The cdr edition of this release is out of print. There is no download available.
Traum - Tanto Impresos Como Sistemas (2009)
Drummer Ben Hall and cellist Hans Buetow have been frequent musical collaborators since their time at Bennington College in Vermont, USA, participating in various group settings that tread the boundaries between basement noise, free jazz and modern composition. Employing Oberlin graduate Chris Riggs' guitar work, the tandem has resuscitated Traum, a unit whose work sways from lower case experimental spaces to hyper explosions of free punk attitudes.
On Tanto Impresos Como Sistemas, a document of the trio's first performance together, it already exhibits an affinity for the kinds of active exploratory environments traversed by groups like AMM and Air. Hall's percussion rattles about in miniature pockets of textural pace setting, Buetow's cello hums and sputters reverberative gusts and Riggs' guitar shoots outward toward some strange space between the utter still of Loren Connors and the destructive power of Alan Licht. That it stays together as well as it does is testament to the near telepathic musical language that the group displays.
The first of three untitled tracks moves between dense fits of movement and punctuated silence as it grows from Buetow's impressively bravado entrance. Hall enters to deepen the gray scale range being worked in, reacting beautifully as the two find a perfect symbiosis. Riggs' elastic lines snake around Buetow's as the trio quickly find its footing, only too willing to loosen it before grabbing another motivic fragment around which to regroup.
The second track explores an even sparser layout as various bellows and thrusts emerge from the air before settling back down. Hall's kit maintains a material physicality as Buetow and Riggs trade off between coaxing sliding swathes of breath and scraping metallic noise from their instruments, eventually brewing the work into a brief but strange sort of expanding African jazz work before moving back toward quieter realms.
In a group such as this, whose sonic palette and open forms leave the possibilities so vast as to make each moment exciting, a tangible proximity evolves that is truly about the sounds and their interaction. This sensuality is once again displayed on the closing track as plucks, bows and cymbal crashes are turned into droplets, motors and waves. It is the empathetic performances by all members that weave the album into a work that is impressive far beyond merely being a document of the trio's first sessions together. Rather, it is the astounding initiation of a group that is sure to continue expanding its already simpatico musical relationship.
Maybe it's the ions in the Chinook winds that blow over Calgary from time to time. Maybe it's something in the Bow River water. Whatever it is, the Calgary free improv scene is producing some high quality recordings via micro-label Bug Incision. Traum are a trio comprised of cellist Hans Buetow, percussionist Ben Hall and guitarist Chris Riggs. What is immediately apparent on this three-track document is the artists' attention to, and valuation of, small sounds. Dynamics rarely exceed mezzo piano. The interplay between whispery cello glissandi, tiny guitar scratches and scrapes, and wood block clicks and pianissimo bass drum thumps is full of restrained energy and attentive group listening. A generous group think — the moment-to-moment willingness to give others sonic space — is at play throughout the entire recording. Each of these three musicians definitely cares about what the other two have to say. Listening with closed eyes is highly recommended.
As with any music, devotees of free improvisation over time zero in on types of things that they hope for in CDs of that "genre." This limited (to 150) edition CD from Traum has aspects that I suspect will greatly impress some fans of the music, though it may engender more lukewarm reactions in others.
Strong listening and interaction are evident on the disk. This is heard, for one, in the group's obvious enjoyment of building complex (quasi)repeated phrases as a group--something like a manual form of looping. As a result, at some points the players come about as close as free players do to "swinging." However, the repetition is never taken too far. In fact, the group shows a quite strong sense of the overall composition they are creating, despite their obvious commitment to in-the-moment reaction and interaction.
Another area in which the trio shows their ear for the shape of the "tunes" is in the willingness of each player to restrain his playing in order to provide appropriate support so that the others can engage in less constrained excursions. Cellist Hans Buetow shows that he can keep up the music's overall sense of momentum up while simultaneously fostering its looseness. His trick is using bowed pedal tones in off-kilter rhythms that allow Riggs and Hall to reel out reams of skittering, clanging one-liners. Drummer Ben Hall, likewise, is willing to stick with brushes and minimalist patterns to support an exchange of long ringing tones and moans between guitar and cello. Even guitarist Riggs, probably the least likely to fade into the background of the three, occasionally provides the free improv version of a pulse for the other players to bounce off ideas.
It is perhaps notable that Riggs is primarily a non-tonal guitarist. It sounds as though he uses a variety of objects to do various forms of construction work, zipper manipulation, and dental surgery on his instrument. This noisemaking is reminiscent of some of Derek Bailey's early work with the Music Improvisation Company. In a slightly more tonal vein, he also does quite interesting work with a volume pedal and extreme intervals that approximates some of the timbres of an analog synth. At least on this CD Riggs could practically be considered as much an amplified-steel-string player as a guitarist, an approach that some find a bit too much a narrowing of the instrument's possibilities.
Judging by this recording, Traum seems to be a close-listener's free improv group. There are not a lot of sparks flying in the music, and one can imagine less attentive listeners hoping to hear grander gestures: perhaps some of the ecstatic bombast of Evan Parker's trio, the alien raucousness of the Zorn/Frith duos, or the hillbilly surrealism of TransMuseq. But Tanto... presents a more staid approach to this music, and it certainly works on that level.