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eriKm/Günter Müller/Toshimaru Nakamura - Why Not Bechamel

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Artist: eriKm/Günter Müller/Toshimaru Nakamura

Album: Why Not Bechamel

Label: For4Ears

Review date: Mar. 1, 2005

This recording, from the same sessions that produced the excellent Brackwater album, might be as close to one gets to a power trio in electroacoustic improvisation. Müller’s explorations in this area date back to his work with Nachtluft in the 1980s, while French turntablist eriKm and Tokyo’s Toshimaru Nakamura (on no-input mixing board) have been major figures in this scene since the 1990s. Don’t be fooled by the non-standard instrumentation; this is convincing music, organic despite its abstraction from conventional means and directly communicative even as it demands an active, imaginative listening experience.

Though the regularity with which one reaches for organic or naturalistic metaphors in describing this music might be somewhat strained, it wouldn’t be going too far to suggest that Müller’s highly modified instrumental setup (“selected percussion, iPod, minidiscs”) is aqueous, Nakamura’s voice akin to fire, and m’s somewhat more roughly hewn turntable work the earthen element. The images shouldn’t be taken literally, and the voices certainly blend a fair deal; but what really compels about this music is its range. Indeed, the disc’s title might partly be an indication of this feature. Bechamel has been called “the most insignificant of sauces.” How the notion of “insignificance” might fit in with the disc’s title I’m not sure (and there is little explication from the track titles, which all appear to be phonetic variations on the word “cable”: “Keburu,” “Kabel,” and “Cable” itself), but the culinary reference certainly is suggestive of this blending of elements, of fusions, of reduction into a single solid property.

As with another recent For4Ears release, Blinks, Müller seems interested in exploring the possibilities in layering and fracturing rhythms (albeit somewhat subtle, unstable ones). “Keburu” is a roiling cluster of clouds, with sudden jagged flashes of lightning revealing their dark, billowing contours. One of the best features of these improvisations is the rich contrast between the thick forward momentum of Müller’s playing (indeed there are occasionally very vivid sounds of lapping waves) and the sharp, flintiness of both m and Nakamura, whose subtleties are captivating throughout. The central track – all 25 minutes of “Kabel” – isn’t quite as insistent as the opener, instead building patiently from woodblock noises to an almost Fennesz-like trance section in the middle and a long simmer of crackling feedback and hissing. Each is effective in its way, however.

It bears mentioning that two of these tracks are actually reorganized and reconstructed by members of the trio, so one wonders a bit about the source materials. But the enigmatic nature of the sounds is simply one of the pleasures of electroacoustic music. And this is one of the strongest recent releases from Müller’s imprint.

By Jason Bivins

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