IS A PLATFORM TO PRESENT MUSIC ON AN EQUAL AESTHETIC AS DISCURSIVE LEVEL. THE PRESENTED WORKS AIM TO EMPOWER ACTIVE LISTENING, CONTEMPLATION AND THOUGHT. THE MUSIC DISSOCIATE FROM COMPOSERS AND THEIR TECHNIQUES AND STANDS ON ITS OWN, ALBUMS ARE CREATED OUT OF A READING OF ZEITGEIST, RESULTING ON THE MOST LONG-LASTING AND ANTIQUE SOUND CARRIER (TON TRÄGER) AVAILABLE: VINYL – AND IN RESPECT TO CONTEMPORARY LIFE, AS FILES (LIKE OIL PAINTING AND ITS DIGITAL APPEARANCE). COVERS ARE DESIGNED BY STEPHANIE RODERER (PINGPONG.COM) REFLECTING THE PRESENTED CONTENT ADDING TO IT ANOTHER LEVEL. THE ALBUMS ARE LIMITED TO 300 COPIES. THE EDITION WAS PARTIALLY FUNDED BY THE CULTURE OFFICE OF BOLZANO I/EU, AND SUPPORTED BY THE CONTRIBUTORS AND AUTHORS OF MUSIC, COVER-DESIGN AND SOUND-ENGINEERING. THE EDITIONS BASE IS PANKOW/BERLIN/D/EU.
THE NAME ALMENRAUSCHEN DERIVES FROM THE AURAL SENSATION PERCEIVING A NON INTENTIONAL SOUND WORLD AND TRANSFORMING IT TO MUSICAL SENSE-MAKING.
18 €/LP – whole edition 5 LPs 75€ + shipping
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VITAL WEEKLY number 1204
KLAUS JANEK – CASPAR (LP by Almenrauschen)
KLAUS JANEK – THREE SEASONS (LP by Almenrauschen)
KLAUS JANEK – INFINITE BANG (LP by Almenrauschen)
Often I feel a bit reserved when I put a CD of solo recordings in my player; afraid that things might become boring, one dimensional, etc. But in the case of Klaus Janek, there is absolutely no reason to be afraid of this. Also when it is your opinion that the double bass isn’t such a rich instrument.
Janek opens a wide range of possibilities that find their way in some intriguing compositions. Music that is deeply emotional and human, fascinating and frightening. So I soon felt absorbed in his musical worlds. What a voice! Born in Bolzano, in the north of Italy, Janek is based in Berlin for many years. In his early years, he studied soprano and alto flute, trumpet as well as classical percussion. He started in local rock and jazz bands. Since 1988 he concentrated on double bass, studying with Mauro Muraro among others, and participated in workshops with Dave Holland, Butch Morris and Peter Kowald. Since the 90s he is into avant-garde and improvised music with a special interest for thecombination of double bass and electronics. Besides he composes music for cinema, theatre and dance productions. He released the core of his (solo) work so far on 5 albums, all to be released in 2019. This edition is titled ‘Almenrauschen’, a name that may by an allusion to the mountains around Bolzano where Janek grew up. Anyway, three of the albums are out so far. All solo ones. ‘Reciprocum’ and ‘Prospecting’ will be released later. Recordings for ‘Caspar’ took place on several occasions in the ’90s, spanning some four years. The album was first released in 2001 for Solponticello. It was his debut recording. It is a work in seven parts. Janek was inspired by the life of Kaspar Hauser who grew up imprisoned. Once set free he perceived reality, ordinary phenomena like trees and birds in a completely distorted way from what was common. He had to develop his way of deciphering, etc. of what he perceived. This story
inspired Janek trying to discover newpossibilities from a radical approach. He creates beautiful drones, contrasted with restless bowing and plucking, etc. At moments Janek also sings. At one moment he sings unison with the double bass playing a melodic line. Or he screams and howls, or tries some throat singing techniques. Also, some – accidental – environmental sounds pop up at a few places. Part four has Janek playing in an extremely sharp and dynamic way. Vibrant and dramatic improvisation by a player he puts his soul into his playing. The lp closes with a beautiful jazz composition, ‘Prayer Beads’ by American bassist and composer Marc Johnson, with Janek playing with deep and warm sounds. ‘Three Seasons’ was recorded live in February 2003 in Berlin. He plays the composition by Janek on contrabass. For this composition in six parts, Janek is inspired by what we go through inthe case of a loss: fighting it, accepting it, etc. So here Janek evokes moods and emotions. Again Janek impresses the listener with very sensitive playing; making poetry of the dramatic experiences that inspire him here; a musical meditation on the human condition. The opening of ´Winter part 2´ is one of those places where Janek creates some very specific sounds and sonorities. ´Spring´ starts from a repeated pattern that is coloured in different ways before Janek accelerates and works towards a peak of baffling intensity and beauty. Ending with a melodic coda; a very lively and expressive statement. The third album, ‘Infinite Bang’, was also live recorded at Klanggalerie, Berlin. Recordings took place in November last year. This time Janek takes inspiration from the book ‘Solaris’ by Polish author Stanislaw Lem. It resulted in one lengthy composition of over 45 minutes that has Janek playing double bass and electronics. After an acoustic start, the work continues after a few minutes on another plain with looped and processed sounds from the double bass. After a while, the double bass engages with the electronic environment and so on. Compared with the two other albums this one is even more abstracting from conventions. His approach here is more reduced to a pure sound investigation; a very proportionate and effective combination of acoustics and electronics. It is multi-layered but there is no overkill. At moments his bass sounds like a creepy, screaming voice. An impressive work. These releases convincingly illustrate that Janek is an important player open for experiment and with a story to tell. Very relevant and urgent stuff. (DM)
VITAL WEEKLY number 1216
KLAUS JANEK – PROSPECTING (LP by Almenrauschen)
KLAUS JANEK – RECIPROCUM (LP by Almenrauschen)
In 2019 Klaus Janek, a Berlin-based composer, contrabassist and researcher released a set of 5 albums of his solo and collaborative work. First three albums (‘Caspar’, ‘Three Seasons’ and ‘Infinite Bang’) we reviewed here earlier. Now we are focusing on the two other albums that complete this special edition called ‘Almenrauschen’, namely ‘Prospecting’ and ‘Reciprocum’. Compared with the earlier reviewed albums from this edition, these albums show Janek not so much as an accomplished double bass player, but far more his activity in the field of electro-acoustic music. The album ‘Prospecting’ contains duo works by Janek with Milena Kipfmüller as Sounding Situations. Kipfmüller is a sound artist, producer, theatre dramaturge, interested in developing new forms of ‘performative and live radio play’. ‘Violeiros Revisitados’ is built from recordings of traditional Brazilian vocal music by the Violeiros, dating from the 70s and looped sounds. Janek adds nice solo lines on contrabass. Through processing, this is finished in a warm sound work of deep sounds. Similar for ‘Recorded Recorders’ that starts with a fine solo by Janek, accompanied with deep and low sounds that evolve along with cyclic procedures. The work develops along with a deep echoing cadence, centred around a hypnotizing pattern. Again the sound material is of imaginative quality. Both are very intensive and moving works. On the B-side, we find ‘Echolot-Montreal/Sao Paolo’. Echolot is a performance installation by Kipfmüller and Janek, presented in Montreal (2016) and Sao Paolo (2017). Non-musical material of spoken word (French and German) is the main ingredient in this work that can be situated between audio play and music. Again a truly absorbing sound work where they successfully investigate into the musical qualities of the spoken word. The album ‘Reciprocum’ contains one giant work in two parts. The first part is based on recording sessions by Janek with Heiner Reinhard, Willi Kellers, Andy Graydon, Nils Ostendorf, Biliana Voutchkova, Mark Weaver and Christian Pincock that are reworked and assembled by Janek into one work. The second part is based on recordings sessions of Janek and Nicolas Wiese, William Bilwa Costa, Luca Marini, among others, processed by Milena Kipfmüller. Both Janek and Kipfmüller manage to integrate these recordings into one organic (meta-)musical work. Sometimes the original recordings are treated beyond recognition, sometimes not. Also, the length of the outtakes is very different. There is a very long one with fantastic violin playing by Voutchkova. It is impressive how Janek and Kipfmüller take up these improvised sections in a new musical context. For sure we are dealing here with multi-layered and multidimensional works by two artists who have a strong musical vision of what they aiming at. Music that fascinates from start to finish! (DM)
FreiStil #89 März/April 2020
Bass is the place
Almenrauschen – fünf LPs von Klaus Janek
Ein Kontrabassist aus der Champions League, den ich noch nicht kenne? Zeigenossen gibt’s, die gibt’s gar nicht. Der Berliner Bassgeiger, in den 90er Jahren aus dem italienischen Südtirol in die deutsche Metropole übersiedelt, hat mit der Veröffentlichung von gleich fünf Langspielplatten unter dem etwas kryptischen Motto Almenrauschen meine letzten Zweifel an seiner Kunstfertigkeit beseitigt. Denn was die fünf Platten einigt, allesamt mit jeweils anders eingefärbtem Cover in einheitlichem Design, ist ihre grundverschiedene Ausrichtung:
caspar (gelb) dokumentiert auf der A-Seite ein ausgedehntes Solo samt minimaler Vokalbegleitung und versammelt auf der zweiten Seite kürzeste Kürzel, Motive, Sketches of Kontrabasshausen sozusagen. Oft genügt nur ein Strich, nur ein Hauch,m nur ein Oberton, eine flüchtige Verwandlung Janeks in ein Digeridoo. Diese Musik ähnelt einem Gebäude mit klienen Räumen, aus denen man durch Fenster in angrenzende blicken kann. Das ist Pointilismus ohne spektakuläre Pointen, dafür mit Pausen dazwischen, mit Luftlöchern – und am Ende hält mal die Wiederkehr von Jimmy Garrison für möglich.
three seasons (grün) werden durchwegs mit dem Bogen gestrichen, eine andere Ästhetik als zuvor ist evident. Aber, fragt man sich, was ist mit der vierten Jahreszeit? Wann wird’s mal wieder richtig Sommer? Kann Vivaldi das Rätsel lösen?
infinite bang (rot) passiert, wenn Janek weiderum neue Klangwelten generiert, diesmal im Aufeinandertreffen von Kontrabass und Elektronik. Spärische Schwebezustände alternieren da mit einer gewissen Atemlosigkeit. Die Qualität dieser Sounds geht Länge mal Breite ins Flächige, herausragende Sequenzen sind eher eine Seltenheit.
prospecting (blau) nennt Klaus Janek seine Duoplatte mit Milena Kipfmüller, die sein Bassspiel vokal, instrumental und mit elektronischen Zuspielungen garniert. Auch diese Platte zeichnet sich durch eigenen, eingenwilligen Charakter aus. Die B-Seite kreist um literarische Texte bzw. deren mehrsprachige Insterpreatation und weist dadurch eine nahe Verwandtschaft mit einem Hörspiel auf. Auf der A-Seite werden Assoziationen an Filmmusiken wach. Im Hintergrund ahnt man Echos aus Afrika, womöglich, prospfting erzeugt – eigenltich in bester Philip-Jeck-Manier – auf Seite A eine stille, nicht selten meditative Atmosphäre, der es gleichwohl nicht an Dichte und Intesität mangelt. So gerät die erste Seite dieses Stücks Vinyl zur subjektiv schönsten, weil berührendsten Einspielung. Für sich genommen, eine Plattenseite des Monats! Mein Favorit.
reciprocum (pink) ist wiederum Janeks Ensemble-Platte bzw. vielmehr Material aus diversen Aufnahmesessions, die neu bearbeitet wird. Partners in crime sind, neben einigen anderen, Biliana Voutchkova, Willi Kellers, Nicolas Wiese, Clayton Thomas – und wieder, wie schon in der blauen Phase, Milena Kipfmüller. Dem Ausgangsmaterial für neue Erkundungen kommt zumeist die Funktion eines brodelnden resp., bebenden Untergrunds zu, auf dem Klaus Janeks Contrabass die Balance und die Contenance zu halten sich bemüht. Auch hübsch super.
Klaus Janek outet sich mit diesem fünffachen Almenrauschen nicht nur als großartiger, sonder auch noch als diskurswilliger Musiker. Soviel ist wenigstens aus den liner notes herauszulesen. Ob sein Wille zur Diskussion und zur Reflexion den musikalischen Wehrwert auslöst und ob das Eine das Andere vorraussetzt, bleibe einmal dahingstellt. Dennoch, mit theoretischem Überbau oder ohne ihn: in seiner Vielgestaltigkeit und stilistischen Offenheit zeit sich Klaus Janek um ein aussagekräftiges Statement nicht verlegen. (Andreas Fellinger)
The sound projector
GERMANY Almenrauschen no number 5 x LP 2018 / 2019
Here’s a little background to this review: I met Klaus Janek in 2011, when he was touring in a duo with the pianist Scott R. Looney. I organised a concert for them at Brighton’s Friends Meeting House around the time their album 1510 was released. During the evening, Klaus struck me as a versatile player; his contribution seemed equally versed in electro acoustic improvisation, free jazz and more traditional technique. Klaus was pleasant and friendly; we parted with a vague notion that we might collaborate in the future in some way. Periodically, a few emails were sent from my desktop, with a few ideas; largely going unanswered. So it is a pleasant surprise now, to find our avenues of communication reopened via the re-release of a large quantity of his output; a mid-career survey, perhaps.
On the whole, I quite like the material across the majority of these ten sides. You might say having your work presented on vinyl can be seen as a kind of badge of honour these days, and I guess it is hard to turn down the opportunity. Conversely, Janek perhaps has gone down the art-edition route in choosing vinyl. Almenrauschen (Janek’s collective term for the project) has five examples of his signature contrabass and electronics on wax; utilized in varying ways – and here and there in collaboration with others – and partly funded by Autonome Provinz Bozen Sudtirol which I presume is the regional authority of South Tyrol; a province in North East Italy, by the culture office of bolzano i/eu, and “supported by” – this I assume means they contributed their services to the project for free – the contributors and authors of music, cover-design and sound-engineering.
Almenrauschen is Janek’s own imprint and exists as a “..platform to present music on an equal aesthetic as discursive level…” Janek qualifies his choice of format thus: “…albums are created out of a reading of zeitgeist, resulting in (sic) the most long-lasting and antique sound carrier (ton Trager) available: vinyl – and in respect to contemporary life, as files (like oil painting and its digital appearance)…” An unusual analogy there, but okay.
These five albums appear to have been originally released in 2018, but were bundled together under the title almenrauschen in 2019 in nice colour-coded sleeves designed by Stephanie Roderer – I’ll refer to this aspect at the head of each review section – in an edition of 300 units.
The name “almenrauschen” derives from the aural sensation perceiving a non intentional sound world and transforming it to musical sense-making.
Klaus Janek / [SNDNG STTNS]
GERMANY Almenrauschen no number LP 2018
Blue. Tower blocks.
The first track on side A is “Violeros Revisitados”, which is a fight between the sounds made by Brazilian traditional musicians and the UHER Report 400 tape machine the sounds were recorded on. This source material was recorded by Gunther Kipfmüller in Northeast Brazil in the 1970s. Kipfmüller’s daughter, Milena , processes the raw material while Janek adds his contrabass and electronics to the mixture. Brazil born, Milena is also Berlin-based and works as”… a freelance soundartist, dramaturgue and producer”. For me, this is the most satisfying of all the pieces over all five of these records, perhaps because I enjoyed the sound of the source material presented here, plus I think Janek and Kipfmüller are simultaneously restrained and inventive in devising appropriate responses to it. The occasional snippets of singing are particularly beautiful; they pop up like wildflowers in unexpected locations.
On “Recorded Recorders”, Janek and Kipfmüller go further in their interaction with their recording device/s in part connecting to “…historical contexts…and technological processes…”of the 40 year period between the making of the original recordings and the assemblages of the duo’s current working practices. On first listens, it seems like a lot of looping is going on, – a typewriter appears briefly halfway through? – but the loops are very unusual and hard to identify what instrument/source they might have been derived from . Contrabass joins with a low, slow repeated phrase until gradually, extreme processing or sample manipulation takes over.
Turning the record over, we find “Echolot – Montreal / Sao Paulo”. “Echolot” was Janek and Kipfmüller’s “…performance installation…” commissioned by the Goethe Institut in Montreal for the 2016 White Nights Festival and performed again at the Sao Paulo Goethe Institut the following year. The duo “exclusively use the voices of the audience and the audience’s reactions” to produce what they deliberately intend to be a “musical composition”. How this was achieved in practical terms is not explained in the sleeve-notes, but we are told that a “20 second of reading of a book passage” is the central component of this exploration of unpredicatbility and chance. Having said that, there is what sounds to me like a drawbar organ in there as well, the significance of the presence of which is not explained. Perhaps I’m imagining it. Voices in French, English and German. “Tramlines…”, “…walking the dog…”, “…other people…” audible fragments; processed and looped, overlapping and tumbling over each other. A rhythm emerges in the loops; a feeling I find very familiar experience with many loop-based works. The process used stops short at even the prospect of total chaos – something I think artists shouldn’t be afraid of. For me, there is maybe a small barrier here – the attempt to constantly reconcile all sounds / noise / whatever with a traditional idea of “music”. I thought the idea was to try to make art, no?
GERMANY Almenrauschen no number LP 2018
Magenta. Road at night.
Its probably worth quoting from the sleeve-notes so you get an idea of what the intention is on this disc: “The album consists of music chosen from a pool of recordings made over a time span of 10 years and according to its expression composed ‘together’. All of the music was created through a practice of combining the compositional and performative act. The album making process consists of two levels: the music created in the past functions as material and is put into form through the inspiration it provides. This music witnesses the trust between the creators in the act of doing and on a further step its affirmation to the re-contextualization.”
On “Reciprocum Part 1″, Klaus Janek is joined by Heiner Reinhard (reeds), Willi Kellers (drums), Andy Graydon (field recording, electronics), Nils Ostendorf (trumpet), Biliana Voutchkova (violin), Mark Weaver (tuba) and Christian Pincock (valve trombone). This collage begins free jazz, but very quickly diverts into a kind of pulsating drone emulsion. The saxophonist makes dry periodic comments while someone’s hard-drive crashes in the distance of the left hand speaker. Then: creaky hinges, bass rumbles, wet saxophone embouchure modifications, creeping dread. A high-pitched whine appears and then disappears. A snatch of dialogue? Electronic crunching followed by a cluster of piano notes. A violin in a room sawing eerily. An interesting bunch of ideas thrown together violently.
Turning the platter over to find “Reciprocum Part 2”, there is more free jazz here, at least at first sight, but it transpires that it is in fact a composition by Milena Kipfmüller. An intriguing amalgam of content presents itself, this time from Scott R. Looney (piano), Clayton Thomas (double bass), Milena Kipfmüller herself on electronics, Andrew Lafkas (double bass), Brendan Dougherty (drums), Luca Marini (drums), Barry Weissblad (electronics), Chris Douglas (electronics), Nicholas Wiese (electronics), Robert Schwarz (electronics), William Bilwa Costa (electronics), Wouter Jaspers (electronics), Lukas Matthiaei (voice), Marc Matter (voice). Time to find your favourite armchair and get comfy.
GERMANY Almenrauschen no number LP 2018
This habit some experimental musicians have of applying forced context or stories to what is essentially pure improvised music does sometimes perplex me. Here Janek references Kaspar Hauser with the title and in the sleeve notes. He also states the intention “…to de- and reformulate the idea of beauty”. When referencing the case of Kaspar Hauser, I assume Janek sees himself as “…set free…” from traditional technique, and aims, on this disc at least, to “…redefine by discover[y] and recover the potentiality sound and tone embodies…” The bleaker reality of Parts I-IV is more austere unaccompanied contrabass. These recordings are from earlier in Janek’s career; this side was recorded in 1997, the flip the following year. So in fairness, we are hearing an improvisor with most likely a classical and/or jazz background probably fairly near the beginnings of his more avant explorations. These days, Kaspar Hauser’s own claims that he was a royal bastard unfairly locked up as a child in a tiny, windowless room for sixteen years by persons unknown only to be released suddenly to deal with what Janek refers to as “…processes of deciphering and sorting of sounds, senses and impressions…” has largely been debunked by historians as a hoax on the part of Hauser himself. It seems many historians now believe Hauser was a con-artist, inveterate liar and concerned only with maintaining his position of support from his well-meaning patrons before they could stand his lies and scheming no more. This adds an interesting flavour to proceedings. But, like Hauser, here is the transition Janek wants to achieve:
Throughout Parts V-VII, Janek builds a mood of suspense using overlapping approaches; a specific direction: on VI he utilises vocalising, bow-bouncing on the strings, marking time eating only bread and water, while VII, although short at 1 minute 34 seconds, flings out more wordless vocalising alongside melodic bass. From this, the transition takes place, giving way to Janek’s version of “Prayer Beads”; a composition by American jazz bassist, composer and bandleader Marc Johnson. Johnson worked with Bill Evans, Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, ‘Philly’ Joe Jones, Jack DeJohnette and many others for labels including ECM, Blue Note, Challenge, Egea and CAM Jazz. “Prayer Beads” is a strong piece – particularly in the context of the abstract nature of the rest of this disc – performed well. The fact that it sticks out makes me wish there was more of this kind of material not only on this disc, but spread out over all five of these records.
GERMANY Almenrauschen no number LP 2018
This disc commences with “Prolog / Autumn / Winter Part 1” which are relatively unadorned solo contrabass improvisations from 2003, inspired by the poem Lettera Amorosa by René Char. Although the work apparently “…follows an emotional path a man lives through a loss…” which is intriguing, the main emotions this music is conveying to me are morbid self-analysis, ennui and fatigue. So far so good. Nonetheless, Janek insists upon the piece “…awakening from impotence, sensing awareness and rediscovering possibility…” If that is the way Janek sees it then who am I to disagree? But again, as it is with Caspar, this way of forcing a narrative onto improvisation – what could be defined as a musical train of thought – I think is an unnecessary decoration at best. You could argue that it is just the sort of critical justification a funding board expects to see, and perhaps you would be correct to think that. Janek states: “…it doesn’t show it [the narrative], but the possibility of it…” Putting all that aside, nothing changes the fact that the material presented on side A is a little…well, dull. At least for my taste. The side ends with Janek sawing at his instrument on a single note which perhaps represents ‘frustration’ on this time-line of loss, but at this point I am more than ready for the flip.
There is a great deal of busy activity on the second side, but mostly in the higher registers . Again, a kind of aimless lashing out, almost.…so maybe it works in the context of the theme?
Grief following a loss is a terrible thing to for us humans to endure, and Three Seasons reflects this quite well.
GERMANY Almenrauschen no number LP 2018
Janek’s “source of inspiration” was apparently Stanislaw Lem’s novel Solaris and Janek’s own social observations in Prospect Park in New York City “…where I was living during the main research period for this work”. I’m not familiar with Lem’s novel, but if you’re expecting echoes or resonances from the soundtracks of either the Tarkovsky film or the George Clooney remake, I’m afraid you may be disappointed. On side A we find “Infinite Bang Part 1”, which is more solo contrabass and electronics. Janek likens his approach to a “perpetuum mobile” – not an object in itself as I first thought, but a translation of “perpetual motion” – makes me think of kinetic sculptures by Naum Gabo or Alexander Calder. Janek analyses his own interest in the comparative attributes of acoustic and processed sound in his sleeve-notes. The “…initial bang is always produced by the acoustic contrabass. The electronic equipment does not incorporate the possibility of tone production…” In other words, Janek is explaining that despite electronics being important to his work, his performance set-up doesn’t include and electronic instrument or component that produces sound by itself; it serves only to enhance the signal made by the contrabass. What kind of electronics/processing is used is not not stated – certainly on side A it is very subtle. If you weren’t paying attention, you might even mistake it for clean solo contrabass…
In contrast, the B side begins with recognisably processed sound. Janek heads into a more verdant sound-world than the dry, arid environment of side A. Here, the contrabass produces sounds like motors, or cicadas or a sythesiser pad; washes and swells appear and disappear, but all in all its a bit sombre: not a lot of “bang” for your buck. Personally, given a choice, I’d rather enjoy an evening on the sofa watching Tarkovsky’s Solaris instead.
spontanous music tibune, Friday, February 28 2020
Klaus Janek! Altered States of Double Bass!
Klaus Janek, a German double bass player, improviser and composer with Italian roots (also a Slavic name!), Celebrated his 50th birthday last year. We not only know in the editorial office that this is a good time to make a life (here, artistic) resume.
For this noble occasion, the musician has prepared a five-disc set of his recordings, both those of the early 90s of the last century, as well as completely new ones made in recent years. Thanks to the support of the Italian taxpayer, this editorial package was successfully dressed in a beautiful set of black vinyls with homogeneous, stylish covers. The publisher of the whole – it is possible that founded for the needs of this venture – was named with a lowercase almenrauschen.
The artist, who works a bit on the edge of the mainstream improvised music, is a significant figure of the Berlin music scene, perhaps he is more widely perceived in the field of broadly understood contemporary music. Nevertheless, with a set of CDs that we will discuss in a moment in detail, Janek absolutely fits into the current of an intriguing, fully emancipated, improvising double bass of the European music scene. So, if you haven’t come across this musician yet, you have a unique moment to catch up and join the club of enthusiasts of his work without a shadow of a doubt.
Recordings for double bass (fully acoustic) made in 1994-1998, with most of the material from June 1997. Eight episodes, which the musician defines as compositions (including one foreign), we complement the image for the sake of clarity – examples of structured improvisation (music originally released on CD by the label Solponticello, 2001).
The bow introduces us to the wide stream of sound stream, which dynamically scrubs the chilled strings of a double bass. The sound of the instrument is very deep, massive, an example of baroque style definitely served in a sharp, kind of post-contemporary impro! In the next episode, smyk goes lower, the narrative takes on a dark glow. The texture swells, pulsates with power and acoustic inevitability, you can get the impression that even two double basses play. The musician has fantastic control over the dynamics of the performance. In the third part, he uses the pizzicato technique, sings under his breath, full of melody and frivolous dance. After a while the sharp bow returns, the strings bleed profusely, making this somewhat prepared fragment truly beautiful. The cheerful smyk sings, whistles, jumps to the sky, and on the very end of the first page of the vinyl goes down to the basement.
At the opening of the other side, our heroic bow sounds almost industrial, as if in the background were accompanied by sounds of disturbed surroundings. The musician adds voice preparations to the whole picture, his instrument does almost the same! We smoothly enter the sixth, no doubt, key, nearly 14-minute epic of the liberated double bass. At the start we are accompanied by a drone of dense air drawn from lead strings. An acoustic ambient that bursts with the beauty of every sound, as if the burnt baroque stood unexpectedly at the gates of real hell. The musician lets a lot of space into the narrative, including accents of silence. Spiritual chamber – from the bottom up, with the power of eternal cosmos and the delicacy of a peacock feather, in silence and in noise. Preparations and voice ornaments – oh yes, Peter Kowald is here with us and sincere fangs with satisfaction! Distracted deep black bowed bass flows in the mantra of liberated self-awareness. The whole effect is enhanced by percussion accents on the neck and high finish singing against the backdrop of greasy pizzicato. Perfectly! We finish the record unexpectedly – the seventh episode, just over 90 seconds, again with the accents of Far Eastern, guttural singing, almost spiritual firing and deep lock that looks for the bottom. Finally, the equally enigmatic finale, played by jazz pizzicato (a composition by Mark Johnson), pulls us out of sleep and exposes us to the reality. An example of how a semi-brilliant album can be trivially and without flashing finished.
We continue listening to recordings for solo double bass (again full acoustic). February 2003, the studio circumstances, as the artist himself – the music composed and performed live. Six parts with titles, including three seasons after Vivaldi, do not know why, but deprived of the summer part.
We start without surprises – a baroque but massive instrument and bow outfit that dances on the neck. The narrative seems more thoughtful, studied, structured than it was on the previous album. The second episode wakes us up with a truly bear roar. Smyk seems to sound even more beautiful. Precise flow, with a lot of air between the strings, with an adequate dose of dramatic order. The story slowly gains dynamics and thickens to form solidified lava. Contemporary magic – Autumn lasting nearly a quarter of an hour is captivating in every dimension. The final descent into active silence is equally effective. Time for a threatening winter! The bow focuses on constructive minimalism. It flows from the bottom up, and then travels back. The sound seems to be delicately prepared, once it resembles horse neighing, at other times a camel’s croak. The narrative, every now and then, approaches the level of silence – a howl of a dry bow, the breath of a sweaty double bass. The musician and his clever instrument are in a constant process of searching for a new sound. The narrative does not have the spontaneity of its predecessor, but its artistic study shines with its original beauty, and even makes noise for the finale! The second, shorter part of Winter (once you have to flip the black plate) is livelier, it flows on an icy hill, it even enters a gallop for a moment. Smyk continues to be the center of our attention.
Spring begins in the nooks of silence, kind of silent sonore – baroque rushes upwards, baroque descents downwards. This part also provides new sounds, sometimes very filigree. On the decay, the smyk sings beautifully with a high alto, making the work lightly soiled with timbre. Show! For the finale, instead of the soothing, airy Summer, it’s time for the part called Touch. Massive trembling of the striker who dances percussion on the neck. Then the really filigree phase, the musician uses his fingers and builds small flow by pizzicato. On the last straight, the nimble bow returns and puts a baroque quality stamp.
We have already learned the sound of Janek’s double bass quite well, so we add him strong electronic support. Berlin, November 2018, concert with Klangalerie, two elaborate compositions (the musician insists on this term, we prefer again – structured improvisations).
The repetition of a snarling and bubbling knock on a greasy double bass neck – a massive and resonating sound band drills a hole in the brain. Acoustic drones of heavy air, in the background rustling electronics waking up to synthetic life. After a few minutes, the live bands go out, and only the dark post-electronic glow remains on the stage. The living instrument returns after a while, placing micro-stamps of presence. Smyk is comfortable on the neck, the background is sizzling and rustling, collecting fake sounds from the surroundings of the performance. The electroacoustic bass band appears quite unexpected, thanks to which the whole takes on an industrial aftertaste. When everything melts into hazy ambient again, the reviewer can only sigh with delight. Alive returns by pulling the strings and breathing deeply. It crowns the first part, supported by shiny blue ambient.
The second compo-improvisation even more consistently focuses on a repetitive scenario – like a dramatic loop (loop!). The marriage of living and synthetics gains strength, after which it loses it and waits for the next thread. The murmurs of electronics and the flail that slides over the neck is the entry situation. There is no shortage of more dynamic accents and more and more often appearing traces of live proccesing (at least this is how it is heard). These last moments add metaphysical ambiguity to the whole. In the phase of dominance of synthetics, the narrative likes repetition, traces of semi-arrhythmia, minor distortions and pulsations. In the phase of domination of the living – the accents of preparation, trembling of all matter and waiting for the course of events. Raw ambient patches and sweet acoustic slices. In the middle of this part, the narrative bears the mark of a delicate downtime, but this moment does not last too long. A clever entry into the phase of extensive, glassy ambient, which grows with a low bass band, introduces us to the final phase, during which the lively strings begin to rule. The end of the album on the background seems quite delicate, the supremacy of the living is not subject to discussion. Small ambient patches lead the double bass to the last straight, where it performs the closing ritual itself, of course by repetition.
It’s time to end simple dramatic solutions. A far conceptual album is ahead of us. There will be double bass and electronics under the jurisdiction of Klaus, but also Milena Kipfmüller, who will electronically process the material prepared earlier. First, the musicians will take to the workshop field recordings from northern Brazil, from the 70s of the last century (improvised folk songs called Violeiros), then – using the Echolot installation – they will electronically process … the voices of people who read a fragment of a literary text for 20 seconds ( contemporary recordings from Montreal and Sao Paulo). Let’s follow the surprising effect of these activities, both musical and performative.
The first Brazilian story begins with the sound of pouring water, the sound of the forest, songs and rituals. Double bass and electronics work briskly, commenting on reality or deconstructing it creatively. The truth of time, and the truth of sound in a collision with brutal modernity. After some time, we clearly hear a mechanically engaging bow, and even a deaf, massive pizzicato. In the background it flows, often repeats, dims even more often, a range of synthetic sounds. At the very end of the first part, we have a lonely stream of electronics. The second part of the story from the Brazilian forest is like a reprise, something like further electronic reconstruction. Massive, dense magma deep sounds, a couple of strings accompanied by synthetic post-sound. Acoustic bass ambient deconstructing by electronics, notes the meticulous reviewer in Shakespeare’s language. The dramaturgy of the recording is based on repetition, it has its phase of electronics dominance, it also has a spectacular come back of the predatory tearing of the strings of a live instrument. For the finale we return to the original drone, which beautifully connects the whole of the sound exploration.
The other side of the black disc further highlights the conceptual nature of the whole. Human voices, accidental, sometimes aggressive phonemes, something like an organ drone – from all this musicians mold the electronic path of the sound metaphysics of the word. Something like an interactive radio play. After all, the concept defends itself musically – it provides a whole bunch of fascinating sounds, and it doesn’t lose the narrative nerve for a moment. The sounds of the double bass and electronics, which sometimes resemble Berlin post-techno from the 90s, are real cherries on this quite positive cake.
For the finale of today’s tale of Different States of Contrabass Awareness, it seems that we encounter an even greater stylistic and conceptual volt. Two of the same musicians (Klaus Janek and Milena Kipfmüller) will again electronically prepare the sound material created earlier, however, the basis for these unmasking works will be … real (real) recordings of Klaus, made in 2010-2017 with the participation of other musicians, both in jazz aesthetics as well as freely improvised (we don’t know the details). The set of musicians who participate in these Collaborations (the subtitle of the album) is very extensive, so we will not quote it in full, we can only mention those more known to us, such as Willi Kellers, Bilian Voutchkov or Clayton Thomas (on the A side we hear a double bass, drums, saxophone, clarinet, tuba, trumpet, trombone and violin, on side B – double bass, percussion, multiplayer electronics, piano and voices).
A big double bass, clarinet and drums introduce us to this fairy tale with dry open jazz. Post-production sound fun is immediately sent to us by electroacoustic double bass drones, a handful of trembling matter not fully defined by provenance, in other words a mix of live and synthetic sounds, not without harsh & post-noise elements. In this surprising magma we can point out various phases of narrative – even the clever deconstruction of the sound of the double bass and brass, which after some time stick into electroacoustic, quite free improvisation. Particularly intriguing is the phase in which preparations on the violin dominate (probably Voutchkova!), After which the whole takes on a very chamber character. There is also a phase of a massive, solo double bass, with which everything in the recording seems to resonate, even the reviewer’s turntable. For the first page finale, the open jazz we faced at the beginning of the recording returns.
Milena sits on the other side of the vinyl behind the mixing table. Strings, electroacoustic background, substantial handfuls of electronics from the base recording, percussion and bass – all minimalistic and repetitive. Again, we come across a beautiful post-chamber moment, smoothly immersed in a delicate, synthetic glow. Interesting phases include a piano and double bass with electronic preparations, a pizzicato double bass and voices, or even again a piano with a double bass in a sauce of electronic rasp, decorated with a small percussion. Changing it here, changing it, maybe at times there are even too many of them, but the dreamy finale with strings, free electronics and a handful of reflection compensates a lot.