dieb13/burkhard stangl "eh" erstwhile 2002
During the opening track an aesthetically pleasing dichotomy is established
between Stangl's seraphic guitar (for me the auditory equivalent of crystal
shards) and Dieb13's surface noise. Later on the boundaries between each
artist's ego identity are rendered rather diffuse as it becomes more
difficult to discern who is playing what. If you like Polwechel or Efzeg you
should appreciate this. Brian Olewnick has a spot-on review at
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One of the central aesthetics of the Erstwhile label is the counterpositioning of electronic and acoustic improvisers. Rarely has that been more starkly, and beautifully, achieved than on the opening and closing tracks of eh by guitarist Stangl and turntablist/electronicist Dieb13 (Dieter Kovacic). Stangl is one of a handful of contemporary free improv musicians who happily forays into tonal, even melodic spheres, conjuring up a reduced version of John Fahey, perhaps. On "eeeh", his delicate strummings operate in tandem with subtle electronic scurrying underneath as Dieb13 probes the pastoral veneer, seeking and eventually finding fissures through which to erupt. When, near the end of the piece, he bursts forth, it's as though a flood of long-pent natural phenomena have established an equilibrium; not a conquest, but a rapprochement. This and the final track serve as brackets for eight explorations into more overtly abstract and no less fascinating territory. In these pieces, determining which musician is responsible for what sounds is fruitless. There are fewer recognizable guitar notes here, Stangl presumably using other devices, and a seamless, rumbling unity is attained, sonically sometimes in the vicinity of Xenakis' electronic works but, and this is crucial, entirely improvised. Listeners who enjoy that composer's "Bohor" will get a similar kick out of "ehhh"'s harsh, metal-tearing roar. Throughout, Dieb13 displays an extraordinary imagination in his choices. Still, one gets the impression he's merely dipped into his sound repository, that there remains an ocean of them waiting their turn to be heard. When, after a pause, the final cut arrives, Stangl's soft, pure guitar is strolling hand in hand with the tiny pings and scratches of his partner, ambling into the ether. eh is a superb recording, demonstrating once again, as if it's still needed, the rich and limitless range of freely improvised music in the 21st century.
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There are moments in life when what was once familiar can appear startlingly strange. Perhaps it is the way the light falls on an ordinary object, casting its features in a dense curtain of shadow that obscures its ordinary dimensions and reveals an aspect utterly foreign to the eye. The same holds true for words: there are moments when a word, taken for granted after being written, spoken, or heard thousands of times in the course of a life can inexplicably look like an awkward assemblage of letters that have no internal logic, but are rather the bearers of a foreign dialect long buried by centuries of neglect.In my experience, these moments of discovery can be quite unsettling, as if the familiar ground under one´s feet has been rolled away, exposing a heretofore hidden terrain that was also always underfoot but never before examined or appreciated. Certainly, there is a loss of comfort that attends this fracturing of what was once familiar, but such experiences are also a window to a kind of beauty that has the ability to astonish.
This is the effect that this record has on me whenever I listen to it. Like the names of the ten track titles, each recombining two letters into patterns both recognizable and oddly disconcerting (some of them look less like expressions or proto-words than exhalations of breath that have never been codified into language), the music on this disc takes familiar elements and recasts them into forms that are all at once strange, haunting, and beautiful. he first track, ´eeeh´, is an excellent illustration of the power of this music. Fragments of melodies that sound as if they must have come from some song we´ve heard before waft through the air, at times contrasting, at times merging with, the familiar rhythm and texture of the needle spinning on a turntable, or the submerged singing of a century-old recording projected through an old gramophone. One of the hidden gems of the Erstwhile catalog, ´eh´is an important musical document, combining and recombining old idioms into new patterns, new languages.
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BURKHARD STANGL/DIEB 13 - eh (Erstwhile 025) Burkhard plays guitars
and electronic devices and you may recall him from his work with the
mostly Austrian electro-acoustic all-star ensemble Polwechsel, as
well as Efzeg and SSSD. Dieb 13 plays turntables and computer and
has worked with other likely suspects Martin Siewert, Günter Müller
and Werner Dafeldecker. The duo played at Tonic a few weeks back and
provided that highly charged, yet refined Erstwhile style sonic
manipulation that a handful of us serious listeners cherish. All ten
titles are four letter variations on the two letters of the cd's
title 'eh', like "eeeh" or "hehe". Starting with "eeeh", quietly
strummed and drifting acoustic guitar is spiced with small particle
fragments from samples or record static. Soon some more violent
electronic sounds erupt, as the guitar continues to play subdued,
folky, dream-like subtleties. A great deal of space is used,
floating sounds drift in and out of range, the rumbling of fragile
electric guitar-on-table tension glides over the near-silence. Like
John Cage's new way of listening philosophy points out, Erstwhile
recordings allow is to be patient and listen to ultra-subtle sounds
in a new way. Earlier today, while doing my laundry, I sat listening
to the washing machine and dryer do there spinning cycles and heard
patterns of music in their combined sounds. Sometimes Dieb 13
selects snippets of scratchy old records to balance the technology of
modern electronic sounds or samples. Everything here seems to move
at a slow pace so we can listen to each sound as it appears - an
occasional drone, hum, rubbed string, squeak, pluck, short
unidentified sample, growl, all blending together to create a
suspenseful sonic landscape. Nice to hear some acoustic sounds on an
Erstwhile release, besides Ami Yoshida's voice, which doesn't sound
that voice-like anyway. Your patience will be rewarded on this
hour-plus journey of often subtle sonic manipulation and seasoning.
The occasional explosion, like on "ehhh", are well placed as well.
CD only release for $13.
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Right now, there is a broad encompassing cynicism with intensity paralleling
the Enlightenment. There is the irreconcilable conflict between artistic
intentions and practicality. The violent conflict between daily mundane life and
the intellectualized avant-garde art that often aims to comment on it.
Maybe that is too broad. Looking at the use of dissonance, bizarre or absent
rhythm, unconventional instrumental approaches have, for a rather long time,
held the banner of subversion or spiritual/intellectual transcendence. Take any
arbitrary early figureheads, any Albert Ayler or Vladimir Ussachevsky. Even
the precedent of British Free music luminaries like AMM, who allowed their
identities and daily life to factor into their music-making as fully as they saw
possible, still hold a sense of freewheeling societal critique on level with
whatever day-to-day simplicity the music conveyed.
There is something in the recent release by Burkhard Stangl and Dieb13 that
seems almost gloriously decadent in this regard. Titled "Eh", there is
immediately the sense that Stangl and Dieb13 are through with the burden of artistic
conflict, of lineage and expected responsibility to their art form. It comes
across in a developed aestheticism, which, while irretrievably damaged, still
doesn't veer too far from hushing reverie, even at its most violent.
The album goes from Stangl ruminating on a satisfying guitar figure, to the
complete abstraction of squeaks and turntable whirring by the fifth
piece/permutation, and yet never looses its sense of orientation. Somehow, in the
hesitations and ambivalence, there is doing dishes, laying in bed, driving to work,
sorting laundry, being woken up by the garbage truck outside, a shower
dripping, all coming through. Despite belonging to a somewhat elite categorical
definition of music, there is an underlying utility to "Eh" that is often
remarkably beautiful. It's not something easily transferable to language, a feeling of
aural familiarity that doesn't rely solely on old melodies, something that
takes its pace and vocabulary from simply bearing the unpleasant, rather than
tackling the eternal.
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Best of 2003 by Gil Gershman
1. MIMEO & John Tilbury - The Hands of Caravaggio (Erstwhile)
2. Otomo Yoshihide - Ensemble Cathode (Improvised Music from Japan)
3. Double Leopards - A Pebble in Thousands of Unmapped Revolutions LP (Eclipse)
4. Kevin Drumm - Sheer Hellish Miasma (Mego)
5. Minamo - .kgs (360º)
6. Omenya - The Esoteric Perversions (Klanggalerie)
7. Burkhard Stangl & Dieb13 - eh (Erstwhile)
8. The Spacious Mind - Do Your Thing but Don't Touch Ours (Goddamn I'm a Countryman)
9. Charalambides - IN CR EA SE (Eclipse Records)
10. Various Artists - Infernal Proteus (The AJNA Offensive)
11. Jack Rose - Red Horse, White Mule (Eclipse)
12. Mull Historical Society - Loss (XL/Beggars Banquet)
13. The Vacuum Boys - Songs from the Sea of Love (Fire, Inc.)
14. Kaffe Matthews, Andrea Neumann, Sachiko M - In Case of Fire Take the Stairs (Improvised Music from Japan)
15. Taku Sugimoto, Burkhard Stangl, Christof Kurzmann - In Tokyo: First Concert, Second Take (Musica Genera)
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BURKHARD STANGL / DIEB13: eh
Erstwhile Records | 025 | CD
Here's a new release from two busy Viennese improvisers: Burkhard Stangl, member of Polwechsel, Efzeg, Dachte Musik, SSSD etc. etc., and Dieb13, aka Dieter Kovavic, aka Takeshi Fumimoto, also a member of Efzeg, who seems to have another project on the go at any given time. Stangl performs on guitars (both acoustic and electric) and a miscellany of electronic devices, while Dieb13 takes care of things using turntables, and two portable devices: a computer and a gramophone. Recorded back in December of 2001, eh, and its ten tracks similarly titled (eeeh, eehe, eehh, ehee, etc.), moves through the motions one might expect from these two improvising adventurers: we have odd sounds, funny guitar textures, some subtle turntable magic, a sample of an old-time radio tune, abstract electronics, sudden clusters of chaos, abrasive scuffles and slow, eerie gestures, all woven together into finely crafted pieces, executed with deliberate movements and restraint. Never do we feel that they have lost their way, carried away by the moment, by some newly discovered trickery with their instruments, on the whole they keep things on course. And yet this course is filled with bumps, potholes, twists, turns and sudden drops; it branches off into strange directions, abandons one distraction for another, but always remembers the path from whence it came. A strange journey indeed, but one worth taking, at least once, if only to notice some of the details and scenery you may have never noticed before, on past journeys, adventures, roadtrips. [Richard di Santo]
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Finally from Erstwhile, eh - a meeting of guitarist Burkhard Stangl and turntablist Dieb 13 - is simply one of the most rapturous recordings in recent memory. Featuring primarily natural acoustic guitar, the disc is chock full of heart-on-sleeve melodicism set amidst an eclectic series of backdrops. As machines spit out bits of noise - from burbles to long tones to phonographic ghosts Stangl plays steadfastly, sticking to his musical convictions as it were, sounding almost like a lyrical sojourner in some dark mechanical hinterland. This isn't to say that the relationship between the two polarities is hostile; it's just that, whether the players are in completely contrastive mode (as on the opening track "eeeh") or playing with more overt consonance ("eehh," with its subterranean bass set next to the sounds of an old victrola - a meta-musical commentary if ever there was one), the starkness of the relationship, the sonorities, and the approaches is exposed. Overall, there is a deep sadness to the recording. It's certainly far more expressive than Stangl's excellent Schnee (a meeting with Christof Kurzmann, also on Erstwhile) and closer in some ways to portions of his Durian release Recital. The closing "hehe" is almost hymnal, with lush plucking drifting amid a sine wave. Ranging from near total silence to dense squalling, there is a still melancholy at the center, almost like (in Marx's famous phrase about religion) the heart of a heartless world. Sublime.
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Burkhard Stangl/Dieb 13
Diese CD hat ein Problem. Nämlich dass der erste und der letzte Track so verdammt gut sind, und es daher einfach zu sehr auffällt, wenn die dazwischen, gewollt oder ungewollt, einfach nicht auf den Punkt kommen. Die leisen, weit erscheinenden Klangräume werden entworfen, aber nicht bespielt, in den noisigen Passagen fehlt den Stücken ein Counterpart, der sie vor belanglosem Herumdriften bewahrt. Was zu Beginn so wunderbar funktioniert das Erden der frei schwebenden Loops aus den Turntables von Dieter Kovacic aka Dieb13 mittels der von Burkhard Stangl gezupften simplen Akustikgitarrenmuster, die präzise eingeflochtenen, kurzen Feedbacks und vor allem die fantastische Dramaturgie, die eben jenen Track in einem exzessiven Lärmrausch seinen Höhepunkt finden lässt verliert sich schon ab dem zweiten Track in stoischer Genügsamkeit. Erst in den letzten fünfzehn Minuten verleiht Stangls Gitarre den hochfrequenten Piezo-Bleeps wieder die notwendige Bodenhaftung und sorgt so zumindest für ein mehr als versöhnliches Ende. Das ausgezeichnete Cover-Artwork stammt übrigens von Billy Roisz und zeigt extreme Nahaufnahmen von alten Schellack-Platten.
skug - 54 | Tobias Bolt | 15-06-2003 |
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Burkhard Stangl / Dieb13
USA ERSTWHILE RECORDS 025 CD (2002)
A highly intriguing release - to say the very least - Burkhard Stangl
reports for duty here, joined by an electronics player and recorded in a
studio in Vienna in 2001, and BS is quickly establishing reputation as some kind
of guitar player, but of what ilk nobody can really say. He's building on the
work he put into prior ensemble releases like Home and Wrapped Islands and
improving his craft all the time. I think he exhibits a fascinating, understated
and positively oblique approach to playing his instrument. Perplexing puzzles
for the mind and the ears result; like, where the devil is he? If you ever
heard a record by Les Paul, Charlie Christian or Django Reinhardt, at least you
knew (or you thought you knew) where the guitar player was situated in relation
to his chosen instrument. Stangl is busy redefining that given relationship.
The guitar's somewhere on this
planet, but its player is 500 miles away, out there in orbit in a spaceship.
On this CD at least, there abound several negative spaces where playing of
some kind could be expected, but instead you get...what? The conventional laws of
physics completely disrupted. Must investigate further.
Stangl broods like a brown-skinned ape-necked platypus, for long stretches of
time. He creates extremely abstract fleshapod Lovecraftian music and
exhibits, in flashes, a brittle genius of some sort. It might reside in a glass jar on
the shelf, like some pickled specimen. Meanwhile Dieb13, whoever or whatever
he may be, acts like a foil to the main man, adding his random outbursts of
computer and electronics and turntable stuff, sometimes playing the jester to
Stangl's King Lear. He spews out abrupt interjections, ill-fitting bursts of
power leakage that disrupt the mood, and ruin everything. Perhaps he's more like
the raging storms (blow winds and crack your cheeks) that provide the poetic
fallacy to Lear's demented rantings. In particular I would urge you to skip
direct to track 7, should you be fortunate enough to purchase this CD or be given
it for a birthday present; you will be rewarded with a piledriver of a piece,
loud and dense guitar scraping mayhem with a subliminal screaming alongside
it; how did these maniacs achieve it? A charging rhino with a gigantic
screeching bird carried on its back would be less alarming. In short - a deliciously
strange and bewildering avant guitar record, which will oblige you to shrug
shoulders and repeat its title 'Eh' many times in incomprehension. It is not
purely noise, nor purely electronics, nor purely guitar music, but an exciting and
strange blend of all three. Output equals a fourth dimension, new and
exciting. Though Stangl has tended to misfire slightly in the past, here he shines.
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True to Erstwhile's "first pairings" doctrine, eh marks the first duo recording from two of Vienna's most innovative improvisers, guitarist Burkhard Stangl and turntablist Dieter Kovacic, better known as Dieb13. Both Stangl and Dieb13 have long worked together as members of the Austrian electroacoustic quartet Efzeg, a group whose dark and restrained static storms certainly serve as a preliminary touch point for much of the music found within the eh's stylistic sprawl. While the sound may bear a resemblance to their larger group, the tone and pacing of the duo's performance owes more to the setting for the duo's first meeting in 1999 - the intimacy of a Viennese living room concert. eh is beautifully relaxed and expressive fare, and it gives the impression of sitting between two close friends playing through a leisurely - but meticulously considered - series of stratagems ranging from the hauntingly melodic to the microscopically abstracted.
The album's ten tracks - whose titles consist of little more than ten four-character permutations of the letters "e" and "h" - explore the full gamut of sonic possibility, from raging metallic drone to gently rumbling drifts of gritty ambience with flashes of melodic invention. Stangl's playing alternates between muted prepared guitar scratch, string-rattling noise hysterics, and a lulling blues-tinged melodic approach reminiscent of the echoed plucking of latter-day John Fahey or the less ethereal wanderings of Loren Mazzacane Connors. Dieb13 deftly maneuvers his turntables between the poles of turntable-as-sound-generator purism and vinyl citation, creating a deep and shifting silt littered with pockets of electronic interference and the ghostly warbling of antiquated records. Mixing and matching their wealth of techniques, Stangl and Kovacic play between the limits of economy and exploration to create a series of captivating vignettes marked as much by rapt attention to sonic detail as by a pleasantly tempered expressiveness.
The album is framed most notably by two beautifully hushed pieces casting Stangl's angular blues melodies against Dieb13's warm backdrop of antique vinyl crackles and electronic chirps. In the first duet, Stangl's languid plucking suspends delicate modal wisps that spiral into ever-longer suggestions of melody with each passing repetition, sometimes withdrawing from his melodic arc to leave eerie resonance hanging above Kovacic's glitch whispers. The electronics take a more aggressive stance in the final moments of the piece, as Kovacic attempts to bury the unflinching Stangl beneath chunks of sharp-edged detritus left to dull into a muffled rustle beneath distilled blues guitar. The final track follows a similar course but replaces Dieb's vinyl crackle with a gorgeous aerosol mist of granular prickles, digital chimes, and woozy interludes of wavering noise. Like the first track, there is a final surge of noise, but Dieb's second encroachment ends with an abrupt and eerie silence. In a moment nothing short of breathtaking, the final gasp of Stangl's back-porch elegy lingers plaintively in otherwise empty air. It's a brilliant postscript and a stunning moment in a genre not typically known for convincing conclusions - a moment of expressive power that reflects a potent musical sensitivity and transcends much of the perceived airlessness of improvised music.
The middle portion of eh offers equally satisfying, if not as immediately accessible, music for those willing to delve into its spinier interior. The album's inner tracks quickly dispel any initial "guitar with electronic accompaniment" impressions with aplomb. Dieb13's approach becomes decidedly more proactive, and the increased restlessness of his rough-edged noisescapes leaves Stangl to nestle shards of bowed guitar and metallic plunks in the gaps between surges. Though the dynamic of many tracks - particularly the whispery "eehe" and "ehee" - hovers just above audibility, the level of activity maintains a remarkable density, with Kovacic and Stangl weaving increasingly anonymous gestures into a bustling microcosm of scattered debris. A few tracks find the duo exploring more aggressive dynamic territory with surprising results - the full-on noise assault of "ehhh" betrays a hidden layer of scraped strings and depth charge rumbles, while the skipping 78-RPM wobble and synth squelches of "eehh" evoke a queasy nostalgia before dissolving into a splintery series of static eruptions. Though they may mine more difficult territory, these tracks maintain the heightened focus of the delicate outer tracks while transmuting their expressive potential into considerably spikier exchanges.
Like all of Erstwhile's releases, eh is masterfully recorded, edited, and packaged - a major benefit, since eh requires numerous listens to unfold beyond the beauty of its elegant introduction and epilogue. It's challenging and richly rewarding material, the sound of long-time partners exercising the full freedom and flexibility of the duo setting as well as the limitless potential of the respective instruments. Moreover, Stangl and Dieb13 succeed in creating an interior dialogue as filled with expressive reference as it is with audible nuance - each surprise textural turn or voice leaking from vinyl uncovers new atmospheres and invites new associations. eh is both a cerebral and sensual pleasure and further proof of the limitless creative potential of the new wave of electroacoustic improvisation.
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BURKHARD STANGL / DIEB13 eh (ERST 025) CD
"Burkhard Stangl and Dieb13 are both integral members of the increasingly prominent Viennese improvised music scene, coalescing around the activities of the Durian and Charhizma labels. Stangl explores the full range of the guitar, from quiet melodic plucking to atonal walls of noisy drones. This range and adaptability has allowed him to become a ubiquitous presence on record over the past few years; in the collective projects Polwechsel (recordings on Erstwhile, Durian and hat ART), Efzeg (Grob, Durian), SSSD (Grob), in duos and trio with Christof Kurzmann and Taku Sugimoto (Erstwhile, Slub, Musica Genera), and solo (Durian, future release on Charhizma). Dieb13 (who uses a range of names for performing including his real one, Dieter Kovacic) is a immensely skilled turntablist, as demonstrated by his solo disc on Charhizma and his recorded work with Martin Siewert, Boris Hauf, Günter Müller, Jason Kahn, Werner Dafeldecker, and Uli Fussenegger (Durian, Grob, For 4 Ears).eh ex!
plores a constantly shifting tableau of guitar and electro-acoustic sound; utilizing a kaleidoscopic range of approaches, framed by lulling intro and outro pieces in which Stangl's melodies both battle and meld with Dieb's noisescapes. The instruments used (from Viennese contraguitar and portable gramophone to electric guitar, electronics, and computer) encompass over a century of musical history. The source material for the design comes from Viennese artist Billy Roisz, utilizing extreme closeups of old shellac records to create the proper gritty ambience."
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Erstwhile's Jon Abbey makes sure all his releases are superbly recorded, mastered and packaged - there's a distinctive Erstwhile look (the Friederike Paetzold graphics with minimal visible information) and, increasingly it seems, an Erstwhile sound: grainy, predominantly slow-moving, laminal (Phil Durrant's term) electroacoustic improvisation. Such concern for visible and audible branding recalls ECM, and (stretching the analogy) if Abbey's playing Manfred Eicher, guitarist Burkhard Stangl is somewhere between Terje Rypdal and Ralph Towner Ð spacious and haunting, but not averse to the odd blast of fuzzed-out fury, and always conscious of the contemporary classical tradition around him.
"Eh" is the third Erstwhile album featuring Stangl, and was recorded, like its predecessors "Schnee" and "Wrapped Islands", at Christoph Amann's studio in Vienna. Partnering him here is turntablist / laptopper dieb13, aka Dieter Kovacic; both also play in Efzeg with Boris Hauf and Martin Siewert. Thanks to dieb13's rumbles, toy car zooms and creaky snatches of old cabaret tunes, "Eh" is considerably more varied than its unimaginative track titles might have you think (surely these chaps could have come up with something more poetic than four-letter permutations of "e" and "h"?) and livelier than the guitarist's recent work with SSSD, his spaced-out quartet with Siewert, Werner Dafeldecker and Taku Sugimoto. Stangl has been playing a lot of chess with Sugimoto lately though, and is quite content to let his gorgeous first-inversion eleventh chords fade away while he considers his next move. The long final track finds him exploring various permutations of an E flat plagal cadence against a glistening backdrop of tiny crackles and bleeps - you could almost slip a lazy backbeat behind it all and let it float on forever, but Kovacic pulls the magic carpet from under the guitar and leaves it hanging in the air.
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