Oskar Aichinger

To Touch a Distant Soul

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To offer a unique vision is a tough prescription in any of the arts, but Oskar Aichinger manages to plow his own path on this unusual recording. Using conventional instrumentation (saxophone, trumpet, guitar, string bass, and drums), he often achieves his stated goal (noted in his liners) of producing something "graspable, simple, and sophisticated at the same time, like a good joke." While there is little sense of melody, and there is considerable harmonic and rhythmic freedom, there is also a stamp of serious art, of a complex construct that mixes elements, stirs them in a pot, and somehow leads to a wonderfully flavorful soufflé that doesn't quite taste the way you expected. There are times when the music drifts, sometimes wistfully, without much direction, like a rowboat without oars out to sea in a gentle breeze. Sometimes, the water is rough, and the tones are strident, though the volume is usually restrained. Traditional harmonies are sandbagged for the most part, and, like an infant peeking around a corner with unabashed anticipation, the listener never knows quite what to expect next. As for the performers, Max Nagl's nasal soprano, with its split tones and elastic edges, sparks excitement, while Martin Siewart's omnipresent guitar drifts skyward. Aichinger is an organizer, an instigator, and an arranger whose piano sets the tone on its occasional thrusts, which resemble the ragged, jagged pieces of a seemingly simple yet perplexing puzzle.

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