SPEAK EASY – Backchats

Creative Sources

A while back, director Pavel Borodin released a DVD documenting a concert of this quartet (Ute Wassermann, Phil Minton, Thomas Lehn and Martin Blume) at Cologne’s Loft. The final two tracks of this set were recorded in that very location, whereas the first three were captured in Bochum. It is definite that the role of the vocalists weighs a lot in the sonic economy of Speak Easy: the conjugation of Wassermann’s “birdtalking” and Minton polymorphic glottology is a spectacle in itself, enriched by the kind of creativity that allows an audience to find new elements of surprise in each performance. Ultrasonic whistling, piercing squeaks, belching sub-harmonics and twisted lamentations are the consequences of an impressive technical exercise, which took decades to bring to perfection. The expressive exactitude – mixed with the right dose of recklessness – is almost chirurgical and, at times, downright frightening.

Yet things wouldn’t appear the same if those voices were left without the contribution of Lehn’s analogue synth and Blume’s intelligent percussiveness. Both artists work for the accomplishment of a satisfying communal texture rather than making their own personality come to the forefront. But – exactly for that modesty – this is what happens after all. In the second improvisation, around the third minute, there’s a rare moment in which the foursome give way to the inside energies with a mix of controlled hostility and reciprocal sensitivity. The synthesizer’s volatile harshness and the smart suppleness applied by Blume on bass drum and toms create a fantastic background to a drunken altercation between Minton and Wassermann until peace is restored, the group calming down in a sort of extraterrestrial Om before the conclusion. It’s just one among the many snapshots of brilliant resourcefulness to which this poker of extraordinary musicians has been treating us over the years, a feel of total contentment perceived every time a chance of revisiting these superlative edifices of visionary art materializes.

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