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John Duncan/Kontakte der Junglinge/C.M Von Hausswolff, "Untitled"

The three names emblazoned on the simple and stark cover of this CD should be familiar to most people here–Duncan, von Hausswolff, Koner, and Tietchens have been around for many, many years, establishing themselves as elder statesmen of the scene. The present disc features three extended explorations recorded live, committed to tape in San Francisco, Montreal, and London, and represent a summation perhaps of the combined artistry and talent that these people have shown us all these years.


Die Stadt

None of these artists deal in certainty or the tyranny of absolute structure, however their work, while appearing to be the very antithesis of form and order, contains a sense that there is a correct rhythm and evolution informing each piece. Moreover, these people know what they are about: their amassed years of playing and experimenting with sound, which probably amounts to a combined tally of a century if not more, lifts them out of the sphere of the merely experimental and squarely into the territory of intimate familiarity, as if each has a close relationship with their materials, just like a visual artist has with their chosen media.

Duncan's nearly 25 minute contribution steps up to the plate for first bat with "Live at the Compound." This track exhibits as much concern for the absence of sound as for the qualities of sound itself. Fading in almost as slowly as some geological process, rolling in majestically in an unhurriedly concatenating wave, building strength by minute steps and becoming all the stronger for it, eventually breaking and dissipating quickly back into silence, only to be superceded by yet another wave. This is about natural rhythms, ebbing and flowing, reaching into and withdrawing, and everything layering in a repeating cycle—something perhaps like the continuous layering of sediments or the cyclical rise and fall of civilisations. This takes its time to develop; there is no particular timescale for things to reach their apotheosis and optimum equilibrium, it gets there when it is good and ready.

Tietchens and Koner, collaborating as Kontakte der Junglinge, fly in with "Montreal Solution 1," a weighty swirling engine noise passing to and fro overhead like some vast gravity-defying alien airship, measured in miles not feet, hanging in the air of our world in defiance of physics and commonsense. Natural sounds merge and emerge while occult rhythms peek almost shyly from behind the curtains of shimmering noise gravitating towards some unseen point of equilibrium. In contrast, Hausswolff's track, "Circulating Over Square Waters (Framed Nature)," brings it right back to the human and earthly sphere, mingling human voices and bird sounds together with ambient environmental sounds and a strange squeaking rhythm that makes its presence felt throughout the length of the track (which only loses cohesion towards the end) providing a kind of weird metronomic. These two oppositional elements, the one representing the world of natural rhythm, and the other representing the imposition of an unnatural order on what essentially refuses to be ordered, provide the underlying tension and engine that drives the track along.

Die Stadt have a knack for confronting and getting us to think about our attitude to sound and definitions of what constitutes music. Most people would say that what is contained on this album isn't real music, but I would argue however that in fact this is the genuine thing—beautiful, flowing, challenging, meditative, and above all, inspiring. Those, to me, are the hallmarks of a truly quality album.



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