BURKHARD BEINS/ANDREA NEUMANN: Lidingö - REVIEWS
Neue Musik Zeitung (NMZ), Toplist 2003
Ms. Neumann plays a smaller version of an inside piano frame, which she
manipulates and adds electronics. She has collaborated with (other)
acoustic specialists - John Butcher and Axel Dorner, whom we caught
up in Victoriaville and was most impressed by. Burkhard plays
percussion and strings and has worked with AMM's Keith Rowe, as well
as with projects Perlonex and Activity Center. What makes this
different from other Erstwhile releases is that it is mostly
acoustic, although some of the sounds have been manipulated or
treated. Eerie, sonic fragments drift in space, scraping inside the
piano frame and bowed/rubbed cymbals drone or hum together. Sometimes
mesmerizing, occasionally scary and rather AMM-like at times. Even
without the sonic manipulation, we still find that highly selective
Erstwhile alien soundscape synthesis. Some of these sounds are harsh
and intense, but rarely last long before they evolve to more subdued
scrapings. The agitated percussion recalls Zev's often extreme
explorations and can be rather nerve-wracking at times. Another
strange sonic stew from the ever-demanding Erstwhile crew.
- Downtown Music Gallery -
There comes a point when, even in this most anti-canonical musical practice,
it is tempting to believe it has all been heard (for the soprano that could be
Evan Parker or John Butcher, for the guitar Derek Bailey or Fred Frith). This
recording proves such complacency to be futile - the results on this
recording should bring joy to even the most jaded listener. The mighty Erstwhile, led by the indefatigable Jon Abbey, offer a further example of this style. Lidingo features another duo: Andrea Neumann (inside piano and mixing desk) and Burkhard Beins (percussion and strings). Whilst their timbral palette is denser than that of Bossetti and Krebs and their dynamic range far greater (ranging from near-silence to massive, looming barks and roars), their sensibilities are similar: a post-Webernian interest in sounds in silence, in sounds and silence - at times their improvising verges on (dare I say it?) the romantic.
- Chris Atton, The Sound Projector -
Lidingö, a summit between innenklavier specialist Andrea Neumann and
percussionist Burkhard Beins, is altogether knottier and gnarlier. Part of the
important Berlin scene, the two play together in Phosphor as well as with Sven-Åke Johansson.
Beins is a masterful player, often eschewing struck percussion in favor of rubbing, stroking,
and scraping, only occasionally landing a gargantuan thudding bass drum for example. Neumann uses only
the strings, resonating board, and metal frame of a piano, its insides, as the name suggests with a
mixing desk to create a symphony of sounds from harpsichord-like to percussive to buckling metal.
Structured to serve as something of a travelogue (the title is the name of a small Swedish town),
the heady brain-bending sounds evoke images of places you've never been, roads never traveled, faces
never seen. Ideas and notions flicker by as the two musicians concoct their metal machine music.
Don't be fooled by the rustic photographs gracing this release, the improvisations here are wonderfully
otherworldy even as they're firmly rooted in what might be called the vernacular of industry. Very fine.
- Signal to Noise -
All music conveys a sense of location. Whether specifically designated as
such, like Charles Ives' "Three Places in New England", or in the way that Elvis' "Was the One" echoes Sun Studio in Memphis, site is inexorably evoked by sound. Factor in technology. Take the field recordings made by Alan Lomax, the actual sounds of urban Paris at the command of Pierre Schaeffer's tape recorder, or the create-an-atmosphere-in-your-own-bedroom records of Brian Eno. From the most literal recreation of environmental sound to the most deftly composed subjective abstraction, the history of aural geography is immensely rich.
Lidingö, named for a town near Stockholm, applies the weight of this
historical wealth to electro-acoustic improvisation, instilling a
particularly amorphous approach with distinct thematic potency.
The means, as usual, are limited. Andrea Neumann plays the frame of a piano, specially crafted for portability and maximal feedback-resonance potential.
The clinks, snaps, and hums she produces fit flawlessly with Burkhard Beins'
catalog of bowed cymbals and strings, focused hisses, and rumbles. The combined effect of their unique instrumental approaches is an immaculate
lyricism, the traces of Lidingo as graceful and vivid as Friederike Paetzold's photographic layout. And while the sounds mirror the feel of musique concrete, they're undeniably imbued with the poeticism and perspective unique to improvisation.
Lidingö manages to rectify the distance between Ives' distant, skewed
marching bands and Luc Ferrari's refusal of technological objectivity in
treating the recordings of fishing villages that constituted "Presque Rien".
Neumann and Beins blur the lines underneath the weight of train roar and wind hiss. The closest precedent might be Morton Feldman's "King of Denmark" percussion-based piece written with the sounds of a far-off beach in mind.
The last piece "Remembering Lidingö", serves as a coda to the whole affair,
emphasizing that the memory of the place, the way we remember our
surroundings, defines them.
- Matt Wellins, E1 -
Programmatic works are uncommon in the "sound as itself" world of improvised music,
especially with the sort of reduced improvisation generated by innerklavier manipulator
Andrea Neumann and percussionist Burkhard Beins. Yet on Lidingö, the Berlin-based duo frames their
dialogues in scraped metal and rubbed strings within the context of a "musical travelogue" to the popular
tourist retreats of the title's Swedish island-city. The nature of the journey is left ambiguous, but the
loose narrative prompts suggested by the track titles and the collection of sepia-tone photographs adorning
the jewel case provide the listener with a rich assembly of imagined associations. Agitated strings and
rustled snares become the crashing of waves on a rocky beach, the chatter of sunbathers, or winds rattling
through pines, all accompanied by the hissing of distant factories. It's a conceptual framework that
tastefully relies on evocation over literalism, adding a thread of narrative
continuity to this five-part set of quietly rumbling improvisation.
Neumann and Beins never turn program into crutch, and their dynamic explorations of all things rubbed
and rattled are filled with more than enough
nuance and complexity to stand on their own. Neumann's inner-piano - the
extracted innards of a piano littered with contact microphones and tweaked with electronics - becomes a
wilderness of inventively conjured sounds ranging from disembodied plucking and glowing drones to overdriven
growls and metallic insect chirps. Credited with strings and percussion, Beins is no less resourceful in his
pursuit of unearthly textures. He matches Neumann texture for texture throughout, bowing cymbals into wavering
tone clusters and abrading drumheads to produce washes of white noise or taut micro-rhythmic loops. With a
bare minimum of conventional directive devices to fall back on, Neumann and Beins weave a multi-tiered
interlocking textural cells that rise from whispers of electrical interference to
full-blown roars of raked wire and percussive detonations.
As if nearing the island-city from afar, "Approaching Lidingö" opens with a
string of plucked notes and haloes of gentle feedback from Neumann, who
gradually extends the length of each gesture into a ringing haze of suspended
tones. Beins' enters minutes later with a procession of bass drum rumbles and a slow scratching of cymbals,
adding an undercurrent of buzzing activity to Neumann's slow-shifting drones. The event density gathers as
the duo's volume steadily increases before culminating in a climax of dry clatter and bowed strings,
followed by a hasty retreat into more ebbing drones. The title track expands on this formula over the course
of twenty-four minutes littered with a variety of narrative quirks and evocative sonic imagery. Neumann and
Beins rise from initial crackles to a ferocious metallic cityscape of rusty machinery and hissing steam vents
with occasional detours into back alleys of muted bell-tones and distant percussive chatter. Both tracks offer
skeletal frames on which to hang imagined memories of their titles' referents without stooping to the clichés
of most tone painting experiments.
The final three tracks of Lidingö find Neumann and Beins sacrificing some of
the conceptual focus of the first two epic pieces in favor of more cryptic small-scale interactions. "Bron"
defies narrative reduction as it piles on Beins' creaking door atmospherics and steel wool scraping from
Neumann before collapsing into squalls of feedback and mechanical drum whisking. Similarly, the duo's
episodic exchanges on "Loffe" eschew linear development in favor the sort of "start/stop" dialogues and
grayscale sound palette that characterized Rotophormen , Neumann's earlier outing with guitarist Annette Krebs.
On "Remembering Lidingö," the album's melancholy coda, Neumann offers nods to the excited string droning of the
opening tracks but reduces them to dust clouds of mallet-struck string hum where hazy afterimages of past
Throughout each of the five mental journeys, Neumann and Beins dodge the
tedium suggested by their limited timbre collections by densely layering each
improvisation with multiple strata of activity and careful allegiance to their
musical travelogue conceit. Textures are built up and withdrawn with measured patience and focus,
and each stroked drum surface or scraped string reshapes the duo's imaginary landscapes, rendering a
vivid aural portrait of their subject with a minimum of extraneous sound. Details congregate like the
brushstrokes of some impressionistic landscape portrait, roughly sketching out the forms of blurred worlds
brimming with hidden motion. For adventurous and attentive explorers, Lidingö offers an artful exercise in
abstract soundscaping that equally rewards the fine-tuned ear
and the active imagination.
- Joe Panzner, Stylus -