POLWECHSEL & KLAUS LANG: UNSEEN - REVIEWS
Another superb record from the mighty Polwechsel, the European quartet of Michael Moser (cello), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass) and the two percussionists Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlymayr. For Unseen, they're joined by the organist Klaus Lang, there are three compositions on offer (by Lang, Moser and Dafeldecker) and the record was made at the Abbey of Saint Lambrecht in Austria using the church organ. We've also got the erudite and informed sleeve notes by Joanna Bailie, the English composer and sound designer. Plus the whole thing is released on everyone's favourite jazz and art music company, Hat Hut Records Ltd.
We don't seem to have heard a Polwechsel record since 2016, and the challenging but lovely Untitled (No 7) in its abstract turquoise cover, where we could but marvel at the rich sound world these four severe aesthetes generate using such a (relatively) narrow range of instrumentation. At one level it's great to hear that sound "filled out" on this occasion by the organ playing of Lang, although it's still quite minimal-ish music. Actually today's release may have more in common with Antiphon Stein, that near-monumental record on Edition RZ also released in 2016 and credited to Michael Moser. That one was also made in a church and also featured the organ playing of Klaus Lang, and like today's record is explicitly intended to showcase the architecture of the building itself, use the church as one of the musicians. Bailie makes the exact same observation about Unseen; indeed she regards both the building, and the organ, as the "two other guests" on the record, and invites us to observe how the "resonant space of the church itself" is directly incorporated in the music. Bailie's detailed notes indicate she's very sensitive to the blends of acoustic frequencies going on here; the principal effect of this blending is that it's often very hard to identify particular instruments in the mix, and the success is measured when we hear a teeming mass of unusual sounds, all produced by acoustic methods. She regards it as "illusory", that phenomenon that can occur in certain music and sound art when we hear things that aren't really there.
As to the three compositions - Polwechsel are often called improvisers, yet the tension between improvisation and composition isn't even an issue for this release - we have 'Easter Wings' by Klaus Lang, mostly a serene floaty drone, very minimal, relaxing, and somehow quite "airy", admitting a lot of light and space (qualities which we might not find with the rest of the record). Organ, strings, and cymbals all working in a harmonious fashion to deliver a steady state of transcendent beauty for 25:16. The Moser composition by contrast has its restless moments - represented by the cello and organ dominating at the start and beavering away at a strange, awkward riff. With its strong dynamics and weird gaps, this short phrase with variations might almost appeal to fans of This Heat; it comes close to delivering that same angsty post-punk vibe. The title 'No sai cora-m fui endormitz' translates as "I don't know when I'm asleep", and indeed the whole tune is a suitable audio accompaniment to a sleepless night or a nightmarish bout of indigestion. The organ also embodies some fine Messiaen-like mixed chords and clashes here.
Lastly there's 'Redeem' by Werner Dafeldecker, another "epic" odyssey at 25:09. Perhaps the most subtle and understated of the three works, and notable for its strong but gradual changes in mood, tone, and dynamics. It may start out dark and uncertain (thick clouds of opaque notes and clustered chords) but ends up extremely limpid, the tone becoming more colourless and washed-out near the end, until it vanishes in the ether. The percussionists get their chance to shine here, for exciting moments when they rattle their bones and later when they produce that characteristic "metallic" ring from bowed cymbals, a sound you can almost taste. This isn't as dramatic as the metal sheets suspended in the air on that Antiphon Stein record, but it's part of the carefully-considered panoply of ingredients in this recipe. The Abbey of Saint Lambrecht is an 11th century Benedictine Monastery, an institution with a fascinating history. It was dissolved in the 18th century, but unlike what happened with England's monasteries, this didn't result in destruction of the building and the interior seems to be largely intact. It's still the home of an active brotherhood today.
It made me wonder if Moser's decision to work in churches isn't exclusively about the acoustic properties, and whether it might be too fanciful to look for a religious story of some sort in these three tunes (a holy trinity). If the Moser piece can be read as a comment on mankind's fate to suffer, it's bracketed on either side by two more hopeful messages about resurrection ('Easter Wings') and redemption. However, that's just my interpretation. Bailie's more rigorous analysis is less preoccupied with interpreting anything, and focuses mostly on describing the nuances and changes in the musical and sonic forms on this record, itself a very rich and rewarding enterprise.
- Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector -
In her lovely liner note essay for Unseen composer Joanna Bailie writes eloquently about sonic dislocation, absorbing sounds and letting the imagination fill in the details. Polwechsel has long excelled in the realm of such ambiguity, but it's taken on greater resonance as they shifted toward more composerly endeavors. For this project fellow Austrian Klaus Lang, one of the most interesting composers at work and someone who happens to also be a superb improviser, joined them. There's a strangely diaphanous texture to the Lang piece "Easter Wings," which opens the album, forged by various by various kinds of frictions. Drifting from muted bell-like ringing, a high-pitched layer of bowed acoustic beating, astringent, harmonically-spiked long tones (from cellist Michael Moser and bassist Werner Dafeldecker), and a solemn, descending tones sparsely visited by clinky claves as it weaves its way back to the opening environment. The works by Moser and Dafeldecker are no less gripping, all of it enhanced by the roomy acoustics of the St. Lambrecht Church. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if Lang graduated from guest to member. Polwechsel have rarely sounded better.
- Peter Margasak, 'My Favorite Albums of 2020' -
When Polwechsel first formed in 1993, bigness was not part of the agenda. The Viennese quartet, which originally comprised cellist Michael Moser, bassist Werner Dafeldecker, guitarist Burkhard Stangl and trombonist Radu Malfatti, united around a common interest in combining the sounds and organizational resources of contemporary improvised and composed musical approaches. But their first recordings and performances gained at least as much attention for their quietness as for their methods. They did not seem like likely candidates to one day make a record with a church organ on every track.
Some things change, and one of them is Polwechsel's line-up. Currently Moser and Dafeldecker share the group with percussionists Burkhard Beins (who is German) and Martin Brandlmayr. Others persist; while quietness and compositional/improvisational hybrids are no longer so generally remarkable, they remain frequently accessed tools in the quartet's collective kit. Another common strategy is collaboration. Unseen is the third Polwechsel album out of nine to have been made in partnership with another musician. Klaus Lang is an Austrian composer and concert organist who has previously performed with both Dafeldecker and Moser in non-Polwechsel settings. He plays on all three of Unseen's tracks, and composed the first one.
That piece, "Easter Wings," shows instantly that Lang was the man for the job. Polwechsel's music is not necessarily easy to play, but it does not foreground ostentatious technical display; it's the music, not how they play their instruments, that matters. It's not immediately obvious what you're hearing at first, but whatever it is, it's instantly compelling. High pitches arise, apparently in the distance, and then gather density and presence. At first it seems like one is hearing a flock of far-off train whistles speaking in bird's tongues. Eventually these voices resolve into string harmonics, chimes and flute-like organ sounds. Lang never resorts to the heaviness that a church organ can so easily summon, but instead displays an unshowy mobility.
His facility also figures on the second composition, where the two string players bow in rough, dissonant proximity while the organ alternately shadows them subliminally and more forcefully ends their phrases. Moser's "No sai cora-m fui endormitz" translates from Catalan as "I don’t know how I feel asleep," and the piece seems to proceed from one violently bowed awakening to the next, interspersed by quieter passages that correspond to the experience of unknowingly drifting towards unconsciousness. Dafeldecker's "Redeem" is the only piece that exploits the church organs potential for heaviness. At first, sustained chords and low string drones exert a massive pressure. The sounds withdraw or thin out over the course of 25 minutes, shrinking until the string players alternate bowed swoops and silence falls.
- Bill Meyer, Dusted -
Polwechsel's first recording was issued in 1995; this is only their ninth in the ensuing twenty-five years, the third to feature a guest musician (Christoph Fennesz and John Tilbury being the other two). The two constants in the ensemble have been cellist Michael Moser and bassist/electronicist Werner Dafeldecker. 'Archives of the North' (hatOLOGY, 2006) was the first to include the percussionists Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr and the resultant quartet seems to have been stable since then. Though consisting of musicians associated with the improvising community, the pieces on recordings were often compositions and sometimes suffered from a certain dryness, even astringency, which the arrival of Beins and Brandlmayr, excellent musicians both, helped mitigate. With Unseen, they made the inspired decision to collaborate with the composer/organist Klaus Lang and the results are very special.
This release contains three compositions, one each by Lang, Moser and Dafeldecker. Lang's 'Easter Wings' begins with a cloud of airy organ sounds mixed with light metallic percussion and high arco strings, indeed conjuring up an image of a mass of small birds careering in the upper reaches of a cathedral. Low pedal tones enter, effectively grounding the work. The "birds" fly off, replaced by wonderful layers, both lush and whistly, strings intermeshed with bowed metal, revealing complex and fantastic tonalities, eventually evolving into a kind of dense, seesawing "melody". The initial phase is returned to with some adjustments, more diffracted, airier. A great, expansive and enveloping work.
'No sai-cora-m fui endormitz' ('I don't know how I fell asleep' in Catalan) by Moser, offsets small modules of bowed string activity, nervous little knots, against longer responses from the organ (perhaps with some scraped percussion in there as well?). The structure reminds me a little of late 60s-early 70s Michael Mantler, the frenetic balanced by the coolly impassive, as in his '13'. This piece's middle section, in fact, recalls that particular tonality quite a bit, the complex, multilayered tones drawn out, their depths plumbed. Again, there's a return to the initial "theme", this time with clear cymbal accents, the organ otherwise occupied with subtle, breathy exhalations. Dafeldecker's 'Redeem' commences with a haze of deep bass growls and murky organ chords, occasionally shot through with a blast of...raspy percussion? A severely maltreated organ stop? Hard to tell (which I appreciate) but it sounds great, like some ghostly entity scouring the room. Amongst the billowy clouds, the percussion, here mostly struck wood, stands out more than elsewhere on the album; one picks up Brandlmayr's extraordinary precision, even as the patterns he creates are abstract and arhythmic. The organ takes on the aspects of an entire string section — pretty astounding — as the tension and volume build. The work's second half switches to an interplay of long-held chords from the organ with bowed cymbals. By the end, Polwechsel and Lang have generated a steamy mass, with all manner of creatures flitting about — another fine composition.
An excellent venture all around, highly recommended.
- Brian Olewnick, The Squid's Ear -
Organist Klaus Lang joins contrabassist Werner Dafeldecker, cellist Michael Moser, and percussionists Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr for three tracks lasting 67 minutes on Unseen. Lang is the latest in a long line of Polwechsel contributors that fits well with the morphing group's distinctive aesthetic and includes John Butcher, Fennesz, Radu Malfatti, Burkhard Stangl, and John Tilbury. Such fast complimentary communication likely stems from Lang's longstanding relationships with members of the group, documented on Small Worlds, Lichtgeschwindigkeit with Dafeldecker, and Moser's Antiphon Stein. As such, the material of this 2018 recording isn't exactly surprising for listeners familiar with these musicians, but it does meet the high standards of timbral and compositional quality that listeners have come to expect from Polwechsel.
"Easter Wings," a Lang composition, is mostly an evocative atmosphere of eddying organ breezes building to howling winds, carrying a nursery jingle, and producing pulsing whines as they're funneled through the streets, which sets off an orchestra of clanging, clamoring, twinkling chimes, bells, cymbals, and other objects like a sequined Salmoneus cruising through the neighborhood. There's low end organ sustain mixed in, producing some tension with the contrasted extremes of the organ register, their volume, their frequency, their timbre. An interlude with a mournful throb from Lang and a kind of contrapuntal refraction or shimmering from the strings, with their similar phrasing just offset from one another, continues to tilt the listener towards unease before returning to the wind and chimes of before. Its mood is natural, celebratory, and relieved, yet simultaneously foreboding.
Moser's "No Sai Cora-m Fui Endormitz" is mostly nimble, flute-like semi-quavers from the organ, mimicked closely by the strings. Yet this sometimes indistinguishable instrumentation will sometimes splay out, playing sustained tones in noticeably different registers to a jarring effect, before melting together again. Again, there's a bit of an interlude, this time with the organ building to cathartic innumerable thrums, with shimmering cymbals contributing to a kind of transcendent effect. And it ends as it began, with the mimicked semi-quavers, accompanied by jazzy cymbal accents.
As if compositional motifs are phasing through the CD, the slow build of the Dafeldecker-composed "Redeem" loses the jarring juxtapositions and clearly delineated interludes of the first two tracks but continues with the instrumental obfuscation of the second. Organ and bass blend together, as does strings and bowed or fluted cymbals, or percussive pulses with organ oscillations. This blurred melange is sometimes accented with insect-like stick clicking, a kind of shooting star effect from warped whining strings, and a comically doomy descending organ scale.
As always, Polwechsel is able to produce palpable atmospheres and moods from subtle timbral dynamics and smart composing. But the sonorous warmth of Lang's organ and the reverberant church this was recorded in lend a tender emotivity not often seen in their recordings. For that it might be their best yet.
- Keith Prosk, The Free Jazz Collective -
I had lost sight of the whereabouts of Werner X. Uehlinger's glorious Hat Hut imprint, which in fact fully resumed its activity only in January 2019, introducing the sub-label 'ezz-thetics' with unpublished archival live sets by avant-jazz legends and other sessions of contemporary free improvisation. Therefore it also could not miss the return of a by now historical formation, which with Unseen crosses the 25-year milestone.
The name Polwechsel is synonymous with unexplored and perhaps unexplorable territories, a cautious advance in the dark by means of a sound expression that disregards traditional canons and techniques. In their eighth album, the main core now represented by Burkhard Beins, Martin Brandlmayr (percussions), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass) and Michael Moser (cello) is joined by the Austrian Klaus Lang, a prolific experimenter and organist already published by other high-profile labels such as Edition RZ, Col Legno, Kairos and Another Timbre. The pipe organ is undoubtedly the key element of the three compositions presented here - signed by Lang, Moser and Dafeldecker respectively -, in close relationship with the acoustic resonances of the Stiftskirche in St. Lambrecht, Austria.
In the liner notes, the sound artist Joanna Bailie rightly underlines the acousmatic nature of these investigations, that is, the untraceability of the sources within an extremely diversified framework of tonal and sub-harmonic accumulations. A disorientation which is particularly evident in "Redeem", where Lang's and Dafeldecker's abysmal introspection produces the murky base from which all the other sonic apparitions originate, a menacing primordial soup that embodies the mystery and horror of all that transcends human knowledge. Only halfway through the piece does the just intonation of the organ stand out, although the screech of bowed cymbals continues to fuel its sinister omen.
More free-form and relatively "impressionistic", on the other hand, is the initial sequence: the ineffable dramaturgy of "Easter Wings" seems to unravel from the most recondite ravines of memory, with onomatopoeic jolts and chromatic punctuations that propagate in a disorderly way among the vast gothic arches of the abbey church.
Taking its inspiration from a poem by the troubadour Guilhem de Poiteu, "No sai cora-m fui endormitz" ('I don't know when I'm asleep') introduces an irregular and elusive theme repeated at an agitated rhythm for several minutes, until the ensemble's chorality dissolves in a solemn and misty drone through which the streams of the entire harmonic spectrum seem to flow; at minute ten the strings and the organ once again pick up the intricate upward phrasing with longer pauses between the reiterations, while Beins and Brandlmayr outline the limits of the stereophony with light strokes on the cymbals; Lang's final solitary notes rise towards the high register, like the light beams of a momentary Messiaen-like ecstasy.
Thanks to an exceptional location and the atmospheric contribution of Klaus Lang, the Polwechsel collective gives shape to that which to this date is perhaps its most radical and totalist experiment, the exponentiation of a compositional practice that truly exists only in the immediacy of the present time.
- Michele Palozzo, Esoteros -
Polwechsel are currently the Austro-German quartet of Michael Moser (cello), Werner Dafeldecker (bass)
Martin Brandlmayr and Burkhard Beins (percussion) - joined here by composer Klaus Lang on the church organ of St. Lambrecht's Abbey. Polwechsel work with "compositions, improvisation and the ambiguity of these methods", says Beins on his website. They also make acoustic instruments sound deceptively electroacoustic. Lang calls himself, drily, an observer of tones - "I think of nothing and I don't want to purport any meanings" - but he nudges them into a beautifully meaningful structure on his iridescent "Easter Wings". Michael Moser's "No Sai Cora-M Fui Endormitz" - named after a poem by troubadour Guilhem de Poiteu - opposes string harmonics and organ. Dafeldecker's "Redeem" begins with organ and bass at what sounds like the lower limits of human hearing; its complex structure features a glorious efflorescence of sound and air.
- Andy Hamilton, The Wire -
"Unseen" spielt damit, dass der visuelle Sinnentzug bei akusmatisch wahrgenommenem Klang doch auch kreative Sinnestäuschungen mit sich bringt. Hier sind wir blinde Zaungäste in der Stiftskirche St. Lambrecht in der Steiermark, wo Klaus, der 'einfalt.stille'-Lang, nicht zu verwechseln mit Bernhard, dem Differenz-Wiederholung-Lang, nicht nur die Kirchenorgel spielte, sondern mit 'Easter Wings' auch die erste von drei neuen Kompositionen auftischte, die sich Polwechsel mit ihm auch schon im Juni 2018 in der Berliner Emmaus-Kirche vorgenommen hatte: Michael Moser und Werner Dafeldecker an Cello und Kontrabass, wie seit fast 30 Jahren, Burkhard Beins und Martin Brandlmayr, seit "Archives of the North" (2006) dabei, mit Cymbals & Percussion. Moser hat Langs 'berge. träume' (2003) für Violoncello und Chor bei den Wittener Musiktagen 2004 aufgeführt und Langs Musik ist ihm auch im Trio Amos geläufig. Polwechsel hat im gleichen Jahr beim Taktlos Festival mit Lang an Orgel (und noch John Tilbury am Piano) Dafeldeckers "Small Worlds" dargeboten. Man kennt sich und schätzt sich. Unsereins aber täuscht sich, wenn er/sie da elektronisch schleifende Gespinste, Flötentöne und summende Dunkelwellen vernimmt, wenn auch nur mit dem 'elektronisch'. Es sind das sorgsamste Flageoletts, auch perkussive Bogenstriche und kleine Orgelpfeifen, so fein gekitzelt, dass es der Hl. Cäcilia Nonnenfürzchen entlocken würde. Das metalloide Changieren und leise Schellen, ist es orgelig oder perkussiv? Wer pickt da vogelig (mit Claves)? Die brummige Harmonie, der infernalische Zuschliff, allzu christlich ist das nicht. Mosers 'No sai cora-m fui endormitz' fusst auf dem Canso no. IV, Farai un vers de dreyt nien, jenem berühmten 'trobar clus' von Guilhem de Poitiers, dem ersten Trobador, und bringt orgelige Schübe, die sich helldunkel ums Kirchenschiff wellen, dröhnend und bebend, kaum dass die Strings aus diesen Clustern aufscheinen. Nach einem Break jedoch übernehmen repetierende Striche und perkussives Flickern den schubartigen Gestus, wenn auch fragiler und mit Luftlöchern, in denen die Orgel durchscheint. Dafeldeckers 'Redeem' wummert orgeldunkel und bassknarrig, als sonore Quellwolke mit pfeifenden, schleifenden, knispelnden Akzenten. Prächtige Orgeltöne führen, hell gesäumt, über Escher'sche Stufen zugleich ab- und aufwärts, perkussiv betrillert und berappelt. Aber die Orgel stösst ostinat ins Horn, wird umschimmert von metalloid gestrichenen Obertönen, kehrt wieder mit einer Haltetonfolge, die abgelöst wird von rauschigem Noise, metallischem Schimmern und zuletzt jauligen Glissandi. Malautz suy e tremi morir / E ren no sai mas quan n'aug dir. (Ich zittre heiss vor Todesplagen / Und weiss das nur vom Hörensagen...)
- Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy -
Polwechsel is a name I know purely because the ever impressive John Butcher was once a member, and on the strength of Unseen it's a name I should investigate further. Put simply, this is an incredible album, and you can stop reading no... Polwechsel is a quartet, here consisting of Michael Moser on cello, Werner Dafeldecker on double bass, and Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr on 'cymbals, selected percussion.' They are joined on Unseen by Klaus Lang on church organ, and, as the liner notes rightly point out, the 'resonant space' of Grosskirche of St. Lambrecht's Abbey, where the album was recorded. There are three tracks, all long - 25, 16, and 25 minutes respectively - and all occupying the same territory, without becoming boring or repetitious.
At the risk of appearing cursory, I have often listened to the album as one long piece, despite each track being the work of a different composer; so whilst 'Easter Wings' is composed by Lang, 'No sai cora-m fui endormitz' by Moser, and 'Redeem' by Dafeldecker, together they work well as a focussed yet expansive world of sound, despite the arguably limited set-up. The liner notes refer to 'Easter Wings' as an 'illusory work' but for me that sums up the entire album; Unseen has a dream-like, hallucinatory quality, where the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. Instruments merge into one another, become indiscernible, often synthesising drones of shifting frequencies. Whilst there are passages where the individual instruments can be heard and recognised, very often the listener has no concrete sense of which instrument is doing what - something the liner notes ruminate on: the difference between hearing a sound, and watching that sound being made - the acousmatic elements of listening. Sometimes the church organ, amplified by the church itself, provides a bed for all the other sounds to submerge in, at other points it emphatically announces its presence and superior power with deep bass drones. The album is often delivered in long lines, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, and tiny details which dance across them - percussive jangles, and cello harmonics, for example.
Unseen is a tour de force of textural improvisation and sensitive ensemble playing. It does sound like an improv album - to put it clumsily - but the compositions keep Polwechsel & Lang focussed; the pieces are undoubtedly exploratory, but there is never any sense of wandering, or of the peaks and troughs of free improv. The overall effect is often eerie or dark - the start of Redeem, for example, is almost akin to a dark ambient drone, with buried whistling - but also overwhelmingly warm and welcoming. Unseen certainly isn't new age drone, but it isn't a remotely difficult listen. Without knowing the source of the sounds, in the spirit of the liner notes, the album could very easily be mistaken for an electroacoustic work, but instead it is the result of superb composition, sublime musicianship on a technical level, and sensitive listening and playing attuned to the recording environment. Recommended without reservation.
- Martin P, Musique Machine -
The current incarnation of the experimental Austrian-German quartet Polwechsel featuring
founders cellist Michael Moser and double bass player Werner Dafeldecker, and the two
percussionists who joined the quartet later on, Burkhard Beins and Martin Brandlmayr. The group
teams up with Austrian contemporary music composer, concert organist, and improviser Klaus
Lang (who recorded before with Dafeldecker, Lichtgeschwindigkeit, GROB, 2003) for Unseen,
recorded at the Grosskirche of St. Lambrecht's Abbey, Austria, in November 2018.
Unseen plays with the old - the acoustic, resonant space of the centuries-old church with its built- in organ and its vast range of both frequency and tonal colors and the vintage, analog synthesizer sounds, played by Lang, together with the so-called classical instruments, and the new - sonic ambiguity, strange hybrids, illusory associations, and instruments that are rendered unfamiliar by the smoke and mirrors of 'acoustic' mixing, masking, and reverberation. Unseen is tuned into the boundless power of the acousmatic, the idea that when we can't see the source of what we hear, the listening individual - or the musician - is given an opportunity, freedom even, to interpret that sound in any manner that they can possibly imagine. Polwechsel and Lang irreverent approach to genres, sounds, silence, and extended techniques, all blur the distinction between composition and real-time improvising, and realizing of the score and between free-improv and contemporary music.
The first composition, Lang's "Easter Wings", makes full use of the acoustic space qualities in order to create an elusive, illusory conception and to suggest an atmosphere of abrupt noises, sonic clusters, and natural harmonics. The church organ of Lang fills the resonating space and affects the instruments of Polwechsel, modifying their acoustic sounds to the point of being unrecognizable. All sounds seem to be lost in the resonating, low tones mechanical forest that the organ, or shaped by its low register, including the fascinating rustle of the metallic cymbals. But out of this ethereal, reductionist forest of sounds surfaces a delicate and enigmatic melodic vein then the bowed cello and the double bass and the percussion instruments sound more clearly.
Moser's "No sai cora-m fui endormitz" ("I don't know when I'm asleep" from a poem by the troubadour Guilhem de Poiteu) puts again the church organ and the acoustic space in the position of conspiring with the other instruments to produce a sound that is more than the sum of its parts. This kind of hybrid instrumentation plays in highly disciplined, rhythmic unison that slowly mutates, and rearranges its constituent parts into various combinations and layers of overlapping sonorities, and patiently builds a tension of sustained, resonating sounds.
Dafeldecker's "Redeem" concludes this unique collaboration. This piece offers another elusive atmosphere as the low, saturated tones of the organ and the double bass are disturbed by ripples of mysterious noises but are determined to reach a desperate kind of musical stasis. Later on, the organ re-enters with brighter, lighter chords, together with bowed metal instruments, and this composition is concluded with layers of sustained, inventive organ and noisy percussive sounds, all seem to be liberated from the concrete realities of instrumentation by this distinct acousmatic context.
You may need few, intense listening to Unseen, but then there is no way back. You probably would acquire new sensitivities and perspectives about sound over all, acoustic vs. electronic, layers of sound, sound, and space, and most importantly, the ambiguous qualities of sound.
- Eyal Hareuveni, The Free Jazz Collective -
Now, here's a name that I haven't seen in a while, Polwechsel. The group with Michael Moser (cello), Werner Dafeldecker (double bass), Burkhard Beins (cymbals, selected percussion) and Martin Brandlmayr (cymbals, selected percussion). Here they team up with Klaus Lang on the church organ on a recording made in a church in November 2018. It is not a live recording as it took place over a few days. Before I started playing this I (subconsciously probably) checked my expectations and I thought this would be very carefully played improvisations. Upon checking the cover I noticed that with each of the three pieces a name is listed as a composer, so maybe not so improvised? More likely, this is that grey area where composition offers some guidelines and the players are free to play as they see fit. This results in three quite different pieces.
'Easter Wings' (composed by Lang) is perhaps the one piece that has the most conventional approach, and I use the word 'conventional' not very easy. The instruments are recognized as such, even when they play not so conventional music. I could think there are some electronics at work, especially in the treatment of the church organ, but it's not. In this piece, the five players already move through various distinct parts, ranging from chaotic to drone-like. In Moser's 'No Sai Cora-M Fui Endormitz' the drone aspect of all five instruments is explored, with everybody bowing and scraping their instruments in a very careful manner. When it reaches it's natural, it breaks down into smaller fragments.. 'Redeem' (Dafeldecker) uses a cymbal to bow piercing sounds, and the other three play majestic slow and dark drones at the beginning and also starts to fall apart but there are still quite orchestral passages within this piece. This is probably my favourite piece out of these three, but of course, I don't need to choose; they are all great!
- Frans De Waard, Vital Weekly -
Der aus Österreich stammende studierte Musiker und Komponist Klaus Lang hat sich für das Album Unseen mit dem
Schweizer Ensemble Polwechsel, welches im weiten Bereich des Contemporary und der modernen Klassik bewegt, zusammengetan. Das Album beinhaltet drei lange Kompositionen. Die erste stammt von dem Österreicher und läuft über 25 Minuten. Von seinem Instrument, der Orgel, kommen seltsame, eher flötenähnliche Sounds aus den Pfeifen. Langsam gesellen sich die anderen Instrumente hinzu. Mal mit Contemporary-Sounds, dann auch mal mit melodiösen, aber sehr kammermusikalischen Parts vom Cello. Die Orgel webt dann nach und nach einen
sanften Sound unter dieses Stück, das sich dann nach 10 Minuten entwickelt hat. So entsteht auch unter
Einsatz sanfter Perkussion etwas zwischen moderner Klassik, Contemporary und sogar ein wenig Post-Rock-
Atmosphäre kommt auf. Ich fühle mich hier ein wenig an die ruhigen Parts von Talk Talks Spirit of Eden
erinnert, ohne dass sich die Musik tatsächlich ähneln würde. Nach 17 Minuten ändert sich das Soundbild dann auch wieder in ein contemporäres, die Klänge übernehmen und die Melodie verschwindet und alle instrumentalen Klänge vermengen sich zu einem großen, aber doch kammermusikalischen Klangbild.
Das zweite und mit 16:40 kürzeste Stück stammt von Michael Moser (Polwechsel). Dieses eröffnet wiederum mit hohen Orgelpfeifenklängen, die in diesem Falle jedoch vom Cello unterstrichen werden. Mitunter setzt die Orgel mit einem kräftigem hohen Akkord ein, insgesamt bleibt jedoch der eher diffuse Sound der Instrumente im Vordergrund. Nach ca. 6 Minuten übernimmt dann die Orgel mit einem kräftigem Akkord. Ein dunkler, sakraler Sound breitet sich aus. Dieser lässt den Raum genau bis Minute 10 erfüllt, dann verebbt er schlagartig und nach einer kleinen Pause setzen die Anfangssounds, diesmal von leichter Perkussion und dem Rauschen von Cello und (oder?) Orgel unterstützt, wieder ein.
Das abschließende 25 Minuten lange Stück stammt von Werner Dafeldecker (Polwechsel) und erüffnet mit dunklen, tiefen Orgelklängen, die wie ein Drone daher kommen und sich langsam in hellere Schichten mäandern. Dieser Sound bleibt über Minuten, wandert durch den Raum, unterstützt von wenig Perkussion und einem, wie auch immer produzierter Sound, der wie ein entfernter Rotorsound klingt. Die Klänge erinnern ein wenig an Soundtracks von 50er und 60er Jahre Horror- und Science-Fiction-Produktionen unterlegt mit psychedelischer Perkussion und mit nicht weniger psychedelischen Orgelsounds.
Was diese Kollabration hier abliefert ist grosses Kino im Modern-Classic- / Contemporary-Bereich. Ein sehr punktgenau eingespieltes und produziertes Album mit einem fantastischen Sound. Besonders das erste und dritte Stück begeistern mich, da sie sehr viel enthalten, obwohl die Instrumentierung eher reduziert ist. Hier ist es gelungenen eine sehr spannendes, an keiner stelle überladene Produktion im Bereich der experimentellen Musik / Klassik einzuspielen.
- Wolfgang Kabsch / Musik An Sich -
In de ongeveer twintig jaar dat Polwechsel nu bestaat is het kwartet uitgegroeid tot een begrip in de wereld van het soort muziek waar we het hier over hebben en die balanceert op de grens van gecomponeerd en geimproviseerd. Cellist Michael Moser, bassist Werner Dafeldecker en de percussionisten Burkhard Beins en Martin Brandlmayr behoeven dan ook eigenlijk geen introductie meer. Voor het bij ezz-thetics verschenen 'Unseen' werkten ze samen met Lang en met het orgel van de Stiftskirche St. Lambrecht in Oostenrijk. Lang's 'Easter Wings' is een waar klankfeest, het begint en eindigt met een speelse mix van overwegend hoge noten, waarbij volstrekt onduidelijk blijft wie nu precies wat aan het doen is. In de middenpartij overheerst de zwaarte, krijgen we drone-achtige golven van klank, met een grote rol voor het orgel, soms doorsneden door helder klinkend slagwerk. Zeker op zulke momenten valt de geweldige akoestiek op, waarin de klanken prachtig hun weg vinden. 'No sal cora-m fui endormitz', dat zoveel betekent als 'ik weet niets als ik slaap' is een stuk van Moser gebaseerd op een oud Frans lied van de troubadour Guilhem de Poiteau. En ja, de snel verspringende, unisono gespeelde akkoorden doen wel wat denken aan zo'n middeleeuws lied. Als derde stuk klinkt hier 'Redeem' van Dafeldecker, een dikke modderstroom van zware, vrij duistere noise. Het knarst en kraakt aan alle kanten tot hieruit, middels het orgel, een onweerswolk aan geluid opstijgt en het geheel een bijna religieuze allure krijgt.
- Ben Taffijn, Nieuwe Noten -