Reviews by Massimo Ricci

The A23H chronicle


7K OAKS - 7000 Oaks (Die Schachtel)

In the summer of 2007, after many months of intense correspondence and plans to subvert the order of things all over the world, Lee Cho and Pi Too decided to secretly meet in a remote place of central Italy. Oops, sorry - wrong tape. Rewind.
7k Oaks is a project born from a pre-planned Italian visit by Alfred Harth, who - accompanied by the indefatigable, clever-minded Mathias Schü ler - made a long trip through Europe that year driving a BMW station wagon. In between the architectural beauties and the interminable highways there was some work to do, along the lines of "taking photographs, eating well, giving a poor man the chance to get a laptop and, at last, playing". Five Italians were waiting for Mr. 23 and his sax and clarinet in a torrid August: an odd couple with about 18 cats as sons - featuring Microbo The Immortal among them - and three excellent musicians. Massimo Pupillo aka Zu, bass deconstructionist of ascertained fame who had already played with AH before, brought in Fabrizio Spera and Luca Venitucci who, besides being two nice instrumentalist specimens (drums, keyboards, accordion and various kinds of electronic and concrete manipulation) and having collaborated with people such as John Butcher, John Edwards, Blast, Tim Hodgkinson, Zeitkratzer and many others, are the organizational stalwarts thanks to which Roman audiences are today able to see and hear the world's most advanced improvisers, from Jack Wright to Cremaster, not to mention the plethora of important names they invited in the past. Recorded in a single afternoon at the Diapason studio in Rome (defined "vintage style" by the uncontrollable Seoul Man), "7000 Oaks" is a CD whose main character lies in the incredible balance achieved by its frequently raucous voices, often heavily modified - as an example, Pupillo's bass sounds at times more like an overdriven guitar (hear him squealing and sneering in "Foxp2", a spectacular free-for-all punch-out peculiarly ending in quasi-tranquillity that just can't leave indifferent, the players seemingly bitten by an army of pyromaniac tarantulas). No prominence whatsoever, a true collective effort that showcases the brilliance, maturity and raging abilities of seasoned creative artists, with the addition of electronics. The album's nucleus is the 20-minute "Strategy of tension", an initially restrained improvisation where sounds creep in little by little, an incipient tumour in an apparently healthy person. When after a while the music decides to abandon its cocoon, the contrast between the filtered curiosity of Harth's sucking contortions and the destabilizing hue and cry of Venitucci's wheezing machine introduces a final crescendo where, in spurts, Pupillo and Spera create a rusty structure to something that essentially has never taken a definite shape. "Pi Too" (here we go again) begins with Harth's garrulous sax paralleled by Venitucci's Tippett-like piano, then the iron pumped up by Pupillo and Spera raises the intensity muscle to dangerous levels in two minutes, only to shift to "full-fury" gear in the conclusive segment. Great piece, the best with "Foxp2" (a pattern, anyone?). Also exciting is the sinister bass riff at the beginning of "The invisible tower", upon which the drummer applies a groove à la Pierre Van Der Linden before the alien melody makers return to the centre of the ring exchanging accordion left hooks and tenor uppercuts, while the rhythm section - does this definition make any sense? - observes sardonically how blood gets spilled everywhere, continuing the game with skeletal reflections on the verge of feedback and hum. Finalizing the deal, let me say that this album offers more than I could reasonably expect. It sounds hot - and not because of the high temperature of the day in which it was created - growing (and grooving) with each new listen.

In Touching Extremes