Mads Emil Nielsen is the very focussed Danish musician who gave us the unusual Refound record in 2018, realised with the help of the excellent German pianist Andrea Neumann. That Refound item was part of Mads’ ongoing Framework series, and made extensive use of graphic scores; this project continues with today’s item Framework 2 (ARBITRARY 10), released on the same label and presented on two slabs of 10-inch vinyl which spin at 45 RPM. The keywords operating here seem to be collaboration, interpretation, and a healthy dose of subjectivity; the latter I’m relieved to read about, as I’ve often wondered how one should approach any given graphical score, where the sheer open-endedness of the sight of a red triangle followed by lines of varying thickness printed in yellow would tend to defeat a conventional player as quick as you can say knife. Fortunately Nielsen is not only an adventurous player, he has recruited some topnotch soldiers of fortune to help him reap the aesthetic bounty.
Andrea Neumann heads that list, and worked with Mads on the B side, ‘Framework Fragments Stereo Version’. This alone is a complex affair, operating within a certain set of parameters and rules involving improvisation, timecodes, and editing – all derived from a number of fragmented pieces of graphical scores. In its short space (7:29), a lot of information is imparted, and you can sense a lot of the tension and pulling-in-different-directions energy that the working method implies. The finished product – like much of the music here – may seem taciturn and low-key, but you only have to listen in to a spot a few notches below the surface to reveal lots of hidden treasures. I got a similar vibe from Side C, done by Jan Jelinek; his take on ‘Circles 2’ results in the impression of very active exotic fish darting about inside an impossibly deep and multi-dimensional lagoon. Jelinek – an electronic musician in Berlin who’s done a fair bit of material on the ~Scape and Faitiche labels – works with loops and “random textures” to create a fascinating and absorbing array. His version of ‘Circles’ is quite different to the one on Side A, realised by Mads Emil Nielsen himself, proof once again that the “subjectivity” strain is crucial to the enterprise.
On Side D – did I mention the second disc is pressed in transparent vinyl (not that I have an actual vinyl copy in front of me) thus doing something to communicate a wispy vibe and thus accent the music to the good – we have Hideki Umezawa, doing his reading of ‘Framework Fragments’. Hideki is another new name to my limited circle, but I see his 2012 debut album has six versions of a tune all called ‘Howling Of Tubes’, which sounds just the ticket for many a glitch mal mordu. His assured, relaxed approach to making music is very welcome, and he doesn’t skimp on craft or exerting himself; sounds which began life on his Serge synth have been carefully “organised” to match up precisely against the graphical score in just the way he wants, then put through further processing and editing. This hard work is not only audible in the finished result, but it sounds gorgeous, impacting on the human ear in just the right spot, insistent without being noisy or obtrusive.
I might want to add a line or two about the EMS connection; there seems to have been residency by one or more of our friends at this famed electronic music studio in Stockholm, where they used the equipment to generate some of the basic building blocks of Framework 2. This may account for why moments of this fine record have that authentic musique concrète feeling, without once sounding contrived. Fab item…from 23 December 2019.