Reviews by Massimo Ricci

The A23H chronicle


Alfred Harth, Joseph Foster & 5 more with Choi Sun Bae (Laubhuette)

Yet another succulent CDR from the Harthlands, this time an obscure, efficient, reductionist, anarchic one. These tracks - partially titled after words by Sufi Attah - were taped at the Laubhuette Studio in two sessions around the New Year's Eve in December 2002 and January 2003. The historic situation was gloomy, as those were the days preceding the US attack to Iraq, a quite depressing mood for the couple of artists who had just shifted their lives to Seoul. Harth and Foster (hailing from Portland, Oregon) were pretty thrilled and enthusiastic of the latest living environment. In that period, they spent a lot of hours at Harth's, playing "for our joy and relief" (as reported by the Frankfurter) and also started collaborating live: for example, at Bulgasari, a series of avant-garde concerts held in the South Korean metropolis, or at the Juksan International Arts Festival. In the latter circumstance, the saxophonist invited Korean trumpeter Choi (the pair had met earlier in 2002 and already recorded together) and, after a while, the communion of the three personalities came more or less natural (not surprisingly, Foster and Choi ended lending their skill in Harth's "Mother Of Pearl" CDs). In his description, AH talks about a measure of "sorrow" when referring to some of this music, which is a little surprising when I first tried to approach the disc. The duo pieces are in fact mostly built upon the purest type of subdued improvisation, so much that an engaging method of approaching it was enjoying the record amidst the external noises (in a torrid summer day at 2:30 PM - all people gone to the seaside - consisting almost exclusively of cicada-fuelled mantras). With brilliant results indeed: given that no instrument is specified, the sense of freedom and amusement that liberated music should always warrant is quite omnipresent, in an ideal correlation with profuse silence - or something in between. Whistles, screeching harmonics, hissing and blowing, manipulation of small items near the microphones, jingling metals, power-driven appliances, snooping counterpoints among apparently out-of-tune instruments, bubbling liquids, drum skins, guttural emissions. Everything belongs to the exact moment in which the sound is produced, without a slim chance of defining an aesthetic commandment. In actuality, there is none: either we accept the unequal occurrences, or it's back to the customary way of listening. Which translates into "passiveness". That's right, this stuff develops the capacity of the mind to finish what the players throw in the air; if that outlandish substance is heard as "noise" or "sound" depends on us. Both methods work, in any case. The five segments with Choi obviously add a quantity of "free jazz aroma" to the blend, minus the strain on the performance's humanity. In essence, we never detect the illogicality that may launch artists towards the faraway galaxies of artistic implication but, on the other hand, often exposes a loss of focus on the basic model. The musicians let the soul be undressed, the utter absence of academic connotations revealing the material as it's generated. Harbingers of an instrumental paucity which, once again, will be completed by the sensitive listener - or by praying insects, for that matter.

In Touching Extremes