Bernhard Günter

+Minus (First Meeting)

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This is a surprising and convincing studio effort by three artists who decided to modify their respective approaches in order to bestow a unique character on their collaboration. Graham Halliwell (playing alto sax and alto sax feedback) and Mark Wastell (prayer bowls, gong, and "amplified textures") were already active as a free improvising duo (see Faktura, their debut CD released by Absurd). Bernhard Günter, mostly known as a composer, here joins them as an improviser, playing the electric cellotar, a custom-made five-string instrument played in one's lap and probably sounding somewhere between a cello and an electric guitar ("probably," because Günter uses it in ways that make such a comparison ludicrous). On two of these four pieces, the trio plays over prerecorded material -- Günter's compositions. So the composer morphs into an improver and the improvisers have agreed to relinquish some of their freedom and accept the structure brought by the preexisting pieces. The result is a shimmering, quiet form of music focusing mostly on sustained textures. Halliwell's controlled feedback literally sings over Wastell's obliquely crafted textures, while the impalpable grain of the imperceptibly bowed cellotar adds a touch of unrest. Abstract and extremely demanding, the music is nonetheless profoundly human and, at times, surprisingly moving (especially in "[plus] one" and "[minus] two"). The closing "[plus] two," the longest piece at 20 minutes, constantly threatens to dissolve into thin air before the end of its duration, forcing the listener to focus every available iota of attention. This last piece is less rewarding, although it is difficult to pinpoint why (and might have to do with the listener's fatigue at that point), but the first three are definitely worth the avant-garde connoisseur's time.

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