POLWECHSEL: ARCHIVES OF THE NORTH - REVIEWS
A German-Austrian-British band that equally mixes electronics and acoustic instruments, and improvisation
and composition, Polwechsel is fully abstract, if you consider lack of melody the definition of abstraction in music.
With "Archives of the North" (...) the group has reached a state of refined grace. It now has the drummers
Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr, the saxophonist John Butcher, the bassist Werner Dafeldecker,
and Michael Moser on cello and computer. Working together, they make the most beautiful bowings and
chimings and scrapings, blending them so that it all becomes one fluid motion. It´s lovely music that some
people might not call music at all.
- Ben Ratliff, New York Times -
Dan Warburton monitors the slow heartbeat and controlled release of pan-European improvisors Polwechsel
"The Polwechsel project has been exponential in defining new approaches to the composition/improvisation paradigm, " writes Dean Roberts in an extended and perceptive essay accompanying Polwechsels fourth release - the first to feature new recruits Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr (Radian, Trapist) on percussion along with old hands Werner Dafeldecker (bass), Michael Moser (cello, computer) and John Butcher (saxophones). "Each phase of Polwechsel has been marked by a defining document and the releases of their recordings have frequently bookended trends and movements in improvisational and experimental music," he continues.
Indeed. One imagines that copies of the first edition of Polwechsel 1, released on Cologne's Random Acoustics label in 1994, might one day fetch astronomical prices on eBay. From the outset, it anticipated many of the developments that would characterise the next ten years of improvised music. Namely a retreat from the high octane "gabbiness" (to quote Radu Malfatti, Polwechsel member until 1997) of old school Improv into a world of sustained sonority and timbral nuance, a studious avoidance of unbridled and unruly "soloing" in favour of clearly defined composed - if not traditionally notated - structures. The slow heartbeat of Polwechsel´s music became an aethetic cornerstone of electroacoustic Improv. It was no coincidence that individual releases by Butcher, guitarist Burkhard Stangl (who left the group in 2003), Dafeldecker and Malfatti helped establish the Erstwhile label as electroacoustic improvisation´s imprint of reference, and Polwechsel subsequently appeared as a group, joined by Christian Fennesz, on the 2002 Erstwhile release Wrapped Islands. With the benefit of hindsight, the four tracks on Polwechsels debut album - three penned by Dafeldecker, one by Moser - marked a defining moment when improvised music began to turn its back on Peter Brötzmann and Derek Bailey and started looking towards Alvin Lucier and Helmut Lachenmann instead.
Lucier and Lachenmann are namechecked in Roberts´s sleevenotes, but Polwechsel´s music, though clearly indebted to both, navigates a steady course between the complex virtuosity of Lachenmann´s self-styled aesthetics of failure and Lucier´s pristine "it is what it is" minimalism. The processes at work in Moser´s "Datum Cut", which opens the new album, are evident enough if one pays attention, but they´re half buried under a textural moss peculiar to the group - "a webbing made of a hundred roots, that drink in silence", to quote Robert Bly´s translation of Rainer Maria Rilke´s celebrated poem in Das Stundenbuch.
Which takes us to the album title, Archives Of The North (Rilke would surely have appreciated it). Unlike its three generically numbered predecessors, this one has a title, and its double reference to archives - library, catalogue, documentation, classification, the weight of cultural tradition - and North, with its attendent associations of harsh climate, Protestant asceticism, cold black lakes and dark forests, resonates perfectly with the music. Polwechsel albums are solemn, sometimes downright forbidding affairs, but compared to the austere Lucier-like harmonic drift of "Toaster" (on Polwechsel 2) and the gristle of "Government" (on Polwechsel 3), Archives is suffused with, if not warmth, at least radiance, thanks in no small part to the colours brought to the group by Beins and Brandlmayr. Percussionists as opposed to drummers, both are here more concerned with continuous sound production than with seeking to impose any kind of rhythmic element, further distancing the music from any distant origins it might have had in free jazz. Even the flurries of log drum clatter on "Core Cut" sound more like Silvio Gualda than Paul Lovens. It´s significant also that three of the five tracks on Archives have been penned by Moser, a classically trained cellist who works frequently with prestigious New Music ensembles including Klangforum and Ensemble Neue Musik Wien, and Berlin´s Zeitkratzer, who have arguably given contemporary classical music at the turn of the 21 century the same shot in the arm that The Kronos Quartet gave it a quarter of a century ago.
Even so, unlike Polwechsels 1 and 2, which share shelf space with Cardew, Feldman and Haubenstock-Ramati on Werner Uehlinger´s bijou New Music imprint hat[now]ART, Archives Of The North is on hatOLOGY, and comes with the (supposedly helpful) instruction "file under Jazz/Free Improvisation". But like the unjustly overlooked Polwechsel 3, which Dafeldecker released on his own distinctly user-unfriendly Durian imprint (functional unadorned plastic case, all artist and track info only on Durian´s Website), we´re a long way from what old school Hat Hut punters would consider "free improvisation" here. Though aficionados of post-AMM laminal/Reductionist/lowercase/electroacoustic Improv will have no difficulty identifying with the Polwechsel aesthetic. Despite their changes of personnel, Polwechsel are a group with an invisible member: the group itself. Like AMM. ("The three players plus the group itself makes four: AMM is a quartet with an invisible member", Keith Rowe told The Wire in 2002.) The group have retained and refined a sound all of their own. Dafeldecker´s low end thuds and gloomy E-string drones are instantly recognisable on his "Mirror", as are Moser´s discreet yet exquisite touches of extended technique cello on the closing "Site And Setting", but it´s a credit to the group´s aethetic rigour that performers as distinctive as Butcher, Beins and Brandlmayr have integrated so seamlessly into the Polwechsel sound. Listen carefully and you can pick out Butcher´s meticulous multphonics, Beins´s trademark stone/polystyrene friction and Brandlmayr´s ever daft cymbal work, but Archives Of The North is, and will remain, a music that is far more than the sum of its parts.
- Dan Warburton, The Wire -
For their fourth album Polwechsel gathered in a quintet comprising Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr (drums, percussion),
John Butcher (tenor and soprano sax), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass) and Michael Moser (cello, computer).
Ever since the very first moments of the opening track "Datum cut" we plunge right into an equalitarian oleography;
this obscure diffusion of massive immanence explicates through semi-menacing permutations of the acoustic matter,
like if the players were stimulated by the very transudations of their reciprocal perceptions. The percussive element
introduced by Beins and Brandlmayr, which replaces Burkhard Stangl's guitar sounds, often shifts the overall balance
towards territories bordering AMM and Organum, particularly when bowed cymbals and scraped metals enter the picture.
Yet it's the organic continuum elicited by Dafeldecker's bass and Moser's cello that colours the album with a sense of
"fulfilled gloom" which maintains a firm grip on our disposition; on the other hand, Butcher tends to remain less
discernible, although being thoroughly effective in the distillation process of this music's physical essence. My
favourite moment is represented by "Magnetic North", the lone track signed by the quintet as a whole: a periodic
cycle of spheroidal figures rotating amidst morphing nightglows, a piece that functions as an orientation point in
between the many conscious suspensions born from Polwechsel's intuitive gestures. "Archives of the North" is
another fundamental chapter in this collective's history and is warmly suggested as an addition in your wantlists.
- Massimo Ricci, Touching Extremes -
"Critics Choice", Jazz-Zeitung 2006/10:
Eine Klang-, Ton- und Geräuschwelt eigenen Tempos, wie eine unbekannte Insel im Strom der Normalmusik.
- Martin Hufner, Taktlos (BR/NMZ) -
A group with Polwechsel´s importance must bear up continually to the weight of expectation, and this newest disc
certainly does not disappoint. On this outing, founding guitarist Burkhard Stangl is absent, making way for two
percussionists, Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayer(...) While Polwechsel¹s third full-length, Polwechsel 3
(on Dafeldecker´s Durian imprint), was a series of harsh juxtapositions and whiplash starts and stops, Archives is glacial.
It lurches into life with a clang and a saxophone ripple, but the rest of opener "Datum Cut" consists of echoes and resonances
of that first moment. Some of these are probably quite literal, a fair amount of processing clearly in evidence while crystalline
tones glow, fade and re-emerge in other registers. It´s one of the most beautiful tracks that the group has issued, melding
the best elements of improvisation and composition to form a structure that skirts electro-acoustic cliches. (...)
Archives of the North a fascinating and challenging listen, partly because of how simple it all seems
on the surface.
- Marc Medwin, Grooves Magazine -
Burkhard Beins und Martin Brandlmayr, Schlagzeug und Perkussion, John Butcher an den Saxofonen, Michael Moser
und last but not least Werner Dafeldecker sind das Quintett Polwechsel. Und auch fünf Musiker können
kontemplativ sein. Der stetig wallende Soundteppich aus elektronisch generierten Tönen und expressiven
bilden das Fundament für die sparsam gesetzten Tönen von Bass, Cello und Saxofon. Werner Dafeldecker meinte
dazu in einem Inerview "Noch weniger wäre nichts". Damit meint er ein Nichts an Tönen, aber nicht ein
Empfindungen und Emotionen und Zustandsbeschreibungen. Auf dieser CD wird mit sehr wenig enorm viel erzeugt
und wer bereit ist, sich auf die unendliche Tiefe der Assoziationen einzulassen wird reichlich belohnt.
Wo Nummern bis auf das Skelett der Harmonik abgenagt sind, wo der Knochen wichtiger ist als das Fleisch,
da beginnt diese Musik und da hat auch der Hörgenuss seinen Anfang. Fragmentarisch klingen Melodien an, entstehen
Themen, die im nächsten Moment wieder verworfen werden, tauchen Bilder auf, die sich sofort wieder im Nebel
verflüchtigen und enstehen Stimmungen, die tief berühren. Es sind Klanggebilde, die im Moment entstehen, die
in freier Assoziation geboren werden und die so nicht mehr wieder kommen. Der Aspekt des Flüchtigen, der Reiz
des Augenblicks und die Spannung des Moments beherrscht diese beharrlich beherrschte CD. Musik, die erarbeitet
werden will, von den Interpreten genau so wie von den Konsumenten.
- akro, kulturwoche.at -
One of the most fitting descriptions of a live Polwechsel gig was when someone told me, "it's like watching paint dry".
An honest answer perhaps. In their third line-up since their inception in the early 90's, ultra-minimal Polwechsel
is now a quintet. Gone is guitarist Burkhard Stangl. Addition of percussionists Burkhard Beins and Martin Bradlmayr
makes for an interesting paradigm shift. There are still plenty of severely austere and quiet moments. Polwechsel
is famous for its long, drawn-out passages. Whether it's John Butcher's elongated breaths on the tenor or soprano
that seem to go on for eternity or Michael Moser's slightly out-of-whack cello parts or perhaps it's Werner
Dafeldecker's slowly massaged bass strings - every last inch of their music is carefully thought out and delicately
balanced. Exciting part in their new pieces is the shimmering, purposefully timed percussion tid-bits. Beins
and Brandlmayr trade off on utilizing percussive tools at their disposal and when both are permitted to hit the
cymbals or caresses the skins lightly, the place really shakes. Chamber like quality still persists as does a
turtle speed of execution. Once again, emphasis is put on meticulous delivery of each and every sound in the
room, rather than a rush of audio all at once. Headphone music perhaps, much of the work was put together
in the mixing/editing process, which takes nothing away from the power this ensemble commands during a
live performance. Listener can't help but to be drawn into their work simply by the act of the unexpected.
What will come next? You're bound to hear an explosion or a climax that is nowhere to be heard, but still,
you're thrilled by the wait. Their approach to timbres and complex shifts in microscopic music creation
has not changed much since inception of the group. Whether your bag is watching paint dry or maybe a
mixture of musique concrète, improvisation and carefully composed sounds turns you on, "Archives of
the North" has it all.
- Tom Sekowski, Gaz-Eta -
11 years after their influential debut recording on Random Acoustics comes the 5th public document of this
ensemble centered around Michael Moser and Werner Dafeldecker's efforts to untangle the products and
processes of improvisation. This quintet edition of Polwechsel is the first without Burkhard Stangl, but
the addition of pace-setting idiophonists Martin Brandlmayr and Burkhard Beins is the most radical revision.
John Butcher's unparalleled extended saxophone vocabulary continues to be the ensemble's most compelling
adaptation of the timbral legacy that improvisational methodology has nurtured and I admire him for his
willingness to contribute to a mostly non-improvised project like Polwechsel. As in the work by
Beins/Denzler/Durrant (Trio Sowari), the conventional identities of saxophone, drum, and cymbal
are rarely recognizable. Likewise for Dafeldecker's contrabass (he doesn't use guitar or computer
for these works), which is miraculously subtle. This album is a momentous masterpiece and quite
a step beyond earlier Polwechsel and most other work by these folks I've heard. Beins and Brandlmayr
vastly multiply the timbral complexity of the ensemble sound, narrowing the gap between fundamental
frequencies and overtones through diffusely pitched sounds like bowed cymbal and other frictional textures.
As much as I enjoy them, the first two Polwechsel albums and parts of the third (excepting "Government")
were compromised by an arid and dull feeling owing to the internal conflict of narrowly pitch-centric
sound sources (cello, acoustic guitar, contrabass) trying to deal with pitch-independent structures like
extended stasis, discrete shifts in vertical density, etc. Alongside the spectral expansion achieved by this
quintet, Moser's continued evolution as a computer manipulator (in addition to his cello playing) is
equally responsible for the erasure of boundaries between individual instrumental identities and the
construction of monolithic sound shapes brimming with disembodied slow-moving patterns like the
ridges on sculptural surfaces that appear flat from a distance. For the sake of broadly describing the
music, it might be useful to know that it's fairly slow, quiet, careful, and mostly based around continuous
textural blends that retain a distinctly "acoustic" feeling. I'm often reminded of the very calm passages
of Dimitrescu. To my ears they are one of the few medium-sized-or-larger ensembles with the
intense focus and refinement of timbre to create a ritualistic experience of tension and immersion
approaching the benchmarks established by BSC ("Good") and Trockeneis ("5025 AD"), though
it's worth noting that this music never loses its cool or climbs arches into primal release.
Its combination of sustained tranquility and infinite nuance make it a breathtaking work that
demands the attention of anyone following the development of music in the current era.
- Michael Anton Parker, Downtown Music Gallery -
"Ob die Phase der 'Reduktion' vorbei ist? Diese Frage wurde mir zuletzt viermal gestellt. Insofern liegt das wohl in der Luft. Wobei unter Musikern das Thema schon länger virulent ist." Die Frage ist Werner Dafeldecker zu stellen. Schließlich pflegt er - mit Michael Moser Kopf des Ensembles Polwechsel - seit 13 Jahren eine Ästhetik der Klangmikroskopie im Schnittpunkt zwischen kompositorischen und improvisierenden Strukturdenken. Und dies hat auch international einen gewissen Kultstatus bewirkt. "In die Schublade der 'Reduktion' gesteckt zu werden, dagegen haben wir uns immer gewehrt", so Dafeldecker, früher Kontrabassist von Ton.Art und Mitbetreiber des Durian-Labels. "Es hat bei uns genauso gut passieren können, das wir mal volles Rohr losgetrötet haben. Uns ging's anfangs darum, Material möglichst konzentriert zu bearbeiten, und alles unnötig Erscheinende wegzulassen. Wie das Vibrato des Operngesangs etwa." Wobei es auch sein konnte, "dass wir gesagt haben, wir arbeiten mit dem Vibrato - aber dann nur mit dem Vibrato." Dafeldecker und Michael Moser, den gefragten Cellisten (zuletzt in Donaueschingen hervorgetreten), werkten indessen nicht allein auf weiter Flur. In Barcelona, Berlin und Tokio betrieben Musiker ähnlich elementare Klangforschungen, wobei die ebenfalls zahlreichen Kollegen in der Heimat Wien - wohl nicht zufällig in zeitlicher Parallele zum abebbenden Elektronik-Hype - sich als vielleicht erste wieder von den streng modernistischen Geräusch-Tüfteleien verabschiedeten und konkrete Einflüsse zuließen - siehe die aktuellen Arbeiten u. a. von Radian, Trapist oder Franz Hautzinger. Auch das neue, ausgezeichnete Album von Polwechsel klinkt sich hier ein: Archives of The North (hatOLOGY/Lotus) heißt es und wurde damit - sieht man von den frei improvisierten Wrapped Islands-Sessions mit Christian Fennesz (2002) ab - als erstes nicht nur mit einer nüchternen Nummerierung, sondern mit einem assoziationsträchtigen Titel ausgestattet. Moser: "Wir haben uns zwar gegen das Label gewehrt, aber zum Teil sicher sehr reduzierte Stücke gemacht. Irgendwann kommt man an einen Punkt, an dem man sagt: Weiter zu reduzieren hieße, mit dem Spielen aufzuhören. Oder nach 30 Minuten Stille einen Ton zu spielen. Was nicht unser Ding ist. Deshalb haben wir seit Jahren darüber geredet, die Musik in die andere Richtung zu entwickeln." Um Irrtümern vorzubeugen: Auf der CD wird nicht mit Zitaten jongliert oder gerockt. Polwechsel ist natürlich Polwechsel geblieben. Jedoch: Der explorative Impetus scheint offener, er geht nun weit über das Geräuschspektrum hinaus. Die Formation legt in flirrenden Drones eine so bisher nicht gehörte, schillernde Klangsinnlichkeit an den Tag. Viel zu tun hat jener neue Soundreichtum auch mit Umbesetzungen: Burkhard Stangl ging, die Schlagzeuger Burkhard Beins und Martin Brandlmayr kamen. "Die CD ist relativ zugänglich. Vielleicht werden wir dadurch einige Hardcore-Fans verlieren, dafür neue hinzugewinnen, so Dafeldecker. "Ich persönlich könnte mir die CD zum Frühstück einlegen."
- Der Standard -
It´s tough to imagine Polwechsel without Burkhard Stangl but here it is, their erstwhile guitarist replaced
by two percussionists, the redoubtable Burkhard Beins and the always astonishing Martin Brandlmayr.
While the resultant disc doesn´t, for this listener, reach the heights of their "2" from 1998 (a seminal
album for opening up my ears to this area of music), I find it far preferable to the overly dry previous
release on Durian.
Five tracks, four of them composed (three by Moser, one by Dafeldecker), one group improvisation, all
of them solid. The percussion announces itself quickly on "Datum Cut" with struck and swiped metal, layered
smoothly into the deep and richly bowed strings as well as the almost string-like reed work of Butcher.
Throughout the recording, it´s rather easy to "lose" his contributions, they blend so ably with the ensemble.
In his liner notes, Dean Roberts makes reference to Lucier´s "I Am Sitting In A Room" with regard to this
piece though I´m unable to hear any sort of structural similarity unless its iterations are lengthy enough
that I´ve lost track of any pattern. It does, somewhat, bring to mind a few of that composer´s other investigations
into sine waves and their near correspondence to certain tones produced by acoustical objects, but only
in a very general manner. Whatever its influences, it´s a strong, vibrant piece, well-paced. Dafeldecker´s
"Mirror" begins scratchily, morphing into a lovely bass-led section with, if I´m hearing correctly,
Butcher contributing some wonderful, deep feedback sax which in turn blends into stridently bowed cymbals
before nestling back into clicks `n´ drones. Bass pops and wooden thwacks open Moser´s brief "Core Cut",
possibly the most intense and successful piece on the disc. It almost sounds as thought there´s some sort of
round at play here, the elements rotating in and out of sync, but not in a predictable manner, with faint
echoes of gamelan.
The improvisation, "Magnetic North", also works very well and is (perhaps not surprisingly) the lushest
and airiest of the works presented here. There´s a relatively tonal backdrop formed, I´m guessing, by Beins´
rubbed percussion and some computerized offerings from Moser that allow the piece to waft along gently,
bumping into the odd bell-tone or low saxophone billow. The final track, "Site and Setting", is the most
clearly composed of the bunch and I found myself weighing the rather episodic structure of the piece
(especially in its first half), which I thought was a little strained, against the individual components
of each episode, many of which are gorgeous and/or just fascinating. The percussionists shine here
and, as before, integrate superbly with the strings. Special mention should again be made of Butcher.
Here as almost everywhere else on the album, a cursory listen might not detect his presence at any
given time. But there´s virtually no moment, if one listens closely enough, when you can´t discern
him, subtly adding crucial texture and infinitely enriching the depth of the music.
"Archives of the North" is well worth hearing. As good a recording as it is, I´m actually more excited
anticipating what´s to come from Polwechsel. I hope this incarnation holds together for at least a little
while; there´s vast potential here.
- Brian Olewnick, Bagatellen -
In a world based largely on solo and duo work and chance collaborations, Polwechsel and poire_z
were supergroups. The quiet flutters of electronics and acoustic instruments can be hard enough to
keep fresh and engaging for two performers, but often times larger groups just blur the whole
creation‹becoming more like a mud puddle than a cloud. If AMM are the forebears of the quiet
improv scene (and they are), Polwechsel and poire_z were the proudest sons.
By 2004, however, both groups had disbanded, leaving a hole in the European version of onkyo.
The members continued to work, of course, but for followers it was something like the Stones had
broke up at the same time as the Beatles. Sure, we still had the Kinks, butŠ
Happily, Polwechsel, originally formed in 1993, has returned with its third lineup and fifth release,
one every bit as strong as its excellent, sometimes hard to find predecessors. The group¹s founders,
cellist Michael Moser and bassist Werner Dafeldecker, remain, as does saxophonist John Butcher,
who replaced trombonist Radu Malfatti in 1997. The five tracks on Archives of the North (ranging
from five to fifteen minutes) are immediately recognizable as Polwechsel sound‹sustained, breathy
scrapes and tones punctuated very occasionally by discrete bass occurrences.
But the surprise this time, with the departure of guitarist Burkard Stangl, is that the group now
has two percussionists. For such a soft and abstract ensemble, drums would seem a detriment, but
Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr approach the group with an orchestral sense. There are
more abrupt moments here than on previous discs, but then Revolver was hardly Beatles for Sale, either.
The group has grown in breadth and dynamic‹and for the better, if only because sitting still is never
- Kurt Gottschalk, All About Jazz -
The (mostly) Austrian collective Polwechsel has been around for a long time now. Initially formed
by bassist Werner Dafeldecker and cellist Michael Moser, the group has changed lineups a few times
(and now they have shifted from the composition-oriented Hat Now imprint to the improv-focused
Hatology). Initially comprising its co-founders, guitarist Burkhard Stangl and trombonist Radu
Malfatti, for their second album, Polwechsel replaced Malfatti with tenor and soprano saxophonist
John Butcher. This lineup remained in place for their third full-length (on Durian) and their
Erstwhile collaboration with Fennesz. On Archives of the North (Hatology 633), Stangl has been
replaced by drummer/percussionists Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr (the latter known
by many for his sizzling work in Radian and Trapist). It´s quite a shift in terms of the immediate
impression of these improvisations, although the group´s overall approach to the music remains
consistent. They remain one of the most intriguing groups in post-AMM improvisation and this
is a strong set. Occasionally an instrument is struck or a staccato note articulated, but for the
most part things fade in and out on beds of vibrating cymbals, excited strings, and breath. Ghost
sounds float, spirits seem to possess metal husks and long-dead machines, the inanimate comes
alive. This feel is especially felt on the opening "Datum Cut" (which Dean Roberts, in his informative
liners, likens to Alvin Lucier´s "I am Sitting in a Room"), which follows the long, slow resonations
of a distant tolling bell. Even when the music is most voluble as on Dafeldecker´s "Mirror",
where things are (relatively speaking of course) somewhat declamatory, or Moser¹s percussive
"Core Cut" it is always subtle, muted, restrained. But don´t catch yourself drifting away,
because there is (on almost all of these tracks) an insistent low thrum that billows ominously.
The title track this disc´s only fully improvised piece has a sinister feel to it as well, and I
can´t help but hearing the entire disc as if it´s preoccupied with this sense of dread or foreboding
(a lovely irony considering how light and fluid Polwechsel can be). This gives it a character
that lingers long after the record is over, and which brings me back to it repeatedly.
- Jason Bivins, Dusted Magazine -
Avec ce cinquième album, l´essentiel Polwechsel retrouve, mais dans la "série orange"
(plutôt jazz, ce qui est amusant), la maison Hat qui avait publié dans la "série rouge" contemporaine
(hat[now]ART anciennement hat NOW series) ses premières traces phonographiques. Si le groupe avait
jusqu´alors maintenu un effectif relativement stable après le départ du tromboniste Radu Malfatti
qui a donné, au printemps, avec Mattin, un Going fragile, _Formed 103, pour le moins finement radical et réussi
il ne compte dorénavant plus le guitariste Burkhard Stangl dans ses rangs : John Butcher (ss, ts),
Werner Dafeldecker (b) et Michael Moser (cello, computer) accueillent ainsi pour cet enregistrement
de mai 2005 les batteurs-percussionnistes Burkhard Beins et Martin Brandlmayr.
L´introduction de ces deux instrumentistes dans l´univers de timbres élaboré par la formation
pourrait surprendreŠ ce serait mal évaluer leurs accointances esthétiques avec la démarche
(tout comme il n´y a rien d´étonnant à entendre Butcher avec Eddie Prévost dans leurs récents
Interworks, _ Matchless MRCD66) de ce groupe des plus marquants a-t-il jamais joué dans
nos contrées? ah, Afijma, afflige-moiŠ
Ils participent à la mise en vibration et au raffinement des matières (des traçantes jusqu´aux plus profonds ébranlements frottés) et confortent une forme certes de solennité mais également une austère puissance assertive, une façon de poser, dans un rigoureux séquençage, les objets sonores sans verser dans le design glacé (à bon volume, les divers grains apparaissent). Leur apport me semble tenir au fait qu´à la minéralité monolithique des architectures antérieures se substituent des compositions et climats assez distincts, des battements d´eau, de très lentes éclaboussures, une paisible respiration : comme une pacification de l´espace (espace musical et espace domestique d´audition) sans abandon de l´intensité de ce son collectif si caractéristique.
- Guillaume Tarche, Improjazz -
Situated even more so than previously within its own unique sound world, the now five-man Polwechsel mixes
reductionist techniques and inchoate electronic tinctures with the autonomy of FreeImprov to make its point
On this CD, the Austrian-British band changes direction by adding two percussionists Burkhard Beins and
Martin Brandlmayr to an aural concept that previously was advanced by Polwechsel founders, Werner Dafeldecker
on bass and cellist Michael Moser and given auxiliary tinctures when London-based reedist John Butcher joined the
ensemble at the beginning of the century.
True to its initial impulses though, Beins, who has partnered with everyone from British guitarist Keith Rowe to
vocalist Phil Minton; and Brandlmayr, who is in the Trapist trio which explores similar territory; aren´t
percussionists in the conventional sense at least if that´s measured in beats, flams or paradiddles. Instead
both men inject barely pressured, stretched tones from their kits long, hocketing cymbal vibrations,
patterning wooden rim shot snaps, drum top scrapes and friction plus chains rattling and the rolling of
Interlocking with these impulses are Butcher´s distinctive tongue fluttering and stops, singular tone warbling,
and multiphonic note expansion. Dafeldecker adds precise arco string movements and more concentrated dense
hums, plus occasional, and often seemingly random, pizzicato string strums. Additionally, Mosher outputs electronic
impulses from his computer from time-to-time. Yet the crackling reverb and input signal- crossing is introduced
with the same lapidary care as the reedist brings to his wind-chime-like trills or the bassist does to his droned
Essentially the concept, like similarly distinctive tone distribution from England´s AMM or Australia´s The Necks
is inimitable improvisation following its own reductionist strictures. This way, the underlying and overlaid
pulses are as liable to result from polyphonic interaction among subsets of acoustic instruments as from wave
form oscillation produced electronically.
Zart as well as staccato, yet characterized at points with authoritative undulation arising from strummed chords
and reed-linked ghost-note obbligatos, the sound appears and vanishes according to its own logic. Of and in itself
and apparently timeless, ARCHIVES OF THE NORTH marks a stimulating next step in Polwechsel¹s evolution.
- Ken Waxman, Jazzword / Jazz Weekly-