Vienna gig. You get the picture.

In marked contrast to those previous, bracing encounters, Efzeg are all about duration, the lengthy accumulation of sonic detail. During the concert, I found myself in an unfamiliar, somewhat disquieting mode of listening. I’m not used to the kind of patient unfolding of sounds that Efzeg present us with; years of close attention to free jazz and improv have conditioned me to enjoy, perhaps even to expect, a succession of thrilling events. Such expectations are clearly not part of the EAI aesthetic. The closest I’ve come would be the few AMM concerts I was lucky enough to see in London in the 1990s, before the deplorable schism that led to founder member Keith Rowe leaving the group. Come to think of it, Rowe’s tabletop style of guitar playing is clearly a direct antecedent of Siewert’s, although Siewert often plays in a more conventional style as well. Anyway, what AMM taught me, and Efzeg reminded me of, was the importance of concentration and close listening as a means of situating oneself within a musical environment.

That makes the whole thing sound like some kind of bloodless sonic experiment; nothing could be further from the truth. Over the course of two longish sets, the group’s four instrumentalists proposed a layered approach in which the saxophone, guitars and turntable each traced their own paths before coalescing into a pulsating and vertiginous wall of sound. The amiable Boris Hauf’s spare, astringent sax was bolstered by the quietly flickering guitar of the studious figure next to him, Burkhard Stangl. On the other side of the stage, Siewert was in abstract tabletop mode for the most part, occasionally exploding into fractured power chords. Next to him, dieb13 was to be seen thoughtfully looking through his records before deciding which one to play next, their soft drones adding layers of snowy interference. Meanwhile, visual artist and fifth member Billy Roisz was using the group’s audio as input for her analogue visual feedback projections. Constantly evolving in response to the shifting textures of the music, Roisz’s bold grids and insectoid patterns provided a hypnotic visual correlative. Taking the music and the visuals together, the overall effect was of a mysterious and unresolved entity stubbornly resisting capture. I sincerely hope the group continues to play live, despite the depressing lack of interest shown in this outing.

Richard Rees Jones

Mixture of European concepts and American know-how

Fascinated by the minimalist textures revealed by balancing percussion and reed timbres plus an overlay of electronics, Berlin-based saxophonist Boris Hauf convened these telekinetic exercises in collective improvisation during a 2010 busman`s holiday in Chicago.
A frequent visitor to that city, Hauf is best known for his work with the efzeg combo, but these CDs are even more reductionist. Replacing the guitars that were part of efzeg with piano micro-tonalism of one-name Austrian Juun, plus his own harmonium playing on Proxemics, Hauf fills out the juddering narrative with contributions from his tenor and soprano saxophones, Keefe Jackson’s contrabass clarinet and tenor saxophone and Steven Hess’s drum beats. Hess, who is almost prominent in metal bands; Hauf and Jackson, who leads his own band and is a fixture in Chicago FreeBop combos; are all accounted for on Next Delusion with the trio augmented by exploratory Windy City bass clarinetist Jason Stein and two additional drummers: Michael Hartman and Frank Rosaly, both of whom gig frequently on the Chi-town Jazz scene.
In all honesty the discrepancy in the sound density between four or six players is minimal. Both measured and lingering the sextet’s four tracks travel a similar linear path as the three advanced by the quartet. If anything the most audible variation is the prominent reed textures Next Delusion. Often Stein’s bass clarinet, Jackson’s contrabass clarinet and the lower notes from Hauf’s tenor inflate together into an exposition of subterranean-pitched, tugboat-horn-like blowing. At the same time the output is never completely opaque, as split tones, snorts as well as linear air movements are also audible. Although the potential exists for rhythmic heavy-handedness from the three accomplished drummers, instead the percussionists are exemplary in cooperation. For every explosion of united rolls, ruffs and rebounds that upsets the chromatic cohesion, there are many more instances of the kit manipulators limiting themselves to rumbling timbres on drum tops or isolating cymbal claps and splashes.
If there’s a defining track it’s “Fame & Riches”; obviously no reflection of those involved with experimental improvised music. Beginning with reed tongue-slaps, flutters and squeaks, bass clarinet slurps and contrabass clarinet slurs eventually coagulate into a dense, nearly motionless reed mass. Finally meticulously angled saxophone lines and microtonal drum slaps reanimate the sequence.
Similar microtonal, chromatic interface is obvious on Proxemics, even if oscillating and shrill signal processing from Hauf’s sine tone and Hess’s electronics are more obvious. So are individual reed and piano strategies that reference Free Jazz. “Social”, the shortest track, contrasts straightforward tenor saxophone split tones backed by piano comping and drum top spanks. As Juan alternates her output between marimba-like string plucks and tremolo keyboard runs, puffing saxophone and clarinet air expelling maintain the track’s fragile equilibrium. Cascading and continuous harmonium washes on “Personal” similarly bring forth razzing sibilates from Jackson plus strident no-mouthpiece body toots from Hauf’s horn.
This combination of austere friction, moderated lyricism and near-ambient electronic synthesis is expanded to its fullest on the more than 29½ -minute “Public”. While the electronic shimmies often produce an unyielding ostinato as the horn men’s slurs slide into one another, there are still enough obvious jagged edges to keep the track lively. Among the standout signs are Juan’s clattering piano keys and tickling minimalist note patterns; bell-ringing and sequence-shattering from the percussionist’s raps and rolls; plus key percussion, mouthpiece whistling and balanced tongue slaps from the saxophonists.
With a mixture of European concepts and American know-how, Hauf and company maintain individual expression among the harmonies and rhythms of extended group expression. Both sessions make an impression and the textural attribute of either band could be advantageously developed by Hauf for further sound explorations.
Ken Waxman

In Rotation

In Rotation: Multi-instrumentalist Boris Hauf says Last.fm saved his ass

Boris Hauf, Berlin-based multi-instrumentalist and part-time Chicagoan, what he’s obsessed with. His answers are. . .

Last.fm I put on a record when I know what I want to listen to. If I want to discover something new but still fancy control over the range of that “new,” I turn on the radio. As anyone who’s traveled Europe knows, radio here sucks. If you’re looking to find anything alternative or even simply tolerably mainstream, you’re lost. My buddy Steve, also a Berlin resident, was spot-on when he said, “Last.fm saved my ass in many ways.”

Fred Anderson The very first time I visited Chicago, Fred Anderson invited me to “come down to the Lounge.” We sat at the bar, drank Coke, and chatted. Thrilled that such a sax giant would hang out with little me, I asked something about “free vs. nonfree” in music. He seemed annoyed and changed the subject. Many hours later, while I was bidding my farewell, Fred mused, “You know . . . that question you asked earlier . . . I think I want to answer that one now.” He took out his tenor and started blowing like only Fred Anderson could. I’ll never forget that man.

Levon Helm Recently I was invited to contribute to the “interactive library” of a performance festival. It was guaranteed that “no book would ever be allowed to leave the space of the library and that they’d be stored and locked every night.” I chose to loan my copy of This Wheel’s on Fire, Levon Helm’s retelling of the story of the Band. After the festival was over, all books were returned but mine. It was the only book that was stolen. Good for Levon. And the thief.

 

http://www.chicagoreader.com/gyrobase/in-rotation-philip-montoro-dudley-bayne-boris-hauf/Content?oid=6562854&storyPage=3

EFZEG melden sich zurück

Ein Abend ganz im Zeichen der wunderbar schrägen elektroakustischen Klangspielereien, der hohen Improvisationskunst und der kunstvollen Verschränkung von Sound und Bild steht am 17. Juni im Wiener Porgy & Bess auf dem Programm. Zu Gast ist mit EFZEG eine Formation, die sich nun nach mehreren Jahren Pause erneut wieder daran macht, mit den Hörgewohnheiten des Publikums zu brechen. Ein kurzer Blick auf die Namen der Beteiligten gibt eigentlich schon die notwendige Auskunft darüber, in welche Richtung es gehen wird: Boris Hauf, dieb13, Martin Siewert, Burkhard Stangl und Billy Roisz. Eigentlich ein Muss für jeden, der sich für musikalische Erlebnisse abseits aller Normen und Konventionen begeistern kann.

Wenn sich fünf Künstler dieses Kalibers und mit einem solch offenen Musikverständnis einmal gemeinsam auf der Bühne einfinden, dann kann man mit Sicherheit alles erwarten, nur nicht das Gewöhnliche. Allesamt führende und innovative Köpfe der österreichischen Improvisations- und Elektroakustikszene stehen Boris Hauf (Saxophon, Elektronik), dieb13 (Turntables) Martin Siewert (Gitarre, Elektronik), Burkhard Stangl (Gitarre) und Billy Roisz (Visuals) als Gruppe für die vollkommene Überwindung aller möglichen musikalischen und stilistischen Begrifflichkeiten. Sie sind ausgewiesene Experten im Beschreiten der experimentellen, avantgardistischen und von den herkömmlichen Mustern und Definitionen wegführenden Pfade, virtuose Klangarbeiter, die das Spiel mit diesem zur allerhöchsten Kunst erhoben haben.

Eine exakte Voraussage darüber zu treffen, was nun wirklich passieren wird, legt das famose Quintett einmal richtig los, ist eigentlich nicht möglich. Dafür agieren die fünf musikalischen Freigeister einfach viel zu sehr im freien Raum, in welchem alleine das gegenseitige Zuwerfen und Weiterverarbeiten von Ideen, sowie aus Aufzeigen neuer akustischer Wege regieren. Was aber auf alle Fälle erwartet werden darf, ist eine intensive und abwechslungsreiche Klangreise, welche von schrägen  Free-/Impro-Jazz Interpretationen über die experimentelle Elektronik und Elektroakustik bis hin zu den heftigsten Noiseausbrüchen führen wird. Eine hochenergetische Mischung, die einer musikalischen Kettenreaktion gleichkommt, welcher man, ist sie einmal in Gang gesetzt, wohl kaum mehr Einhalt gebieten wird können. (mt)

http://www.musicaustria.at/magazin/jazz-improvisierte-musik/artikel-berichte/efzeg-melden-sich-zurueck