September Band

The Vandoeuvre Concert

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The September Band, recorded in France in April of 1993. For that evening, they were Hans Reichel on guitars and daxophone, Shelley Hirsch on vocals, RĂ¼diger Carl on accordion, and Paul Lovens on saxophones. What transpired on that evening was a collaboration of outrageous proportion. From the very beginning of the show, will Hirsch and Reichel groaning and moaning toward one another before Lovens enters to provide a lyrical backdrop to Hirsch, telling the first part of "That Little Door." Like Diamanda Galas quoting Baudelaire, Hirsch spits out the narrative in geographical dialects as Reichel fills it with dreadful emotion and Lovens lightens up the entire proceeding with simple glissandos that change color and texture as Hirsch shifts from one persona to another seamlessly -- from a German beerhall maid to Edith Piaf to a Southern washerwoman in less than 15 seconds! While Lovens brightens the picture, Reichel's daxophone darkens it considerably, creating an often-horrifying emotional framework for Hirsch to work against. Karl doesn't enter until the second section (both parts total over 25 minutes), and his deep register displaces Reichel's dax. Hirsch is the force of movement, however, carrying all the musicians in her whirlwind of heartbreak, pathos, and blues-o-logical hysterics. Elsewhere, on "Chicken Little Dick," Hirsch's bizarre story of people on elevators with paper bags full of cans of split pea soup. She has no idea what to do with it either, and launches off into an improvisation that involves all three other members in an exchange of tonal languages that match hers and then challenge her to opt out of human voice entirely -- which she attempts periodically over the course of nine and a half minutes. This music and its apparent insanity isn't for everyone, from the deep psychotic skeins of Karl's accordion, to the bowed-out phrases of Reichel's guitars and fractured percussives from the singing daxophone, to Lovens' sober tonal groundings, all of them accompanying a woman on a mission to who knows where with a vocal style that cannot be described let alone imitated; but it is for those who are willing to leave all notions of group improvisation at the door, and allow themselves to be engaged in a deep, emotional -- though insane -- manner over the course of an hour. The audience who witnessed this concert must have been asking themselves serious questions on the way home, about music, improvisation, and its limits, and other, deeply personal ones. This record succeeds on many levels as both revelatory and disturbing as hell, but the former one, that it makes us ask heavy questions about our perceptions and personal issues, is the main one.

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