Matthias Kaul

Fever

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The key to this album is in its subtitle: "Five Songs from a Percussionist." These are written-down pieces, each one inspired by and dedicated to an artist. The album has a strong sense of cohesion, experimentation, and intimacy. Matthias Kaul is mostly active in contemporary music and Fever comes from that kind of background: disciplined freedom, virtuosity, concept. Kaul uses unusual instruments (often from ancient, faraway traditions) in unusual ways to produce unusual results. "Listen, This Is for You" is dedicated to violinist Malcolm Goldstein (with whom he has recorded the music of Christian Wolff for the Wergo label) and consists mostly of hurdy-gurdy and bowed gongs. The resulting drone does recall Goldstein's own shamanistic playing, and Kaul's whispering of the title in the guise of an introduction immediately sets up a friendly, intimate atmosphere. A drone is also the heart and soul of "Bachmann," dedicated to the poet Ingeborg Bachmann, here played on the glass harp (glass rods of varied lengths). In "Fever" and "Amadeu Antonio Kiowa," Kaul integrates more prominent rhythms without giving up on rubbed and scratched textures. In the first piece, he rubs microphones on drum skins and conjures up loud rumbles from big bass drums in an evocation of the erotic subtext in Elvis Presley's performances. The second piece evokes the beating of an Angolan worker by 50 Nazi skinheads in 1990. It is almost graphic in its combination of martial snare drum and drones produced by a kalimba and Tibetan and Japanese temple bells -- in his liner notes, Ingvar Loco Nordin details the inner workings of the piece with painful minutia. Dedications aside, the music on Fever conjures up imaginary exotic worlds and one-man orchestras. The constant presence of ringing (drones, bowed metal) alongside beating means that this is not a drummer's record. It is a soundsmith's record, and a spellbinding one.

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