Hans Burgener/Richard Teitelbaum/Günter Müller/Carlos Zingaro, 11 Ways to Proceed

This is one of my favorite albums of free-improv-with-electronics. Richard Cochrane’s excellent review gives a good description of what makes it soar above so much else around, though I’m not sure if it’s quite so seamlessly holistic as he makes out. Take a look at the instrumentation:

Hans Burgener: acoustic and electric violin
Richard Teitelbaum: Kurzweil K2000, Powerbook w/ Max
Günter Müller: electronics, selected drums
Carlos Zingaro: acoustic violin pitch-to-MIDI w/ Powerbook G3

Teitelbaum and Zingaro aren’t playing undifferentiated electronics, and the signatures of their particular tools are evident. In contrast to Burgener, who has a scratchy, abrasive tone, Zingaro plays fairly smoothly, with some traditionally romantic flourishes, and his electronic modifications are usually loops and echoes rather than anything that would create pure noise. Teitelbaum is playing a synthesizer, and he comes from a background (modern electronic composition) where their sound–blunt, artificial, sometimes ugly, but usually tonal–was made overt. Neither Zingaro nor Teitelbaum normally permit themselves to be subsumed in a group (they’ve worked together on very obtrusive projects), but here they both seem muted, even though their playing is no less assertive.

Müller seems to be the one holding it together. He provides a bed of noise and low rumbles that couch the extremes of the others’ playing and gives a logic from one sound to the next, so that Burgener can become a lead voice, sometimes paired with Zingaro. Burgener doesn’t overplay his hand, though, and takes time to work through his ideas; he never overpowers the electronic backdrop, and sits out for periods of sometimes spacy sound. He’s also an amazing player just by himself, and a match for Zingaro. The sound isn’t one of egoless unity so much as careful cancellation, and it’s a rare achievement. Müller has played a similar role, low-key but crucially integrative, on many of his other recordings, particularly those of Poire_Z, but this is, to me, his finest feat.

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