Thomas Lehn


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This is only the second album in existence entitled Achtung, despite indications to the contrary. The other is a work in the electronica genre by Timo Maas. Of course there is a larger subgroup of album titles in which the German word "Achtung," something said to get everyone's attention, is combined with something else, usually kind of inappropriate: Achtung Baby, Achtung Jackass, Achtung Salaam, and so forth. Something about the word in its purest form must attract the rarefied practitioner of musical arts involving knobs to twirl and buttons to press; first the Maas mass of electronics, released in 1996, and in 2003 this document of duo free improvisation on a Köln-based label that is home to several other recordings involving synthesizer performer Thomas Lehn. Despite their relative popularity in the improvising world, the duet of Lehn and veteran percussionist Paul Lovens received controversial reviews, perhaps a symptom of how hard these two players would push, in terms of both level of concentration and the actual nature of the music being created. Drums and electronics are hardly an unacceptable combination, but these two players are exceedingly reluctant to fall into the norms of what either instrument might be expected to sound like, even in terms of a genre in which distorting the sound of the instrument is expected. Yes, even in freakout la-la land there are ways an audience might expect a synthesizer player and a drummer to interact and even in the case of the individual how to act.

This CD, in which a ten-minute concert excerpt is combined with part of a later date that is practically 50 minutes long, is not part of such a "same rules apply" scenario. It displays such a range of possibilities that unfortunately the practical application of most home listening devices is transcended. Achtung cannot be set on one volume level and left there, unless the listener wants to risk on the one extreme an event similar to the destruction of the room itself and on the other a perplexed state of mind in which the existence of the very CD is questioned. Indeed, listening to this release brings to mind another concert involving Lovens in which a correspondent wrote: "I was sitting in the back and thought the concert was over because it was so quiet. So I went home, but later I found out the concert actually continued for another hour." The reverse of this is the presumption that the second piece is still going on when actually it is really a family cat involved with several pieces of grit and some kind of automatic warning device on a moving truck that is attempting to back into a nearby driveway. Not realizing the CD had actually ended badly smeared any and all understanding of the extended form of "Achtung, Part Two," serious business when it comes to improvisers such as these. As mentioned previously, other parts of the recording are loud enough to shake the foundations of the room; in fact this is a good description of a kind of oscillation that occurs between drum set and synthesizer, satisfying both the electronic nut's urge for gut-churning sensation and the jazz fan's need for a swinging rhythm. Lovens hardly hides the natural sound of the drum set, at times taking over the music completely. Repeated listenings then reveal Lehn nibbling away in there, at times coming up with a sound so close to a maraca, sonically snatched from a chest of kindergarten rhythm instruments.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time
feat: Paul Lovens
feat: Paul Lovens
blue highlight denotes track pick