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Paul Metzger & Tim Kaiser

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Monday, November 10th, was a cold night in Cincinnati, Ohio. Paul Metzger and Tim Kaiser warmed the air inside the Gypsy Hut considerably with their otherworldly sounds. Although playing separate sets, the two Minnesotans are united in their love for tinkering and tampering, building their own instruments or altering existing ones. Each expands the world of timbre to fit their unique specifications.

 

Metzger took to the stage first brandishing his wildly painted acoustic guitar like a whirling dervish prophet transported through time from the days of yore. He winds up the innards of a few decimated music boxes attached to his instrument, providing a percussive element to the warble he hammers out on the strings. His fingers thrum manically up and down the neck, twanging out thickly resonant drones on the extra strings fitted at strange angles (as if his instrument might serve as a makeshift crossbow in times of need). Fastened to the bottom is a cymbal he elbow hits for in progress expletives that punctuate his freewheeling improvisations. The cymbal also serves as a convenient upright prop, allowing Paul to bypass toting another cumbersome stand to the gig while also showcasing his object of art, as much of a pleasure to look at as to listen to.

The first song is over and twenty plus minutes have passed.

The next sound meditation begins when he picks up his 23 string banjo. Starting with a bow he lulled me into a quiet attention as the cat like whiskers of his beard spark out to drink in the ether that seems to be fuelling his music. As the harmonic hum arches he melds into the banjo. Plucking and lilting, notes cascade into the air. He plays an exuberant eastern raga rich with newly discovered scales and keys, a richness extending into a deep physicality. Oscillating between slow lines and quick flourishes the movement of his hands and the bobbing of his head develop into an all out attack, an assault upon a mountain. As a listener I ascend with him to the summit and find it to be a holy place. From these heights you look on the world with new perspective. Coming back down is harder and I do so only in an avalanche caused by dissonant rupture. His nimble hands tumble over the frets leaving me snow blind but he is assured in his dexterity, skiing downhill with breathless velocity.

A half hour has passed and when I realize I’m once again sitting inside the back room of a bar I need to catch my breath and grab another pint to cleanse my mental palette before subjecting myself to the twisted machinations of Tim Kaisers home made instruments.

Tim could be the poster boy of the scientist aesthete. Perhaps, before going on the tour, he was pulled out from a secret underground bunker, for in his military green uniform he looked prepared to survive the vagaries of nuclear fallout. His bizarre menagerie of electronic toys must have been hit by the blast for they glowed as if having absorbed bursts of radiation. Maybe that is what mutated them, making them sound so alien and alive. Or maybe it is the fact that Tim Kaiser is a master craftsman, a wizard whose wand is the hot tip of a soldering iron.

His set opens with fuzzy voices intercepted on a short wave receiver, and appear intermittently throughout, as he developed a circular call and response with the radio. He lifted glass tubes that could have contained precisely combined elements mixed for chemical reaction, but instead by shaking them, produced deep bells, the perfect looping ingredient to balance the long tones he sustains and flutters while moving his hand over a Theremin.

Although at times edgy, the electronic sounds Kaiser concocted in his traveling laboratory were never overly harsh, abrasive, or loud. Far too many “experimental” musicians compensate with loudness in place of talent. There were moments of atonality and spasms of noise, but these he managed to restrain, not letting his abnormal children lose control. And because tinnitus was not the sole fare offered, it made the swelling noisy moments all the more enjoyable. Whether using an LED to trigger a light sensitive box containing chimes in an array of various pitches, or bowing an upright instrument stringed with a thick gauge of metal wire that could have been salvaged from a construction site, the music Kaiser crafted out of the things he made himself, captivated me from beginning to end.

And the warm smiles of these friendly musicians sent me home with one myself. They can be found at paulmetzger.net and timkaiser.org.

Last Updated on Sunday, 11 January 2009 01:34  


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