Peter Kowald

Was Da Ist

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AllMusic Review by William York

This impressive, yet fairly demanding CD consists of 23 solo improvisations by Germany bassist Peter Kowald, ranging in length from 50 seconds to six and a half minutes. Each of the pieces tends to focus on a different technique or approach to the instrument. For example, on "Part 4," the bassist uses an open-stringed pedal point for the entire track; on "Part 5," he uses one of the tuners, rather than the fretboard, to change the pitches of the notes; and on several other tracks, he creates abrasive, sawing drones that tend to stay in one or another specific region of the instrument for their duration. The bluesy "Part 14" nods directly toward Charles Mingus, but as for the rest of the album, there are few direct references to other players or established idioms -- Kowald's playing occupies its own realm, characterized by his aggressive and sometimes harsh bowing and by his bold use of dissonant microtonal intervals. Kowald is less concerned with developing ideas in a conventional manner than he is on narrowing his sights intently on one specific idea and moving on to the next piece once he's done examining it. His intense concentration keeps the music focused and creates a hypnotic sort of feel in several spots, but it requires equal concentration on the part of the listener (who may have trouble tackling all 72 minutes in one sitting). Still, Was Da Ist is a highly personal album that will reward those who can penetrate its somewhat forbidding exterior.

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