on life, music etc beyond mainstream

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Category: Musik aus 2011


Der erste Eindruck täuscht selten. Das gilt für Dinge, Menschen, Situationen, Atmosphären – und Musik. Als ich vor einiger Zeit ein paar Takte des Colin Vallon Trios wahrnahm – es wurde wohl in Deutschlandfunks´ Jazzfacts oder den Klanghorizonten gespielt, vielleicht sogar im Kontext von Klaviertrioformationen – da fand ich es gleich gut. Jetzt höre ich genauer hin und stelle fest: es hebt sich ab von Anderem. Als wenns nichts weiter wollte als Musik sein, klingt es einerseits recht simpel, andererseits nach ECM-Jazz par excellence. Wichtig ist der Impuls, den die Musik beim individuellen Zuhören subjektiv bewirkt. Hier unterscheidet unsereins gottseidank noch zwischen all dem Info-Inflationären, das einem täglich so um die Ohren flattert und dem, wovon Bauch, Herz und Sinne sagen: dies ist eindeutig meins. Dann will man natürlich mehr wissen über Künstler, die man noch nicht kennt – denn Kunst kommt von Kennen – und so googelt man sich langsam ran an die Materie: schaut auf die Homepage; liest, was in Amazon-Rezensionen und Magazinen so geschrieben steht – und bekommt hier bei den Manafonistas schonmal vorab eine warmherzige Scheibe …


In diesem Jahr wird das spoken word-album zehn Jahre alt, das Brian Eno und Rick Holland gemeinsam entwickelten. Es hat nichts von seiner Anziehungskraft verloren. Brian hatte stets ein Faible für spoken-word-music, ein frühes Beispiel kann man auf seinem ersten Songalbum „Here Come The Warm Jets“ finden. Er war vollends fasziniert von jenem Album von The Books (das mit dem grünen Cover), das ich ihm 2005 mitbrachte zu unserem Berliner Interview im Adlon anlässlich „Another Day On Earth“. Und auch bei dem im April erscheinenden spoken word-Album von Marianne Faithfull ist er mit zwei, drei Arrangements und einigen „treatments“ dabei.

Das Interview mit Rick Holland war ein Highlight meiner Interviews jenes Jahres, und es zeigt, dass solch vielfältige Poeme einen immerneuen Ansatz der musikalischen Darbietung einfordern. Genau das ist Eno gelungen, und deshalb ist DRUMS BETWEEN THE BELLS so schillernd geworden, Füllhorn, Klangrausch, „food for thought“, und, wie es ein Kritiker nannte, „electronic soul music for the mind“.

Damals habe ich mit Freunden alle englischen Gedichte ins Deutsche übertragen. Sie finden sich, unter „Ältere Beiträge“, in den Sommermonaten 2011. All meine Texte von jenem ersten Jahr der Manafonisten, die es m.E. wert sind, erhalten zu bleiben (ungefähr 10 Prozent, schätze ich), werden sich, anlässlich des zehnjährigen Bestehens dieses Blogs, also hier wiederfinden, anno 2021, im Laufe der Zeit. Der Rest wird vermüllt. Die Übersetzungen der Gedichte, oft direkt neben die Originale platziert, werden allerdings wie Ruinen in jenem Jahr verharren. Wenn uns nichts Besseres einfällt. Viel Freude bei der Entdeckung oder Wiederentdeckung eines ganz besonderen Albums.








Michael Engelbrecht:   On a lot of his albums, Brian only rarely works with clearly defined lyrics when entering a studio. This time, he had your poems – and, as I imagine, letting their impact on him work, he was inspired to approach every track with new ideas, new sounds. You have only a rare apparition as one of the nine voices on the album; how have you been involved in the studio work? Did you offer him any musical ideas, from the point of view of a “real” non-musician?


Rick Holland: You are right that each track was approached as a unique organism, and there were nearly fifty pieces when we first sat down to finish the record. I do offer musical ideas and also extremely vague and over-reaching requests, Can you make this part sound more like primordial sludge Brian?’, that kind of thing. Of course his answers tend to be, ‘Yes, yes I can.’.

We worked together in his studio throughout the intensive final weeks and also at most of the sessions that spawned the initial ‘skeletons’ of the tracks over the years. I think we both took some steps away from our comfort zones over these sessions, which is what collaborating relies on, and there was certainly never a sense that he ‘did’ music and I ‘did’ words. Poems and Music were equally likely to change in the process of making, and the making process was an open forum of ideas.

‘The Real’ is perhaps the most recent example of a ‘school’ of song formation whereby  Brian would have several pieces on the go and I would provide or write words for the ones that most spoke to me. The first stage in these tracks was to superimpose a vocal over the existing music. Sometimes, a vocal just steers the piece towards its final shape and many musical ideas were provided by the vocalists, not directly, but in the nuances of their readings and more specifically their own ways of forming spoken words.

The components of this one just fell into place with a combination of reshaping an existing ‘poem’ I had been working on, and the beautiful chance arrival at the studio of Elisha Mudley, who really did appear like an angel that day, unannounced, and just in time for us to record. Not all days ran that smoothly!


Michael:   Your poems allow the listener to drift freely between the impressions the single words and pictures are offering. As a material that is not fixed to transport a certain message, and more open to free associations, one can experience the words in a very relaxed way. Can you explain this a bit, with a look at the opening track, this London poem “Bless This Space”. And what was the first idea that brought this poem on its way? The albums starts,  almost programmatic, with the words “Bless this space / in rhyme and sound”…”




Rick: This is a very good question. The great interest for me in the whole of this process has been the giving up of control of meaning. Many poets would really not like this idea. By allowing the idiosyncrasies of accent and word formation in foreign English speakers the centre stage, and then enjoying and exploiting the accidents of meaning those sounds can create, the poetic process is often greatly enhanced, and often in surprising ways. I was already a poet who enjoyed leaving ‘image lines’ and indeed sounds to trigger a journey into personal meaning before I met Brian, but over the years of working with him, I have developed a clearer idea of the middle ground between pure audio material and carriers of meaning and how the two can play off each other.

The example you cite ‘Bless this Space’ is an interesting one, as it is not typical of how we worked. The poem was inspired by a production job of sorts I had for the Map making project in 2003 (the event I met Brian at actually). It was a very ambitious collaboration between artists of all kinds, from ballet dancers to painters to orchestras; I was unofficially tasked with pulling the show together with some kind of thread. It was set in St Luke’s, in what used to be a church near Old Street in London but is now the home of LSO and a beautiful music venue. I was asked to write something to accompany the dance piece that opened the show, and so I decided to play on the idea of the art venue being a place for people to come and ‘unfold’ the daily pretences of life. The rhythm and feel of it was ritualistic in keeping with the motions of the dance and for me it made a good opening ‘blessing’ for the performance to come, like a call to the audience for an open mind, or a mock invocation of the spirits.

I included it in a bundle of words I once printed out for Brian and forgot all about it, until one day I received an email from Brian with his reading over a pulse track. I liked it, but again we forgot it for a long time, and then it re-emerged in this form after Leo Abrahams and Seb Rochford had worked their magic; Leo’s guitar part and Seb’s drums knock it off kilter and add even more a sense of the intoxicating freedom after the ritual, as though you are marched to the precipice and have no choice but to jump into the unknown. Now it is a piece of music which as you say can be linked into lyrically, or just grooved to, or both. Hopefully, lines jump out differently for different people. And it keeps the half life of that original poem but adds a new life, or several new lives at once to it. For me, ‘step through mediums/outside of the race/to look in’ works on many levels for individuals and society. I love this track.




Michael:  On Glitch, as on many other poems,  you´re working with the freedoms of “Konkrete Poesie” (Gomringer, Arp, Jandl a.o.) by using the whole space, letting go traditional forms of arranging words. The graphic space between the words (white canvas) produces an airy climate for the words, sometimes even a kind of rhythmical pattern. Can you describe the story behind the writing of “Glitch”, and how Brian´s music did  surprise you?


Rick: Before meeting Brian I had set out on writing directly to music, and in ways that were inspired directly by music; in fact I had been experimenting with writing as a direct translation of  other forms of expression, of which music is for me the most direct and enjoyable. ‘Glitch’ was written a long time ago, but I think it was written only in relation to a very sparse drum pattern that I had asked a friend to make for me and without much editing for meaning. This perhaps explains the context you give it and why it worked so well in relation to the graphic space you mention. The space was perhaps already there, a la Konkrete Poesie  but it was certainly consciously manipulated in Brian’s transformation to music. Brian is forever asking readers to ‘go slow’ for precisely this reason. I don’t have much knowledge about “Konkrete Poesie” so I will investigate, thankyou.

So, ‘glitch’ started from the words, and Grazna Goworek (who looked after Brian’s studio some years ago) was invited to read. She didn’t even bat an eyelid when he asked her to go and sit in the toilet to read the poem, which is where the rasping atmosphere of the reading comes from, along with Brian’s processing of her voice. Then the music was built from these starting points, the words and the voice became a pulse and an atmosphere, so actually the music did not surprise me in this case.

However, we returned to ‘glitch’ several times over the years, and the greatest surprise came in the very last week of working on the record. In response to one of my more outlandish requests (something like ‘Could you make a section that sounds like the sub atomic code of the universe?’) Brian constructed the ‘freak out’ section that I think now takes the track to the next level. That part is the real language of the piece for me, condensed and magnified like a real poem should be. It speaks in greater volumes than all of the words!




Michael:  One of the beautiful moments  in “Dreambirds” is when the words say “invent new colors”, and the music sounds like a perfect example for synasthesia, the transformation of colors into music. In the lyrics there are two interesting elements that produce a kind of tension: the dreamy skyscape with the birds, and then, the  political allusions…  a kind of “utopian poem”, so to speak?


Rick: Yes absolutely in the synaesthesia sense. We experimented with various ways of representing words with sound, and in this case I agree, the elements hang together like a visual trace across the sky. The politics are also there, and they are a strange mixture. Having worked as a teacher in various guises, in London and further afield in Central Africa and India, the untrammeled potential of youthful imagination is always inspiring to me. It is also violated by the ‘facts’ of life so often, when the young person’s perspective is very often the right one but is denied.

The financial crisis most recently points to this fact so I’ll use it as a slightly cumbersome example; while I was growing up in a country of people doing jobs that I couldn’t really understand I always sensed very strongly that our economic foundations were built on make believe, but I would dampen these impressions and assume there was someone who was far more intelligent than me in control. In the Blair years, the promises of equal opportunities for all youngsters to learn and aspire made me feel equally uneasy. We were ‘rich’ as a nation, but no-one really understood or even bothered to understand why this was, and we had a government rolling out initiatives that always sounded as flimsy as the new labour theme tune to me.

What was clear is that back in the real world we needed truly ‘brilliant’ young rather than political spin versions of brilliant young who weren’t really prepared for anything useful by this aspirational lie of an education. So ‘Dreambirds’ was a poem about the tussle between the true potential of imagination, and the mirage that was being sold that let everyone ‘express themselves’ and have the impression that they were on the ladder to somewhere better when perhaps they weren’t at all (a blank dioxide perhaps).

Thankfully, the beautiful musical accompaniment allows the imagination to roam and doesn’t focus instead on that satirical edge, and ultimately in  the poem and in the music, it is the imagination that wins! We do need brilliant young inventing new colours that fly, and they are out there working very hard at it, right now. When I listen to this one now, I imagine wonderfully odd semi-robotic species of bird full of character and colour. This piece makes me smile, as though we live in a very complex world that is still full of charm.


Michael: “Seepods” is a good example for your preference (sometimes) to use very sensual, miscroscopic details of everyday life and then build up a kind of impressionistic picture… does this poem in some way reflect your interest in a free, unconditioned way of perceiving things that can produce magic without being linked to a certain message?


Rick: ‘Yes’ is the best answer to this question. I can’t express this better than you have! I will add that I have a belief that the internal world and the external world can both be understood far better by just looking; looking carefully at them both in the context of the other. ‘Looking’ itself needs examining and re-evaluating too. Relationship (like that of the very large to the very small) is everywhere in this album, and in my work in general. I also recognise lately that so much of  what we experience as ‘feeling’ is just projected, and from the top of the 344 bus in London (where I wrote this one) it is possible to see ‘seven different feelings’ responding in their ‘seven’ different ways to the same trigger at any given moment. Only a conditioned mind fails to see this every day in London.




Michael:  One of my favourite poems and tracks (in fact, they are nearly all favourite pieces)  is “the real”, a fine  example of producing mistrust  about so-called “reality”.  By repeating some of the words and changing them subtely, the listener´s security is more and more feeling like a fake. Could be a Buddhist poem for the Western world, couldn´t it? And Brian enhances this by heavily treating the voice in the last part of the long track…


Rick: This is one of my favourite tracks too. An undressing of the myths of language, and because of Brian’s wonderful idea of stretching and elongating the ‘repeat’, an undressing of the very myth of speaking (and telling ‘facts’) too, it is an opportunity to meditate on your own understandings.

Living in Mumbai for a while really opened my eyes to the fact that these ideas are not new or strange, and are also not ‘hippy’ (or any other similarly Western kind of identifying word to discredit anything ‘other’). In India I found a society that was able to talk about things not from a self conscious position of quasi-scientific authority but from an open position of questioning and critical thinking built into the fabric of daily life by an ancient tradition of such thinking. Exact ‘classification’ was not the stated end of this thinking, unlike the West, rather an acknowledgement that giant forces of the world and universe were in flux, and that human beings played only a small and equal part to all other forms of life.

I am not Buddhist, or a Hindu, nor have I studied either way exhaustively, but I do see the frontiers of science shifting all the time and making fools of experts, and the fact that people have also long agreed on one simple truth, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’. At the ends of our formalized intelligence lives imagination. Ultimately, we are all looking for the same thing and anyone who tells you ‘no, you are wrong, life is rigidly this way, full stop’ is almost certainly selling you something.




Michael:  Who is “The Airman”… Where does this title hint to? A space traveler?  Quite often in your poems you´re writing  about stuff from a kind of “outsider perspective”. A kind of “alien perspective”… Another good example is the poem “A title” that offers some excursion to evolution theory…


Rick: The airman is a representation of my own attempts at thinking logically through smaller and smaller building blocks of life in an attempt to understand it. Like deep sea divers and space explorers, we are still searching our own consciousness and wondering where it can take us; often it is our ability to travel further away from ourselves that allows us to better understand ourselves. The actual idea of ‘airman’ I am almost certain was taken from Auden or the ‘pylon poets’ of the 1930s, and really is just about jumping on the back of technological advance to steal a clear view of its secrets like a magpie (Auden’s airman I think was a first world war pilot scanning the earth to make maps). “a title” is similar, as we get closer  to understanding ourselves through a meditation through a microscope, or appreciating our true nature beneath all the constructs.


Michael:  “Sounds alien” has, from the lyrics,  clear musical references, like  “sounds are alien and dense…”.  Did you write this or other poems with the idea in the back of your mind that Brian will make the music?


Rick:  ‘sounds alien’ came from a collection of consciously shorter work that I was writing at the time it was made (I think around 2006) and almost certainly these shorter poems were influenced by the fact I was working with Brian and other musicians and with music in mind. The rhythm of these words certainly lend themselves to manipulation or repetition (very much in the vein of what Tagore said to Einstein about ‘Eastern’ music with its words that were not necessarily anything other than structural stepping stones in a greater and more vivid picture.

These words also relate to a long term love of ‘drum and bass’ music, with the ability it had to take me out of my own thoughts through its broken beat repetitions and alterations. It is worth mentioning here that I think it was listening to music with live MCs and rappers that first made me interested in ‘poetry’, I have always loved hearing a voice adding its layers to music, and in the rare instances that the images are vivid too, that is my musical heaven.

I do draw a great deal of fuel from music and drums, as a writer but also just as a stress reliever in day to day life. If I remember correctly Brian picked these words from the group of short poems I brought to one of our sessions and read them with Aylie over an existing piece. We made this track in the same session as ‘multimedia’ and ‘the airman’ (which were written with the words as starting points).




Michael:  And then there is this wonderful poem – and the wonderful song „Cloud 4“. For someone who likes Brian singing it´s  a bit sad that  it is so short, but the form is perfect. Do you have a relationship to his song albums… have you been a fan of Brian´s music before you met him personally. I mean he had written great  song lyrics in his song albums, and then there is the ambient work full of strange moods that might inspire the writing of  poems with the music running in the background, So what´s your story with Brian´s music?


Rick: I grew up with Brian’s music forming part of the background of my life without realising it. A lot of people of my generation can say that. I didn’t have a direct experience of or knowledge of Brian’s music until I met him. It is lucky really, because I had no preconception of working with him, and so no reference to either influence me or intimidate me. I have learned so much from him and have been really interested to discover his work after meeting the man, rather than the other way round. I have to admit that it was a good few years even after working with him that I really grasped his attitude to lyrics. Maybe I wouldn’t have gone that first day if I had known what I was letting myself in for! I did actually have a crack at writing words for a lot of the songs that came out very differently in his previous two ‘song’ albums, including the lovely ‘Strange Overtones’.

I love his song ‘This’ incidentally and I think that is a good example of his approach to lyric writing as I can imagine the words came in streams and in servitude to the music. I’ve also heard some unreleased songs that are just stunning and perhaps lyrically incomplete. Perhaps my story with Brian’s music is that of the covert secret operative who has had access to the vaults. My relationship to all of his work, across art forms, is one of ongoing illumination. Most recently I’ve read about Stafford Beer and loved those parts of his work I could understand, and while I still perhaps know less of Brian’s ‘song albums’ than some do, I have certainly heard him sing a lot.

A quick aside, regarding the length of ‘Cloud 4’. The option of continuing with it and building it did come up, but we both thought it delivered its message. As an aside to an aside, I remember also Brian saying that one of his favourite songs ever, Maurice Williams’ ‘Stay’ was the perfect song encapsulated in 1 minute and 39 seconds. I certainly know what that song is saying!




Michael:  Starting  reading a poem with the title “multimedia”  I didn´t expect some strange archaic rituals? What triggered this fantasy of caves and elemental sounds…?


Rick: Aboriginal spot paintings, Australia, Fire, Music, ‘Click Sticks’ and also the ‘archaic’ rituals that are carried out in techno parties all over the world or anywhere where people dance to drums. A lot of us find release in dancing to loud beats (expertly so in Germany). I wrote this at a time where a lot of self conscious multimedia art was around and it made me think that mixing art, dancing, music and ecstatic energy was nearly as old as the most ancient human practices and not perhaps as clever as smug artists were implying (in the ‘Dreambirds’ years!). I had also seen an Aboriginal man on ‘walkabout’ in central Sydney which was a contrast that had a great impact on me in a country whose real history fascinated me, with it’s stories of totemic beings singing the world into existence and naming the land. The very common need for release is the thing that triggered the fantasy, projected onto an outback scene from the other side of the world. It is a poem that is proudly from my youth, when the political climate and behaviour of a lot of my peers seemed a million miles removed from what I thought was real.


Michael:   Did Brian tell you why he decided to sing the last track of the album with an utterly deep voice. The “silence” before it is well-chosen after the poem that ended with pure optimism and the words  “things will be good”.   The change of mood makes the silent period nearly necessary, and,  what  seemed to be a happy ending of the album turns into something dark. Can you give some suggestions about your perception of this last track?


Rick:  I am going to take some credit here for pushing Brian to do something he wasn’t necessarily comfortable doing. We were in a new part of his studio, he had moved all of his equipment into what had previously been an office, with large glass skylight windows. The rain was hammering down in heavy drops, the daylight had disappeared behind the clouds, and he had this dark and thrilling sound on the go. In short, the stage was set to try ‘Breath of Crows’, a slow meditation that is both dark and uplifting in my opinion. His choice of singing voice fitted the whole atmosphere, and I pushed him to carry on with this sung approach. I think he enjoyed confounding his own doubts, and I love this track. The silence was completely necessary, yes, and the atmosphere too different from the rest of the album to place anywhere else.

As for my perception it is completely bound up in where the poem was written, which was under a Mumbai monsoon, in my small room over there, which was at tree level and meant I lived in close proximity to the city’s crow population. It was the culmination of a lot of reading, thinking, working as a teacher at Utpal Shanghvi School, and living closely with these very intelligent animals in a culture that revered and took notice of all living things. The song is perhaps like a non religious hymn.


Michael:  Anything you like to add? At the end…


Rick:  I would just like to add that working with Brian enabled me for the first time to watch a full time artist at work; someone as committed to his work as a research scientist and constantly pushing himself and his ideas and modes of thinking. While the working process necessitated give and take I never once felt anything other than his complete equal and this is down to his total commitment to remaining open and curious to the world. I am proud of the album and the journey we have taken to realise it, but most of all I am just very grateful to have been given the opportunity to meet him and work with him. I hope you enjoy the record, and give it some good quality time to listen to (perhaps on shuffle mode for best effect).

Hold Everything Dear

(für Terje Paulsen, ein Spezialist für solche Sounds, und größter Cindytalk-Fan von Kristiansand)

Besser spät als nie. Wenn mir jemand vor Wochen den Namen “Cindytalk” präsentiert hätte, mir wäre eine schlechte amerikanische Sitcom in den Sinn gekommen, womöglich ein Chatroom für Barbarella-Syndrom-Geschädigte. Dann schickte mir Ed Dense, ein Meister der Underground-Promotion,  das Album „Hold Everything Dear“, mir gefiel das spartanische Cover, ich machte mir einen Espresso, und hörte in der Folge eine Musik, die mich verstörte, in ihren Bann zog und ein wenig sprachlos zurück liess. Alles beginnt und endet mit Kinderstimmen (es könnte ein Schulhof sein, ein Kindergarten, ein Schwimmbad im August). Das wäre ja nun nicht gänzlich neu, eine atmosphärische Einstimmung, eine dramaturgische Klammer. Aber was sich dazwischen dann abspielt, straft jene Lügen, die immer irgendein Etikett brauchen: das Schlimmste wäre hier „elektroakustische Musik“. Sofort hätte man ein falsches Bild von den Klängen im Kopf.

Es gibt keine Songs, dafür gibt es Feldaufnahmen, bearbeitete Feldaufnahmen, spärliche Klaviertöne, die völlige Abwesenheit des Prinzips „Groove“, und lauter Undefinierbares von elektronischen Klangerzeugern. Ich wusste (kleine Phantasie am Rande) allerdings nicht, dass es Synthesizer gibt,  die als Windmaschinen taugen und sich mit einer empfundenen Windstärke 11 über einen japanischen Zengarten hermachen: aber da diese Gärten eh recht leer sind, fehlt hinterher nichts, nur ein wenig Wasser ist über die Steinumrandung des kleinen Teiches getreten, die Pfützen trocknen schon auf der roten Asche. Das sind natürlich private Bilder, jeder Kopf reagiert anders auf Cindyalk: doch, ja, im allerbesten Sinne erscheint mir  die Welt von Cindytalk als  „windige Angelegenheit“. Das ist meditative Musik, wie ich sie noch nie gehört habe. Ich sehe mir den letzten Satz noch einmal an und bleibe dabei: denn immer wieder dringen höchst beunruhigende Dinge aus den Lautsprechern, die man niemals zu „versunkenen Tönen“ zählen würde: Reste einer postindustriellen Industriewelt, Staccato-Feuerwerke beschädigter Landwirtschaftsmaschinen.

Anders als bei den monochromen Klangwelten eines Thomas Köner oder auch Fennesz changieren die Klangfarben permanent, chamäleonartig, die „Drones“, die Bordunklänge machen den Raum weit, enorm weit, aber sie suggerieren  – statt wundersamem Rauschen – die  Permanenz flüchtiger Momente. Da aber nun auch die Ewigkeit aus lauter einzelnen Schnappschüssen besteht, rückt man nicht unruhig auf dem Hörsessel hin und her, man taucht einfach ein in diesen Strom, der etliche unbehagliche Hochfrequenzerkundungen betreibt, auch subsonische Tiefbässe im Repertoire hat, Windspiele (auch die zarten, die im Bäumen klingeln), Kaleidoskope, Teleskope. Nehmen Sie sich ruhig ein wenig Zeit für all diese Wege, auf denen man aus dem Staunen nicht mehr rauskommt! Cindytalk ist Gordon Sharp. Matt Kinnison wirkte an diesem Album mit, das in drei Studios entstand, in Tokio, in London, und irgendwo in Essex. Matt Kinnison ist inzwischen gestorben, habe ich gelesen: ihm und dem Schrifsteller John Berger ist die Musik gewidmet. Wir hören hier also auch die Musik eines Toten, und dieser Schlusssatz ist nicht billig: hold everything dear, my friend!

  • 1. How Soon Now… (5:01)
  • 2. On The Tip Of My Tongue (1:21)
  • 3. In Dust To Delight (6:38)
  • 4. Fly Away Over Here (9:14)
  • 5. Waking The Snow (1:25)
  • 6. From Rokko-San (6:01)
  • 7. Hanging In The Air (8:27)
  • 8. Fallen Obi (1:42)
  • 9. Those That Tremble As If They Were Mad (6:13)
  • 10. Floating Clouds (8:47)
  • 11. I See You Uncovered (1:42)
  • 12. …Until We Disappear (7:29)

2012 5 Feb

Michel Portal – Bailador

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Vielleicht seit Anne Rottenberger damals bei Radio Bremen Jazz moderierte, in den Siebziger Jahren, verbinde ich mit dem Namen Michel Portal und dessen Musik etwas, das mich sehr anspricht. Doch ging ich dem nie nach, hatte von Portal auch nie ´ne Platte. Dann kam Bailador, im letzten Jahr – und das gesellt sich jetzt neben Werke von Sidsel Endresen, David Sylvian and a bunny bunch of other things zum Jahresbesten aus Zweitausendelf.

Die Musik ist spritzig und belebend, entspricht dem Element Feuer. Eine Recherche ergab, dass es Portal in erster Linie darum gehe, einfach nur Spass zu haben beim Musizieren – und das hört man. Ethno-Elemente und die Folklore aller Welt verweben sich mit der Tradition des Jazz in einer extrovertierten Spielfreude, fernab jedes verkrampften Bemühens um Originalität: vielmehr freiweg und unbeschwert wird aufgespielt.

Jack de Johnette ist mit von der Partie. Der hatte ja schon immer ein Faible für magisch angehauchte Rhythmen – so zu hören etwa auf Dancing With The Nature Spirits (ecm). Diese Naturgeister bringt er auch auf Bailador zum Tanzen. Der vielbeschäftigte Scott Colley spielt den Bass. Sein Sound ist ähnlich satt und erdig wie der des Charlie Haden, aber knackiger – not to saymore funky. (5.Feb. 2012)

Dazu gesellen sich Ambrose Akinmusire an der Trompete, der Gitarrist Lionel Loueke, Bojan Z an Piano und Keyboards – und Meister Portal an Saxophonen und Bassklarinette. Alle spielen dabei unaufgeregt, aber mit Verve. Das letzte Stück heißt „Tutti No Hysterique“ – frei übersetzt: alles, bloss nicht hysterisch werden. Und so knistert es denn auch wie ein akustisches Kaminfeuer – that keeps you safe, warmhearted and … dancing.


2011 24 Dez

Sarah Jarosz – Follow Me Down

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Die akustische Entdeckung der letzten Tage ist das Album FOLLOW ME DOWN von Sarah Jarosz, das im letzten Sommer erschien. Es zieht ein Folkore-sozialisiertes Wesen wie mich, das Country & Western-Anklänge nie mochte – abgesehen von der Musik James Taylors (und anderen zahlreichen Ausnahmen), sogleich in einen Sog. Kristallklare Sound-Abmischungen der diversen Saiteninstrumente; die wunderbare Stimme und die coolen Phrasierungen; geschmackvolle Arrangements und unsereins kommt zu dem Schluss: Folk is not dead  – ´cause this is pure fun listening. Geschmackvolle Cover mit deutlich eigener Handschrift – Radioheads „The Tourist“ zb („Slow down“).  Die Krönung aber: eine Interpretation von Bob Dylans „Ring Them Bells“ – und ich muss gestehen, dass ich den Song gar nicht kannte – anyway, listen here …

(Meine Besprechung aus der Wochenzeitung DIE ZEIT): Sie grummelt, stöhnt, gibt Laut. Richtige Wörter und Sätze mit Sinn und Syntax nutzt die norwegische Ausnahmesängerin Sidsel Endresen kaum noch. Das hat sie lange genug getan, auf Soloalben, die etwa So I Write heißen, oder wenn sie an der Seite von Bugge Wesseltoft einem Oldie wie Paul Simons 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover das Sentimentale austrieb. Seit Jahren hat sich Sidsel Endresen von der Last des Sinnstiftens, von gepflegtem storytelling gelöst. Ihre Sprachschöpfungen knüpfen an eine Urwelt der Laute an, an wenig erforschte Gesetze von Einkehr und Ekstase. Und so wirken Endresens Eruptionen und Soundforschungen merkwürdig archaisch. Wer weiß, inwieweit sie unbewusst Gesangstechniken übernimmt, die bei fernen Ethnien zu den Ritualen zwischen Leben und Tod zählen!

Jazztugenden from a whisper to a cry realisiert sie allemal mit uralter nordischer Intensität. Die beiden Musiker an ihrer Seite sind das ideale Pendant. Als Humcrush haben der Trommler Thomas Strønen und der Keyboarder Ståle Storløkken schon mehrfach Unverbrauchtes aus der Fusion-Ära (einen Hauch von Joe Zawinul) mit seltsamen Sinnlichkeiten der E-Musik (einer Prise Arne Nordheim) sowie kaum definierbaren Quellen kombiniert, rhythmisch trickreich und sphärisch entrückt. Der elektroakustische Jazz der CD Ha! wirkt wie ein Destillat detailverliebter Studioarbeit, entstand aber, in einer einzigen Stunde wahrer Empfindungen, live in Willisau.

Aus alten Jazzträumen, die sich selbstverliebt im Kreis drehen, wird bei Humcrush w/Sidsel Endresen ungebremster Vorwärtsdrang. Das Unerhörte spielt eine Hauptrolle, und die Sicherheiten des guten Geschmacks helfen nicht weiter. Diese furiosen Unberechenbarkeiten werden zwar niemanden aus dem Diana-Krall-Fanclub überzeugen. Wer aber der Meinung ist, dass es im Jazz beim Singen vielleicht noch um andere Dinge gehen könnte als um gekonntes Wiederkäuen von Nostalgieveranstaltungen in memoriam Ella Fitzgerald im Hochglanzkostüm, wird diese Musik unter der Hautspüren, und sie wird kein Ruhekissen sein. Man kann eben auch mit Lauten jenseits der Sprache richtig spannende Geschichten erzählen.

I was unafraid, I was a boy, I was a tender age
melic in the naked, knew a lake and drew the lofts for page
hurdle all the waitings up, know it wasn’t wedded love
4 long minutes end and it was over it’d all be back
and the frost took up the eyes

pressed against the pane could see the veins and there was poison out
resting in a raze the inner claims I hadn’t breadth to shake
searching for an inner clout, may not take another bout
honey in the hale could fill the pales of loving less with vain
hon, it wasn’t yet the spring

aiming and it sunk and we were drunk and we had fleshed it out
nose up in the globes, you never know if you are passing out
no it wasn’t maiden-up, the falling or the faded luck
hung up in the ivory, both were climbing for a finer cause
love can hardly leave the room
with your heart

„Michicant“ – Bon Iver

„…we have the heavy melancholy of a New England Winter in early March, after an endless procession of blizzards, road-salt ruined highways, storm-damaged coastlis, million dollar snow removal budget overruns and the like.“ (Richard Goldin mag das Album überhaupt nicht, und schrieb diesen Satz dazu, den ich in einer 4-Sterne-Besprechung auch gerne geschrieben hätte, allerdings als Gütesiegel der Musik.)

Dass die Eskimos 50 Worte für Schnee haben, ist eine alte Mär, die wahrscheinlich ein Linguist erfunden hat, um bestimmte Beziehungen von Sprache und Wahrnehmung zu erhellen. Wunderbar, welch skurrile und anmutige Schneewörter in dem Titelsong auftauchen, z.B. „Rippucino“. Und  „Faloop’njoompoola“ ist auch sehr speziell!  In ihrer Besprechung von 50 Words for Snow sucht Ann Powers ihrerseits nach 50 Worten, um der Musik gerecht zu werden. „Powdery fantasia. Contemplative. Winter matins. Playful. Opium reverie. Grounded. Ghost story. Sensual. Artistic recalibration. Unhurried. Drummer’s holiday. Quiet. Ode to the white keys. Imaginative. Exploration of the lower register. Floating. Mother-son duet. Solitary. Snowed-in erotica. Collaborative. Joni Mitchell answer record. Inimitable. Supernatural space odyssey“.

Vor Wochen rief eine Episode, die Norbert Horst in seinem vorzüglichen Kriminalroman „Splitter im Auge“ erzählt, eigene Jugenderinnerungen an meine erste Begegnung mit Kate Bush wach: THE KICK INSIDE.  So eine Stimme hatte man zuvor in der Popwelt noch nie gehört: hell, aber nicht scharf, sang sie sich durch einen englischen Zaubergarten, und man staunte nicht schlecht, dass Pink-Floyd-Mann David Gilmour (wenn meine Erinnerung mir nun keine Streiche spielt) ihr Mentor und Produzent war. Das Album enthielt mehr  „pink“ als „floyd“, und begleitete mich durch einen Würzburger Sommer, es passte gut zu Obstwein und Flussspringen. Seltsamerweise verlor ich die Spur von Kate Bush in den Folgejahren, fand kein Album mehr sonderlich faszinierend, weder das mit dem Hit, wo sie einen Berg hinaufläuft, noch die Momente, wo der wunderbare Eberhard Weber Bass spielte.  Ihr vielgerühmter Klassiker HOUNDS OF LOVE  liess mich (aus Gründen, die ich nicht mehr weiss) kalt, und das erste Album nach ihrem Debut, das nach einiger Anlaufzeit mein Herz erwärmte, und zwar mächtig, war AERIAL (obwohl es, vom Sound her, noch ganz in den 80er Jahren beheimatet war). Und jetzt erscheint am Freitag also das neue Album:  50 WORDS FOR SNOW.  Bei kann man es seit wenigen Stunden als live stream hören. Vielleicht mag der eine oder andere zuvor das interessante Interview lesen, das ein völlig übermüdeter John Doran mit Kate Bush für „“ führte. Ich finde diese kleine  Schneemusik fesselnd! Das einzige Stück, das mir nicht so  gelungen erscheint, ist das Duett mit Elton John, der einfach zuviel kulturelles Kitschgepäck mit sich schleppt, und hier, im einzigen „romantic overkill“ des Albums, auch nicht gerade an seine frühen guten Alben anknüpft (ja, die gibt es!).  Da wäre mir die Stimme von Robert Wyatt viel, viel lieber gewesen. Dennoch: ein betörendes Werk, ein „Joni Mitchell Antwort-Album“!

Kate Bush: das neue Album






ME: Jon, in a rather strange way, your new album, „Say and Play“ (ECM 2245), brings together a kind of „easy listening“, easy in a very thrilling way, and some avantgarde principles. The music is highly accessible, but not in a well-known way. It is groovy, but without ethno-cliches … so, one could call it, with a smile, „easy-avant-music“…


JB: The departure point in developing this music is 100% rythm, as it appears in spoken language, poems, drumming, AND in melodic playing. I think the melodic „friendliness“ is a consequence of this approach: the melodies are rythmic tools to propel the music onwards, more than sculptural elements in themselves. We also tried to record and mix everything from this point of view: the melodic phrases as background for the solistic drumming and language. This was the dogma that producer Olav Torget and me reminded ourselves of again and again: rythm and language  is king. 


Brian Eno did publish so-called “speech songs“ on „Drums Between the Bells“, his cooperation with Rick Holland. You are also presenting four  spoken-word pieces from a Norwegian poet. Why did you use his original language (your language) – and what was so special to work with the  energy of spoken words? 


JB:  If you listen to „Statements“ (the first Jon Balke/ Batagraf album on ECM records; Anm. V. M.E.)  there is a track with a long speech by Miki N´Doye in Wolof. This is a monologue of Miki speaking to someone imaginary that  he meets. As I know very few who speak Wolof, but very many who like the melodics in the voice and language of this track enormously, I felt it right to follow this approach and use the poems and voice of Torgeir in the same manner: his sound, melody and the way he floats over the percussion in a kind of counter-rythm makes musical sense to me. As I hope it does to others … The poems in themselves are a kind of bonus, he is a very playful, subtle writer.


Is there, in the way you´re treating these poems, a parallel to African music? 


JB: Not in the poems as such, but In all the tracks, as well as in all the music I have made, there is an influence and a parallel to and from Africa, especially West-Africa. But I have painstakingly tried to avoid copying the great music from there. I hope I have not unconciously patched in elements from things I have heard. If I found such things, I would have removed them, as it would feel like stealing … And I don´t like to be a musical thief :-)


You are working on several pieces  with Jon Chistensen´s daughter,  using  a very different type of lyrics: riddles, surreal imageries, daydreams … how do they relate to the powerful drum patterns? The record sounds fantastic, by the way.


JB: This is actually the main building block in Batagrafs music : original Bakas. The Baka is a term from Wolof meaning short poem-like phrases that say something about life or a person, and these phrases can also be played by percussion groups. So the Wolof drum groups build up a complex system of these bakas that are mixed with grooves and patterns, and bakas serve as breaks to change energy or tempo in the music. I think it is a fantastically interesting way to organize music, so I have started to construct my own universe of Bakas, which is what you hear Emilie speaking or singing, and the percussion choir responding. I hope the listener can be rewarded  by repeated listening to this album, I hope it constitutes a musical universe that you can „travel“ in by using your ear to focus around in  different layers.


On some pieces your keyboards/synths are reminiscent (and I´m sure this was intended!) of Joe Zawinul and Weather Report. Nevertheless it sounds totally fresh.  Can you illuminate this element of „hommage“ „or „nordic way“ of  playing with some stylings a la  Zawinul … Is the „Birdland“ now a music club in “Oslo 13”, the non-existent area of Oslo?  (“Oslo 13” the name of an early Jon Balke album; Anm. v. M.E.)


JB: I owe enormously to Joe Zawinul, especially from the Weather Report era, but as with the Bakas, I feel like stealing if I go for his sounds. So I try to squeeze other stuff out of what I have, mostly just developing by ear. But in Say and Play the overall use of synths is there to make depth: drums/voice up front, and layers of keyboard sounds floating inwards in the soundscape, from solo lines inwards all the way to „melodic“ reverb layers. Melodically Zawinul is a European, with strong echoes of romantic music and harmonizations. Olivier Messiaen is another important voice, when you speak of sustained keyboard sounds. The vague notion of „Nordic sound“ is an echo of both these voices, as well as  the melodic traditions of the north.


Are you making use of some of the old, famous keyboards/synths, some sounds ring a bell … 


JB: I accidentally ended up with a DX7 in a theatre performance in 1982, so this has been with me since then. I feel familiar with the inner structure of that instrument. And somehow I have been continuing using Yamahas from different times: AN1x, FS1r, and now the Motif XS. Maybe this also has to do with keeping a distance to old Joe, all the Moogs and Prophets in the world tend to pull towards his sound. I also have an ambivalent relation to synth music: I get easily tired by an overall synthetic soundscape, and feel the need to mix with acoustic sounds that are richer in timbre. There is no ideology in this, I just go for the sounds i like by research and discover.


You are making, on this new album, a very careful and thoughtful use of jazz piano playing. But this also adds to the  different textures of the compositions …


JB: The piano here is used as a single line solo instrument, in order not to  fill up the soundscape but keep it transparent. So I play very economically and rather add electronic shadows to the lines that blend with the electronics … that is the idea … again depths of melodic and rythmic polyphony punctured by powerful drums phrases and voices …

Es hat nichts mit Fan- Attitüden zu tun, nichts mit vorauseilenden Geschmackssicherheiten, nicht mit Parapsychologie und nichts mit sich selbst erfüllenden Prophezeiungen, aber es es gibt Alben, bei denen ich vor dem ersten Ton weiss, dass ich sie nicht nur schätzen, sondern lieben werde. Bei dem zweiten Album, das der norwegische Komponist und Tastenspieler mit Batagraf bei ECM rausbringt, werde ich diese These gewiss einmal mehr bestätigt finden.


Jon Balke: tougone, darbouka, hand drums, piano, keyboards, electronics, voice

Helge Norbakken: sabar, talking drums, djembe, metal percussion

Emilie Stoesen Christensen: vocals

Erland Dahlen: drums

Torgeir Rebolledo Pedersen: poetry reading


Batagraf is a percussion think tank, a constellation of players researching the outer parameters of rhythmic music. Inspired by techniques and traditions from West African Wolof music, the group explores new polyphonic textures. The relation between language and rhythm is constantly being investigated in Batagraf, the collective centered around the collaboration between Helge Norbakken and Jon Balke. Norbakken has developed his personal approach to percussion, inspired by African drum music traditions, but also developed in new directions through collaborations with numerous artists. He has been a member of Balke’s Magnetic North and Siwan projects and has also played on ECM recordings with Jon Hassell and Miki N’Doye. While best-known as pianist and composer-arranger, Jon Balke has also been a devoted percussion player since the early days of Eolén, Afro-jazz group of the early 80s.Drumming is speaking” says Balke, “and language is a miracle in all its manifestations.” On “Say and Play” Batagraf are inspired by the rich traditions of Wolof, Yoruba, Cuban and Arabic music, most particularly the inner energy and creativity of these cultures.


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