Sauerkraut: electro-noise collaboration marinates into a lively spitfire climax

Gaudenz Badrutt and Ilia Belorukov, Sauerkraut, Russia, Intonema, int033 CD (2021)

Far from leaving a sour taste in your mouth, “Sauerkraut” is a spicy little work punctuated by sudden surprises of tarty flavour separated by periods of marinating sound. This is the third album on which Gaudenz Badrutt (Switzerland) and Ilia Belorukov (Russia) have collaborated, and the first on which they collaborated as a duo, previous albums “Rotonda” and “Affinités Sélectives Volume 1” having involved other musicians. Funnily perhaps, when Badrutt and Belorukov first began their careers as a pianist in formal contemporary compositional music and saxophonist in the free improv scene in St Petersburg, making an electro-noise improv recording with another musician outside their own immediate music genres and networks was probably the last thing on their minds. They’ve done it though on “Sauerkraut” and a lively little creature it has turned out to be.

Recorded in early 2019, “Sauerkraut” is based on live performances with electronics, sampling and feedback and a modular synthesiser: using these instruments and processes, the two musicians generated feedback in unpredictable ways which Belorukov subsequently remixed into three tracks. “Chaff” starts out quiet and quite measured, biding its time while its tricks simmer in studied drone. All of a sudden there’s a breakout of noise, drone and choppy cut-ups and we’re into “Cutters” already: everything is being tossed up but instead of coming down, it all keeps on flying upwards and outwards. The noise is reminiscent of Merzbow’s early pressure-hose style of some 20, 30 years ago if much less intense and more restrained. The long track “Fermentation” is a sputtering engine in which silence and noise confront each other, sometimes playfully and sometimes sullenly, and even cheekily later in the track when saxophone makes an appearance blowing raspberries.

True, this collaboration in electronic noise might not be in full-on attack intensity mode until close to the end when everything hits the roof and beyond, but the journey along the way is teasing and entertaining.