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Schwimmer - 7X4X7

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Artist: Schwimmer

Album: 7X4X7

Label: Creative Sources

Review date: Oct. 11, 2004

Schwimmer is a fairly odd name for a quartet playing such sparse, diffuse music; its proper name seems misleading in a context as “egoless” as this. You never know: the title could be a sly revision of the old Monk classic 5xMonkx5 (whereas here we have seven tracks by four musicians; you get the point). The players are soprano saxophonist Alessandro Bosetti, clarinetist Michael Thieke, flautist Sabine Vogel, and percussionist Michael Griener. A lot of winds sessions explore heavily contrapuntal material, or complex notated music that one might encounter in, say, Scelsi, Xenakis, or Carter (September Winds is well known for the former, and Gebhard Ullmann’s Clarinet Trio for the latter). These players are interested in the music of breath and heartbeat, of steam and air, of slow geologic rhythms and earthen undulations. For those who have heard the triple-soprano summit Placés dans L’Air (where Bosetti teamed up with Bhob Rainey and Michel Doneda), this music has something of that recording’s near hush. But with Griener and the slightly more cantankerous Thieke on board – the percussionist achieves a kind of laminal space, like Burkhard Beins, while Thieke favors wet gurgles and rude splats – things don’t ever get too still.

There may be a lonesome tone that could almost come from Sachiko M or Toshi Nakamura, a glittering wave of pure harmonics that sounds electronically-produced. Yet these are balanced by passages where the four players generate sound as if from a single twittering machine. The contrast between the moments of bare audibility, Messiaen-like bird-calling, and the harsh, guttural sound of metal is often exquisite. The point of Schwimmer’s playing is not to generate “events” or “expressions”; in fact, it almost seems like the point is to see how the sounds are swallowed up, more than to see how they are produced in the first place (though with sounds as alien as these, the notion of production is pretty fascinating). Indeed, I keep returning to metaphors of casing, enclosure, and framing for this record. Maybe that’s because Griener is so adept at carving out giant sonic shapes with his percussion, or perhaps it’s simply a function of how adroitly this quartet explores limits (instrumental, formal, interactive). Regardless, there is a subdued power to this music that grows with each listen.

By Jason Bivins

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