The Dawn of Dachsman...Plus

Hans Reichel

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The Dawn of Dachsman...Plus Review

by Thom Jurek

The CD reissue of Hans Reichel's very first recording is a historic moment. Not only has FMP dutifully remastered the original album, but the label has added 11 more tracks that were either recorded at or around the time. Some of these latter pieces were recorded on later albums. The most striking thing about Reichel's music is its strangeness and beauty. He may make and play musical instruments, but his music sounds like nothing convention could have created -- and he doesn't use effects boxes or sampling. Whether engaged in the slow, spare tenderness of a guitar piece like "Waiting" or the somewhat more dense and percussive nature of the title track -- played on one of Reichel's inventions, the daxophone -- the effect is one of eerie melodicism. (The daxophone is basically a flat piece of wood -- 330 millimeters in length and 30 millimeters wide -- that is anchored on one end and can be bowed, scraped, hit, etc. The daxophone's pitch can be adjusted by a movable block of wood along its surface. Group ten or twelve of these together and the sonic possibilities are nearly endless.) Even on one of his electric guitar pieces such as "An Old Friend Passes By," where the blues meets South African folk music and British traditional tunes, there is an otherness about his playing. His soft touch seems to come from outside the 20th century's musical continuum -- though of course it doesn't. In fact, Reichel is more contemporary than any of his improvising peers (Fred Frith, Henry Kaiser, Jim O'Rourke, etc.) in that his "sounds" are actually new. Of the bonus tracks, the transparent beauty of "Smoking" is, to say the least, moving. It's a soundtrack for a film that exists solely in the mind of the listener; at once exotic and familiar, it hovers, ghostlike, and leaves traces in the memory that cannot place the melody. Then there's "Dachsman in Berlin," with its goat-bleating call and stuttered responses. It's funny as hell; humor is also part of Reichel's aesthetic. "Watching the Shades" sounds exactly like the title, with its stillness interrupted only by the occasional extra bass note. A melody from a minor-key architecture is wrapped very loosely around a bassline that makes no harmonic sense, but creates a second melody that draws the listener deeper into the structure of the track. The Dawn of the Dachsman...Plus is one of the most essential recordings for those interested in guitar playing or in the instrument itself. As music, both the guitar and daxophone solos are gorgeous and, after all this time, still quite revolutionary.

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