Reviews by Massimo Ricci

The A23H chronicle


ALFRED HARTH - Ballet music (Laubhuette Production 08)

From 2002 to 2007, Alfred Harth collaborated with a dance company in Seoul, which gave him the opportunity to work on some of his most radical and difficult to assimilate music of the XXI century (well, at least for tenderfoots). When the principal shuts the door of Laubhuette studio, something outlandish is definitely going to come out from there, this CDR being no exception. The five tracks represent a validation of the unrestrained creativity of this man, should you have any residual doubts. "Mercury I" takes strength from asymmetrical glissandos and psychedelic-like organ chords that relentlessly grow, get modified and flourish in hundreds of different streaks over a rhythmic device that sounds like the cheap drum machine of the typical electric organ received as a Christmas present, the one which many people tried to learn to play stupid songs on, usually with next-to-desperation results. The piece is a hodgepodge of discordant designs and splintered electronica, causing a reasonable quantity of saturation and, ultimately, resulting as devastating for a regular intellect as an involuntary bad trip. "That person then" starts with synthetic washes and altered vocal mumbles amidst what's liable to be processed water, then enters the realm of gloom through anxious deviations from the norm, uttered twists and daily life occurrences (…of whom?) as heard from within a sealed rubber suit. I won't be surprised to know that a radio was the source for the preponderance of the things we catch a glimpse of, a feel of "air surfing" defining certain rather disconcerting segments. Right here one comes to terms with Harth's rational use of the spiritual aspects of sound, concreteness and ceremonialism finding a common ground in upsetting mixtures of sonic pragmatism and thoroughly made-up timbral concurrences. "55 Quintets" was, in the composer's words, a "kind of sketch" for the ballet music in question, but works quite fine as a stand-alone miscellany, corroborated by the illustrious presence of frequent collaborator Choi Sun Bae on trumpet and electronics. It's a very long track, pregnant with events: TV scraps, voices from just everywhere, fabulous cut-ups of Bee Gees and other assorted absurdities, humans and instruments crying and squealing all over the place. Still, the basic pulsation of this piece is nourished by a simple pattern turning round and round, partially shrouded by a majestic hell generated by the couple's myriads of abnormal suggestions. In a record whose axis - for once - is not AH's saxophone, a lot of it is found exactly in this place, the intercourse with the uncontrollable anarchy of Choi's blowing fury at times staggering, if more lo-fi than usual. "Direct jazz", says the boss, is an etude. An etude? Forget the standard meaning of the term: this time, corroded beats, lamentations bathed in stretched reverbs, sloping sax lines and a variety of sequenced oddities will put your sense of "belonging somewhere" in serious trouble. The final "Gobi powder", a soundtrack for an as yet unedited video, was inspired by the effects of the "…annual yellow dust in the air above Seoul around springtime, which originates from the Gobi desert and is full of Chinese petrochemicals". Coherently, the result is an intoxicating blend of static interference, maybe a pinch of shortwave, and tampered tools which wouldn't be out of context on labels such as Confront or Erstwhile. Only a further aspect of the inventiveness that this gentleman constantly fecundates to engender meaningful ideas, one way or another.

In Touching Extremes