Jürg Frey: clarinet; Radu Malfatti: trombone
The structural simpleness of this double CD enhances the depth of its overall scope, placing it among the very best of what this writer has experienced in Wandelweiser-related areas of sonic expression. One composition per disc: Malfatti’s “Shoguu” is divided in five parts whereas Frey’s “Instruments, Field Recordings, Counterpoints” is an unbroken hour of activity. A logic of continuance from a piece to the other emerges after sitting with the album for a while, notwithstanding the obvious differences of the surroundings.
Malfatti’s music is intimately miked inside a silent room: trombone and clarinet speak softly, either alone or in gossamer togetherness, occasionally generating complex oscillations due to the narrowness of given intervals. The tones are mostly held at length, with collateral components such as diminutive fractions of percussive pitch; the performers’ inhalations before a note, the noise of their mouths on the embouchure, and some fingering on the instrument’s bell complete the palette.
Frey’s score finds the musicians nearly becoming one with the environmental background. Barely existing emissions are camouflaged within the varying resonance of morphing milieus. These comprise metropolitan echoes, faraway voices, tiny birds, whooshing proximity and textures of mechanical origin. This wholeness, at points, becomes a quietly droning gray-tinged meditation, from time to time hosting hints to slow fragments of veritable “melodic lines”. Even so, those shards are soon lost in the thick fog.
The lingering sensation is that of a frail human being attempting to regain a clutch on life. Think of an elderly person recovering from an energy-draining disease, willing to go back for a walk outside but still afraid of his weakness. The instrumental dialogue in “Shoguu” resembles that between the man and another good soul desirous to encourage the former but, in a way, sharing his uncertainties. The impression of precariousness persists in “Instruments, Field Recordings, Counterpoints”, the place where we felt a little more involved on a personal level, recognizing familiar contexts as indistinct as they may be. The first steps have not led the aged man to the bright sun he was remembering; the distance from a reconnection to a harmless existence suddenly appears huge.