THE INTERNATIONAL NOTHING – Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything

Ftarri

Active since 2000 as a duo, surely clarinettists Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke are not interested in confrontation at all costs. Still, this CD – their second as The International Nothing – makes me wonder about that kind of attitude and vibe, despite the overall feel of detachment characterizing the music. This probably depends on the type of shrilling pitches that the two contiguous reeds typically generate, often becoming the reason of a slight loss of balance (and in distracted individuals, of nervousness: don’t try to approach this recording while performing other activities). Even if the compositional architecture is essential and utterly comprehensible over the course of five episodes, the effect of adjacent tones and upper partials on the auricular membranes after half an hour of intensive treatment is quite noticeable. Quivering frequencies and split harmonics mix with the noise of the keys and the deep inhalations heard before a new figure is explored, the timbral sum akin to the superimposed waves of a humanized, if stone-hearted synthesizer. When TIN attempt a sketch of melody, they usually end scarring a linear geometry with additional helpings of grating discordance, causing the listener to immediately forget the few moments of literal charm elicited mere seconds prior. The 36 minutes revolve more or less around this basic scheme, with a couple of silent segments in between for good measure. It works in spurts, not completely in my opinion. The lingering idea is one of an album for connoisseurs – better if members of the Lucier & Niblock Oscillation Club – unlikely to involve a larger audience due to a certain degree of involuntary cynicism. Not that this is necessarily a defect, but these guts say that something is missing for elevating the disc’s status to memorable. Love the title, though – an incitement to the abandonment of stereotypical EAI, maybe.

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