Instead Of The Sun - REVIEWS

Nice collaborative effort between Chris Abrahams, the Australian piano player, and Burkhard Beins the German percussionist, on Instead Of The Sun they're forsaking their usual instruments and doing something in the electronic realm, and all the music here was created with synthesizers and live electronics. Burkhard, who sent us a copy from Berlin, was kind enough to give precise details of the instrumentation. Chris Abrahams plays a "Waldorf, a cross between FM and analog synthesizer, and has a keyboard", while Beins' set-up is a bit more elaborate, comprising "a circuit of small analog synthesizers, loopers, and effects". Beins also has prepared sound files which are added to the performance from an Edirol player (this is the only bit I do understand - it's what I would call a tape recorder, except it's all digital). His synth set-up also has some custom-made synthesizer elements. All of this amounts to a reasonably unorthodox table-load of equipment, I assume, allowing for a unique combination of electric yawps.
What results is nine tracks of abstract buzzing and burring and intensive drone-chattering blather, with strangely insistent pulsations that don't exactly follow a precise beat, but are enough to numb you into an insensate condition with their soft-hammer blows. Plus plenty of strange crackling and textured crunchy noise effects floating around like the constituent parts of a Cadbury's candy bar. Attention is paid to working in the stereo field, and these digital insects flutter back and forth through the imaginary space with a mixture of wild abandon and sinister purpose. There's little concern with old-fashioned ideas about composition, but some of the pieces do follow the sort of trajectory where matters grow more intense and insufferable by the end, as if the duo were intent on choking up the air with clouds of pollutive static. But that makes it sound a bit brutal; I shouldn't lose sight of the remarkable subtlety of this album, which is far from being a noise-burst assault, and this duo are capable of exciting tonal variations and dynamic shifts that are logical and fascinating; there's no need for them to resort to shock tactics or wild daring leaps into the unknown.
While there's not a great deal of sonic variety on this album, the monotony of it has a part to play too, and the listener must pay attention to the small variations and experimentation that is evidently possible within this relatively limited set-up. It's also clear the music is live, even if it may have been trimmed in places for presentation; this may say something about the considerable improvisatory skills of the pair. I consider this an interesting update on the glitchy-noise genre (if that still has any meaning in 2017), and a testament to the performing skills of these two accomplished artists.
- Ed Pinsent, The Sound Projector -

One London evening many years ago, I called by a record shop on Shaftesbury Avenue which was owned by the founders of Honest Jon's and managed by The Wire founder Anthony Wood. On the turntable was a Dave Holland solo bass record. "That's far out," I said. "No, it's near in," Anthony gruffly replied.
It took me more than a decade to absorb the lesson. Today, the same discovery can take just a few listenings, as with this rather belligerent-sounding duo album from The Necks' Chris Abrahams and Polwechsel/The Sealed Knot's Burkhard Beins. 'Instead Of The Sun' comes across at first as dark, challenging and convulsed with energy - restless performances on synths and synth elements. The results seem spontaneously improvisational, but on further listening, the distinctive character to each piece suggests a compositional intelligence, and the tensions Abrahams and Beins create with their non-tonal material become more familiar.
In the last decade, Beins has released several discs deploying electronics in whole or part. This now forms nearly half of his live work. Abrahams often plays DX7, but here he's on a Waldorf - a keyboard synth that's a cross between FM and analogue. He's to the left of the stereo field, Beins to the right, playing a circuit of small analogue synthesizers or synth elements, some custom-made, with prepared sound files of synth sounds fed in.
"No Need To Pity Mankind Now" is the most tonal track, with futuristic tintinnabulations. "The Decline Of Reductionism" is saturated across all spectra, with prominent use of white noise, while "The Non-Passage" plays with radio dial effects and low frequency humming. It's not pretty music, but the results are richly rewarding nonetheless.
- Andy Hamilton, The Wire -

Often when dealing with music heavily oriented towards electronics two scenarios are in play. One can imagine a so-called movie for the mind with images suggested by the sounds on disc. Alternately the listener can passively surrender to the performance as an entity, letting it wash over consciousness like white noise in a feedback session. Each of these approaches is suggested by these CDs featuring Berlin-based sound artist/percussionist Burkhard Beins. Alongside fellow Germans Serge Baghdassarians using mixing desk, delays and guitar plus Boris Baltschun's computer and sampler, Future Perfect was recorded during 2008 and 2009, and then mixed by Baghdassarians and Baltschun during the later year and 2015. It remains in the abstract orbit. Its antithesis, Instead of the Sun, recorded by Australian Chris Abrahams playing synthesizers and electronics plus Beins using percussion and electronics, and subsequently mixed by the percussionist, includes distinctive enough themes so that a pictorial representative is advanced - at least in the mind's eye.
Long-time keyboardist with the Ambient-Improv group The Necks, Abrahams' usual instrument is the acoustic piano, and his prevailing strategy during one of that trio's hour-long sets is to judicious inject keyboard coloration within the evolving performances. The divergence from that on this CD is that there are nine tracks of various lengths instead of one block; there are more stretches of unaltered silences; and most importantly the drones, judders and oscillations produced by both players often add up to near-visual perceptions. The most discernible instance of this occurs on "The Decline of Reductionism". As fitful buzzes are succeeded by a combination of upwards whines and machine-like propulsion, train imagery come to fore with the ceaseless motion expanded as the result of repetative bell-like clanging. Among other perceptions which can be as vivid and visible as images that float into consciousness while day- or night-dreaming, occur during "Recall Us Brutally" where crackling telephone wires are alluded to by whistling voltage that cut through the otherwise blurry sequences; and "Drudges of the Narrow-Souled" as motor-driven oscillations appear to hollow out the centre of a timbral agglomeration completed by the potential perception of machinery's wheels and dials slowly turning counter clockwise. Violent pseudo-thunderstorms alternating with radio-dial-like tuning describe what happens on "The Non-Passage". Yet its climax could be the recording of rushing water flattening a sandy beach. This satisfying hiss is strengthened by the organ-like drones from Abrahams' keyboard.
Merely seeking out visually discernible stimuli from aural sources can be self-defeating however. Instead of the Sun's other strong points are the faultless interaction between the two players, whether they involved a near ceaseless drone suddenly interrupted by sold-state-like recoil, like distant horse hoof galloping on "Second-Hand Ecstasy"; or how the grainy surface of "A Variety of Din", the commodious final track, subtly mocks its title by animating the interface with silences and expansive tremolos.
(...) Nearly a decade may separate these CDs, but they confirm Beins continued proficiency in his preferred sonic genre.
- Ken Waxman, Jazzword -

Elektrisch gestaltet sich auch das neue Album von Chris Abrahams und Burkhard Beins, die sich zudem über den großen Preis für globales Musikschaffen freuen dürfen. Abrahams,australischer Pianist mit regelmäßigen Konzertverpflichtungen in Berlin, hat in seiner Heimatstadt Sydney mit dem Berliner Perkussionisten Burkhard Beins eine Platte mit reiner Synthesizermusik aufgenommen. Erschienen ist "Instead of the Sun" dann beim malaysischen Label Herbal International.
Das Duo versenkt sich in die Eigengesetzlichkeit seiner Geräte und nutzt deren Potenzial zur Geräuscherzeugung: Rauschen, Zischen und Zwitschern statt Melodien, Arpeggien oder gar Akkorden. Optimistisch geben sich die Echtzeitmusik-geschulten Improvisatoren nicht gerade, was Titel wie "No Need to Pity Mankind Now" andeuten. Aber auch Heiner Müller wusste schon: "Optimismus ist nur ein Mangel an Information."
- Tim Caspar Boehme, taz -

There is some rhythmical undercurrent in some of these pieces, such as in the surprising song-like opening 'After The Violet Of The First' and 'Second-Hand Ecstasy', but there too the rhythm may come from the synthesizers. I quite enjoyed all of this, as it seemed to bypass such notions as 'improvisation' or 'composition', taking the latter into the first by making some great decisions when mixing the material. All of these pieces are very vibrant and burst with energy, sometimes highly uncontrolled but then sometimes also with quite some peace and dark tranquillity. This is one excellent release.
- Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly -

'No Need to Pity Mankind Now'? Vielleicht hat das ja wirklich Zeit bis die Sonne explodiert. Nicht Keyboards und Percussion kamen da in Sydney zum Einsatz bei diesem in Malaysia publizierten Meeting von zweien, die sich von Berlin her gut kennen. Dort bilden sie zusammen mit Andrea Ermke TREE, dort sind sie auch schon zusammen als Frozen Arc aufgetreten, Abrahams mit DX7, Beins mit Analogelektronik & Zither. Vermutlich ähnlich gerüstet lassen sie es knattern und zwitschern, knacksen und brummen. Insofern ist diese Sonic Fiction durchaus auch perkussiv, aber eben nicht händisch, sondern automatisch-alchemistisch. Aber inmitten des blubbernden und prickelnden Maschinengesangs 'sehe' ich doch Beins die Zither drahtharfen, auch wenn er die Geräusche per Kabel abzapft und manipuliert. Ganz ohne Hände geht es dann doch nicht. 'Second-Hand Ecstasy' bringt einen klopfenden und tickernden Puls 'galoppierender' Elektronen zu trillerndem, brausendem Sausen. Andererseits ist Reduktionismus auch nicht mehr das, was er in Echtzeit mal war, auf einen wummernden Fond schieben sich raue Schatten, zunehmend füllig und aktiv, prasselnd und als jaulende Wooshes, mit zuckendem Ausschlag, zuletzt als pingendes Hämmern. Detonationen tiefer im Raum suggerieren zwar Raum, aber nicht unbedingt Space. Es bleibt irgendwie irdisch, als Abhub der industrialen Geräuschwelt, auch Soundscape, aber mehr doch konkrete Geräuschpoesie aus Verlaufsspuren, statischen und impulsiven, die aber weniger auf die Welt draußen zu reflektieren scheinen, mehr rumoren sie im Imaginären. Dort öffnen sich Ventile, tuckern und knattern Automatismen. Drahtwerk federt, Blech donnert, sich selber produzierend, zischend und furzelnd über nun auch klangvollerem Klingklang. Aber schon tappst es weiter in alogischem Eigensinn, insignifikante, 'reine' Geräuschpoesie, die sich selber steppt, summt, bläst und rauscht, sinnverwirrend unproduktiv spottet sie der Mühsal aller stumpfsinnigen, seelenfressenden Plackerei ('Drudges of the Narrow-Souled'). Der letzte Track orchestriert noch einmal, um was es geht und was die gewählte Überschrift mystifiziert: 'A Variety of Din', Spielarten von Lärm, Krach-Varieté.
- Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy -

Burkhard Beins, percussionniste majeur de l'improvisation electroacoustique, du reductionnisme et de l'echtzeitmusik, membre entre autres de Polwechsel et de Sowari, a retrouve en 2015 Chris Abrahams, pianiste de The Necks, pour une session d'enregistrements en duo. Il ne s'agit pas du tout d'un duo piano/ percussion, a l'encontre de nos attentes, mais d'une suite de pieces electroniques, realisees certainement a mi-chemin entre improvisation en direct et composition a posteriori. Il y a bien quelques claviers, ceux des synthetiseurs analogiques, et quelques percussions, tres vite modifiees par l'electronique, mais le principal est affaire de tensions electriques. Le duo ex- plore les timbres analogiques, les masses de sons, les glissements electriques, des ambiances particulieres, mais aussi les attaques et l'aspect percussif des phenomenes electroniques, ainsi que les repercussions sonores des percussions a travers des filtres et des capsules. Ce disque est une exploration tres claire, propre et lisse des vibrations analogiques et acoustiques : il a quelque chose de simple qui tend vers le cliche a certains moments, mais aussi de methodique et recherche. Instead of the Sun est en somme une tentative fraiche d'aborder la composition electroacoustique et l'instrumentarium analogique par deux instrumentistes et improvisateurs. Le duo ne recherche pas forcement la puissance, l'intensite, ni des sonorites inouies, mais plutot des phenomenes precis au sein dans une structure claire : Beins et Abrahams utilisent ainsi des sons qui peuvent paraitre familiers, mais dans des compositions originales.
- Julien Heraud - Revue & Corrigee -

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