Lyric Poetry / Pawns on the Board

The lovely Susanna Gartmayr here playing her bass clarinet, the music spiced up with electronic interventions and assorted hookery-pamookery from that Dusseldorf machinist Stefan Schneider (of Mapstation). In forming this woodwind-synth chimera that roams the streets of Vienna like a ghastly goat-snake-clown performer, the duo call themselves SO SNER and the record is called simply Reime (TAL MUSIC TAL25), in honour of their aspirations to produce poetry in the mould of Catullus. My usual benchmarks for woodwinds-plus-synth music all come from an earlier music world of free jazz and improv of the 1970s or 1990s, but the approach of this gifted pair seems to operate in quite a different dimension. For one thing, you can feel them constantly yearning to create a rhythm, a rhythm not too far apart from a techno / electronica pulse, although intercut with much darkness and strange emotional moodiness. Perhaps the fact that some of the album was cut in the famous Kling Klang studio (yes, the Kraftwerk space itself) may account for the discernible psychic influences on their odd lonkering music with its cloven-hoof styled slant on life. The press notes go even further, and suggest a golden age in the UK from the early 1980s, when (they say) “soul and synth, jazz and avant-garde and polyrhythm were blended with…punk attitude”.

Another thing I enjoy about this offbeat croinkster is how the two basic soundworlds – keening, bubbling woodwind swoops and near-faceless bloop and buzz – don’t really fit together as expected, and yet still manage to create a satisfying thing of wholeness and repletion. My “chimera” image probably isn’t far from the truth; in breeding those mythological beasts, the ancient Greek farmers were clearly aiming at something that improved on the basic qualities of an animal, be it cow or tiger, and allowed a new species to roam the earth. (10/02/2022)

A Short Story (ASPEN EDITIES 013) is a record of contemporary Belgian jazz from Ruben Machteluinckx and Arve Henriksen; 12 tracks of pop-song length played on Rube’s guitar, with trumpet accompaniment by Arve. I’m not sure where the short story itself is to be found; the press notes give us two lines by the French writer Colette, and allude to something about a game of chess…”the pawns on the board are few in number and modest in decoration”, although I suppose the cover paintings (by Jockum Nordstrom) suggest some kind of narrative. I found the music far too cloying for my tastes with its sickly-sweet chords and “breathy” trumpet tones, every twee melody played in a way suggesting musicians trying to ingratiate themselves with the listener. However, the music of Ruben Machteluinckx has found favour with many international listeners and critics, and he won an award for best Belgian jazz record in 2020. (10/02/2022)